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Pennsylvania House Democrats Propose Driver’s License for Undocumented Immigrants

Legislation to grant a driver’s license to undocumented immigrants has been introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Reps. Danilo Burgos, D-Philadelphia; Joseph C. Hohenstein, D-Philadelphia; Sara Innamorato, D-Allegheny; and Christopher M. Rabb, D-Philadelphia were among the few who sponsored House Bill 2835. If passed, this bill would enable many immigrants to legally apply for and receive a driver’s license. These non-citizens are otherwise unable to acquire a license due to the lack of Social Security number and legal status.

Who in Pennsylvania Is Eligible to Obtain a License?

If the bill is passed, any non-citizen, including undocumented immigrants, will be able to procure a driver’s license. A non-citizen may apply for a Pennsylvania driver’s license upon establishing their lawful presence in the United States and the Commonwealth. The Department of Transportation (“the Department”) may issue the license after the applicant has lawfully resided in the United States for a period of one year or more after the date of the application, or for a shorter time if deemed appropriate by the Department.

Any non-citizen who has received a waiver from the federal government for not having a Social Security number will also be issued a driver’s license. Licenses that are granted to non-citizens will indicate that the license holder is a non-citizen.

Information that is transcribed in the course of acquiring a license, such as photographs, Social Security number, tax identification number, telephone number, birthplace, country of origin, workplace, schools attended, income, public benefits history, utility information, or other information that is not typically considered a public record will not be disclosed to any federal authorities. If ever the information is given out to any authority, the bill provides for notifying the license holder.

Contents of the Driver’s License Application Form

The form gives the option of entering either the Social Security number or the tax identification number. Applicants may also provide emergency contact details and personal medical information.

Renewal of the Expired License

Licenses that have been issued based on Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) credentials or documents will be valid until the expiration of the INS credentials. In case the expiration of the INS credential exceeds a period of four years, the license will expire one day after the applicant’s date of birth, but not more than four years from the date of issuance. If a non-citizen has been granted permanent legal status, the Department can use its discretion to require proof of INS credentials.

Rep. Burgos wrote in his legislative memorandum, “Unfortunately, many undocumented persons are unable to apply for a driver’s license in Pennsylvania because they do not have the required Social Security number. As a result, they are contributing income and sales taxes without the equal protections and basic rights that the rest of us enjoy, such as the ability to drive safely to work, school, or stores.”

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license. These states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington. In 2019, New Jersey, New York, and Oregon became the most recent states to enact the legislation.

©2020 Norris McLaughlin P.A., All Rights ReservedNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 265



About this Author

Raymond Lahoud Immigration Attorney Norris McLaughlin

Raymond G. Lahoud, Chair of the firm’s Immigration Law Practice, focuses exclusively on the area of immigration law and deportation defense for individuals, families, small to large domestic and multinational businesses and corporations, employers, international employees, investors, students, professors, researchers, skilled professionals, athletes, and entertainers, in every type of immigration or deportation defense matter—whether domestic or foreign.  While Ray’s immigration practice is global in reach, with service to individuals and organizations across the United States and beyond,...