Maryland Begins Issuing "Second-Tier" Driver's Licenses to Undocumented Immigrants
Beginning on January 1, 2014, undocumented immigrants in Maryland became eligible for “second-tier” driver’s licenses, making permanent a two-tiered system first implemented in 2009 in response to the federal REAL ID Act. Such licenses, which will be annotated to reflect their second-tier category, will enable undocumented immigrants to legally drive in Maryland, register cars, and obtain automobile insurance. However, they will not serve as federal identification or be recognized by federal agencies. Thus, individuals who hold such licenses will be unable to use them for the purpose of boarding an airplane, entering a federal building or military base, or completing the Form I-9 or E-Verify employment eligibility verification processes.
Applicants for second-tier licenses must provide evidence of tax returns filed for the previous two years, provide proof of identity and current residence, and pass written and driving tests to complete the licensing process. To date, approximately 13,000 immigrants have signed up for driving tests to obtain a second-tier license, despite sustained opposition from those who argue that the measure will undermine national security and place undue burdens on public services. In turn, advocates of the law contend that it will promote safety on Maryland’s roads and enable members of the undocumented immigrant population to achieve self-sufficiency.
Although it is currently unclear if other states plan to honor Maryland’s second-tier driver’s licenses, several other states already issue or soon will issue second-tier licenses to undocumented immigrants. These states include Illinois, Vermont, Nevada, Colorado, California and Connecticut, as well as the District of Columbia. Moreover, three additional states, specifically Alaska, New Mexico and Washington, do not require drivers to present proof of legal residency in order to obtain a standard driver’s license.