Q. Where do things stand now?
A. On Nov. 8, Massachusetts voted to ensure that all individuals who reside in Massachusetts and are eligible to apply for driver’s license can do so. Over 1.2 million voters demonstrated solidarity with the immigrant community to guarantee that this law will take effect on July 1, 2023.
Given this, we want to summarize the key aspects of this policy change and remind individuals that if you lack lawful status, you must wait until July 1, 2023 to begin the process to acquire a driver’s license.
• In addition to the documents that the Massachusetts RMV previously accepted, the agency will allow individuals to present other documents to prove their identity and date of birth. A foreign passport or consular identification document along with a secondary document, e.g., a birth certificate or foreign country ID, will be accepted. All documents not in English must be presented with a certified translation.
• All immigrant drivers will need to learn the rules and regulations and demonstrate that knowledge through a learner’s permit exam and a road test. Individuals who lack lawful status will receive a Standard ID, not a REAL ID, which means it is not federally compliant and will not serve as sufficient proof for domestic air travel after May 3, 2023. The Standard ID, however, does permit Massachusetts residents to operate vehicles and demonstrate proof of identity for state or local purposes.
• The text of law specifically states that personal information, such as failure to provide proof of lawful status, cannot be shared by the RMV unless “required by federal law or as authorized by regulations promulgated by the attorney general.” As a result of this language, if you apply for a driver’s license or learner’s permit under the new law, you should not put yourself at risk of enforcement action by immigration officials.
• The law does not impact foreign visitors who intend to drive in Massachusetts. In those circumstances, the same set of regulations apply. Massachusetts allows foreign nationals to operate a motor vehicle in the state provided they possess a valid driver’s license, are over the age of 16, drive the same type of vehicle that they are licensed to operate in their home country, carry an English translation of the license if the license is not in English, and not have a suspended or revoked license.
Disclaimer: These articles are published to inform the general public, not to advise in individual cases. All law, including immigration law, is always subject to change. If you need legal advice, you can contact Rian’s immigration legal staff at 617-984-6542.