Starting January 2021, a new driving privilege card amendment to Virginia law has created something like a Virginia driver’s license for immigrants, making it possible for undocumented immigrants to drive legally.
In the past, it was impossible to get a valid driver’s license unless you had a social security number (or some other way of proving legal presence.) This meant that there was no possible way for undocumented immigrants to drive legally. Meaning there was no reason for undocumented residents to go through the various driver’s education, testing, and vision requirements that are otherwise required.
But all this changed with the announcement of the new Virginia DMV driving privilege card. For the first time, every tax-paying resident of Virginia has an opportunity to be a legal driver, regardless of citizenship or visa status.
In this article, we are sharing:
- What is the driving privilege card
- Who is eligible to benefit from it
- How you can get one
Read on to learn all about the new VA license for immigrants: the DMV driving privilege card!
Virginia Driver’s License for Immigrants
The DMV driving privilege card (DPC) in Virginia is like a driver’s license for immigrants. It gives legal permission to drive. The DPC is not, however, a “Real ID.” A DPC is not a form of identification that can be used for boarding flights or entering federal buildings.
In order to get a regular driver’s license, applicants have to prove identity, residency, and “legal presence.” To get a DPC, applicants must prove identity, residency, and that they pay taxes (or have been listed as a dependent on someone’s tax return in the past 12 months.) Functionally, the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number is used instead of a Social Security Number.
Some applicants might wonder whether getting a DPC might expose their Immigration status. The opposite is true. Immigration status is irrelevant when applying for a driving privilege card. Driving with legal permission, with a DPC, makes it less likely that someone will end up in traffic court—one significant way undocumented immigrants find themselves facing deportation.
The DPC is truly a win-win - Virginia gets to ensure immigrant drivers are qualified to drive safely on public roads, and immigrants gain a viable way to fully comply with traffic law.
Who is Eligible for a DMV Driving Privilege Card
Though applicants don’t need to prove legal presence to receive the privilege of driving in Virginia, there are some eligibility requirements. Applicants must:
- Be a non-U.S. citizen who is a resident of Virginia
- Be at least 16 years and 3 months of age
- Report income from Virginia sources (or be claimed as a dependent on a tax return filed in Virginia) in the past 12 months
- Not have a driving privilege that is currently suspended or revoked in Virginia or any other state, including from insurance-related infractions
To demonstrate this eligibility, applicants must provide the following documents:
- Two proofs of identity (e.g., a foreign passport)
- Two proofs of Virginia residency (e.g., a utilities bills)
- Proof of your social security number (if you have been issued one) OR your individual taxpayer identification number
- Tax return documentation
A list of all acceptable documents is provided on the DMV website. Click here to see the same document translated into Spanish.
Ok, so you have determined that you are eligible to get a driving privilege card. What’s next? Read on to learn the step-by-step process.
How to Get a VA License for Immigrants
The DMV process in Virginia of getting a license for the undocumented is almost identical to the requirements for getting a standard driver’s license. The one difference is that applicants will provide proof that they pay taxes instead of a social security number. Here are the steps:
1. Confirm your eligibility and submit an application
The first step is to fill out a Form DL10 - Driver and Identification Privilege Card Application. If you have never had a license, learner’s permit, or driving privilege card in a US state or territory, mark the box for “Learner’s Permit and Driver Privilege Card.”
Along with your application, you will need to submit the required documents verifying your eligibility, pass a vision test, and pay the $53 application fee.
2. Pass the computer knowledge test
All applicants will need to pass a computerized knowledge test. This test demonstrates knowledge of Virginia traffic laws and road signs. Passing this test is all that is necessary to receive a driving privilege learner’s permit.
This test is offered in a wide variety of languages, but if your language is not represented, you are welcome to provide your own translator.
3. (If necessary) Get a driving privilege learner’s permit
If you do not have a license or driving privilege card from another state, you will need to receive a learner’s permit as an intermediary step toward obtaining a DPC. If you have a driver’s license from another country, the DMV may waive the learner’s permit requirement.
4. Complete a Driver’s Education course OR take a DMV road skills test
After passing the knowledge test, applicants under 18 need to hold their learner’s permits for 9 months. During this time, applicants are required to complete 45 hours of supervised driving practice, 15 hours of which must be after dark.
In order to gain a DPC, applicants under age 18 must also complete a driver’s education course, which will include both a knowledge course and a Behind the Wheel assessment of driving skills.
Applicants 18 or older may choose between holding their learner’s permit for 2 months and then passing a road test at the DMV or completing an adult driver’s education course (in which case both the DMV road test and 2-month requirement are waived.)
5. Receive your Driving Privilege Card
Upon completing all prerequisite requirements, you will be issued a temporary driving privilege card. Your permanent card will be mailed to you within the following 15 days. Each DPC is good for two years before needing to be renewed.
And that’s it! Simple.
Where to Get Started
Here at Colonial Driving School, we are committed to supporting you in every way we can as you navigate the ins and outs of driving safely and legally.
Learning to drive can be challenging enough, but learning to drive in a foreign country can be even harder! Especially if English is not your first language. We have worked with many adults and teenagers who are unfamiliar with American roads and rules.
We have instructors who are fluent in both Spanish and Portuguese. Two of our instructors also have professional experience teaching English, both in the USA and abroad. If you have any of the following needs, we can help!
- You drove in your country but have never driven in America
- You never drove in your country and need to learn to drive for the first time
- You are having trouble passing the computerized knowledge test
- You want to get a driving privilege card but don’t want to take the DMV road skills test
- You want help preparing for the DMV road skills test
If any of these descriptions match you, or you just want some guidance on getting your driving privilege card, give us a call. We would be happy to help.