Illinois to make standard driver’s licenses available to noncitizens regardless of immigration status

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Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, pictured at a Capitol news conference, backed a measure to allow holders of a Temporary Visitor Driver's License to be eligible for a standard license regardless of their immigration status. | Capitol News Illinois photo by Jerry Nowicki

SPRINGFIELD – Immigrants in Illinois with or without permission from U.S. immigration authorities will soon be able to obtain standard driver’s licenses that can be used for identification.

Gov. JB Pritzker on Friday signed House Bill 3882, which will phase out the “Temporary Visitor Driver’s License,” or TVDL, which noncitizens currently use to drive legally in Illinois. The new law takes effect July 1, 2024.

“This legislation is a significant step in eliminating the barriers to opportunity that many undocumented immigrants face,” Pritzker said in a statement. “We’re ensuring every eligible individual can obtain a driver’s license, making our roads safer, decreasing stigma, and creating more equitable systems for all.”

TVDLs look similar to a standard driver’s licenses, except they have a purple strip across the top that reads “TVDL” above the words “NOT VALID FOR IDENTIFICATION.” Under the new law, those people will qualify for standard licenses that carry the words “Federal Limits Apply” at the top, but which do not qualify as REAL ID for travel purposes.

Immigrant rights advocates say the purple bar on the TVDL stigmatizes the people holding them, creates barriers to other kinds of services that require identification such as picking up medication from a pharmacy or signing an apartment lease, and exposes them to law enforcement action.

“They know and the officer knows that this form of ID essentially serves as an admission of being undocumented or having a temporary visa,” Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias said during a June 21 news conference. “TVDLs have become the ‘Scarlet Letter’ of someone’s immigration status and sadly exposes them to discrimination or immigration enforcement.”

At left is a Temporary Visitor Driver’s License, at right is a standard license. 

In 2013, Illinois became one of the first states in the nation to offer TVDLs to residents without legal residency status. Proponents argued they would help ensure that all drivers on state roads, regardless of immigration status, had passed a road test and carry liability insurance. Currently, more than 300,000 individuals carry Illinois TVDLs, according to the secretary of state’s office.

The process for an individual who does not have a social security number to receive a standard license would be the same as it was for receiving a TVDL. The applicant must have lived in Illinois for more than a year and must provide U.S. immigration documentation, or if they don’t have that, a passport or a consular card that is within two years of its expiration date.

Giannoulias’ office said that documentation will ensure that noncitizens are not added to the voter rolls as part of Illinois’ automatic voter registration program.

The measure also prohibits the secretary of state from sharing driver information with immigration officials unless the official has a court-issued warrant, order or subpoena. 

Real IDs requirements, which are scheduled to go into effect in May 2025, include stricter documentation such as a birth certificate and Social Security number to prove U.S. citizenship. They will be required for air travel and access to military bases or other secure facilities.

HB 3882 was among more than 150 bills that Pritzker signed on Friday.

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