Summary of State Driver's License Requirements

Immigrants' Rights Update, Vol. 16. No. 7, November 22, 2002 (overview of states' requirements updated 2/6/03)

In the past year, due to heightened security concerns, increased attention has been paid to driver's license requirements for immigrants. After examining the rules in each state, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, National Council of La Raza, National Employment Law Project, and NILC have prepared at a table of driver's license requirements. This article is a summary of that table, which can be downloaded from NILC's Web site at

Most states require that applicants for driver's licenses produce proof of identity as well as a Social Security number (SSN). However, 7 states do not require an SSN at all, and 36 states provide exemptions from the requirement. For example, 34 states require an SSN only of persons who have been assigned one, and 5 states have other exceptions.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has discouraged the use of SSNs for purposes that are not related to work or the receipt of government benefits. For several years, the federal agency has encouraged states to discontinue SSN requirements for driver's licenses, and instead to develop alternative identifiers for this purpose. Numbers can be useful as identifiers, particularly to avoid confusing persons with similar names. But the SSN is not the only number that could be used. In issuing licenses, some states use their own numbering system, and five states accept the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

Approximately half of the states require that applicants for driver's licenses be lawfully present in the country. In the last year, this requirement was newly imposed in Louisiana, Ohio, Indiana, and Minnesota. Proposals to add a lawful presence requirement were defeated in seven states.

Some states have expanded the range of documentation that applicants can use to prove identity for purposes of securing a driver's license. Currently, 13 states accept the Matricula Consular, an identity document issued by the Mexican Consulate. Numerous states accept other foreign documents, such as passports, birth certificates, and military cards.

(The following overview was updated on 2/6/03.)

States that require an SSN for a driver's license with no exceptions (4):

DC, GA, HI, and NJ.

States that don't require an SSN for a driver's license (6):

KS, MD, MN, MS, OR, and VT.

States that require an SSN for a driver's license only of people who have been assigned one or are eligible for one (37):

AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, DE, FL, ID, IN, KY, LA, ME, MA, MI, MO, MT, NE, NV, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WV, WI, and WY.

  • AZ, CO, IN, MO, RI, TN, WI, and WY allow applicants without SSNs to submit an affidavit stating that they have either never been issued an SSN or are ineligible for one.
  • AL (also requires proof of lawful presence for at least six months), ID, KY, LA, MA, MT, NY, ND, PA, SC, TX, and VA require applicants without SSNs to submit verification from the SSA that none has been assigned or a denial letter from the SSA.
  • The following states allow applicants without SSNs to submit an ITIN: KY, PA (also requires denial letter from SSA), RI, UT, and WV.
  • AL, CA, ID, NE, and NM require applicants without SSNs to verify lawful presence.

States that require an SSN but have other exceptions to the rule (5):

  • CT and NH require SSNs only of new applicants.
  • IL and KY provide a religious objection-exemption to the SSN requirement.
  • IA does not require SSNs of nonimmigrants.

States that have lawful presence requirements (30):

AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, DC, FL, GA, ID, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, MD, ME, MN, MS, NE, NJ, OH, OK, PA, SC, SD, VA*, WV, and WY.

*Virginia's is a "de facto" requirement (i.e., it is specified in neither a state law nor statute; but the combination of documents required of driver's license applicants effectively creates a lawful presence requirement).

States that don't have lawful presence requirements (22):

AK, HI, IL, MA, MI, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NM, NY, NC, ND, OR, RI, TN, TX, UT, VT, WA, and WI.

States that accept the ITIN as a form of ID (5):

KY, NC, PA, RI, and UT.

States that accept the Matricula Consular as a form of ID (13):

ID, IN, MI (accepted on case-by-case basis), NE, NC, NM, OR, SD, TN, TX, UT, WA, and WI.

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Last revision: August 14, 2009 08:07 AM
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