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How Undocumented Immigrants Can Get Their Driver’s License in New York

Undocumented immigrants living in the state of New York became eligible to apply for a standard drivers license since December of 2019, after the passage of The Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act, also known as the “Green Light Law.”

The law was passed as an effort to a legal solution for undocumented immigrants in New York to obtain a driver’s license, while also positively impacting economic growth, and improving road safety. 

Any New Yorker 16 and up can apply for a driver’s license, so long as they can provide the necessary documentation requested by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). 

Members from our WhatsApp community have asked Documented several questions about the process of obtaining one, along with questions regarding the safety of their information. We listed down the necessary documentation along with the steps undocumented immigrants need to apply for a driver’s license.  

Part 1: What is a Learner’s permit? 

A learner’s permit is an indication that the applicant has passed the written test which includes all the traffic regulations and is learning how to drive. It is the first step towards applying for a license. 

In order to get the permit, you will need to take and pass a written test, which covers the rules of the road, how to keep your license, the different types of licenses, and other topics necessary for the safety of the driver and pedestrians. You can prepare for the test by studying the state’s DMV manual: ENG | SPA

The test itself will consist of 20 questions randomly selected from the sections in the manual. Practice exam questions can be accessed here: ENG 

You only need to get 14 out of the 20 questions correct to pass.

Ready for the written exam? 

The exam can be scheduled in thirteen different languages, and can be done online or in person. For online, you will need to have a tablet or computer with a webcam enabled. Regardless of the method that you choose, you will need proof of address, birth, and identity. 

Also, if you have never been issued a social security number you will need to fill out and notarize an affidavit. Here is the template you must bring with you. 

To satisfy the proof of identity, you will need to provide documentation that totals 6pts. And a document for proof of age, and one for proof of address. 

Example: The proof of identity will be satisfied by foreing passport (4 pts) + a Debit Card (1pt) + IDNYC (1 pt). 

Some of the documents include: 

  • Valid foreign passports (​4 points, proof of age​)
  • Valid Consular ID (​4 points, proof of age​)
  • Foreign Driver’s License Valid or Expired up to 24 months (​4 points, proof of age​)
  • Foreign School Report Card or School Record ​(1 pt)​ – With photo ​(2 pts)
  • US Municipal ID with photo/IDNYC ​(1 point, proof of residency)
  • For the complete list visit the DMV’s website

Make sure all the documents show the same name. Must be original or certified by the issuing agency, unexpired, translated to English by a certified language interpreter, and not mutilated or damaged. 

You can schedule a test by using this link to find the closest location and availability. Some offices require certain services to be done online. 

Also Read: REAL ID – Appointment Requirements, Cost, and How to Get One

Part 2: The Road Test & Driver’s License

Once you have received your learner’s permit, you can work towards obtaining your driver’s license. You will need to:

  1. Complete a 5-hour Pre-Licensing Course or H.S. or College Driver Education Course
  2. Get appropriate amount of supervised driving practice (50 hours is recommended for beginners and individuals under the age of 18)

Pre-Licensing Course

The 5-hour course is a DMV-approved course that covers important topics regarding driving habits, skills, and driving within the highway transportation system. 

The course is available through high schools, colleges, and numerous private driving schools. It can be completed in person or remotely (the school of your choice will tell you). Once you complete the course you will be given a Pre-Licensing Course certificate of Completion (MV-285) which is valid for one year from the date of completion.

Supervised driving

Under the supervision of a parent/guardian or adult friend who has a driver’s license, the learner’s permit allows you to get behind the wheel and practice driving, except on the following locations: 

  • on any street within a park in New York City
  • on any bridge or tunnel under the jurisdiction of the Tri-borough Bridge and Tunnel Authority
  • on the Cross County, Hutchinson River, Saw Mill River, or Taconic State parkways in Westchester County
  • in a DMV road test area

For those under 18, they must wait 6 months after getting their learner’s permit before applying for a driver’s license. 

If you cannot get supervised driving practice from your family or friends, you can pay for driving classes at local driving schools near you. 

Scheduling and passing a road test

You can schedule a driving test using the DMV’s scheduling system.  You can take the road test anywhere in New York, and can choose the location by entering the zip code of preference. There is no charge to take the road test, but there the fee for a driver’s license can vary between 64.50 and 107.50 dollars depending on your age, and type of license. 

If you fail the road test you can retake it again after two weeks. If you fail twice you will need to pay a retesting fee of 10.00

 *** FAQ ***

Since the passage of the Green Light Law in 2019, more than 750,000 undocumented immigrants are eligible for a standard driver's license.
https://dmv.ny.gov/

What does NOT FOR FEDERAL PURPOSES mean for immigrants without a REAL ID license?

A license and permit that has “NOT FOR FEDERAL PURPOSES” on the top left corner cannot be used as identification for domestic flights, or to enter federal owned buildings. 

How does it differ from a REAL ID

The main difference is that a REAL ID can be used as identification to board domestic flights, and enter federal buildings, and it can only be obtained by individuals who have temporary or permanent lawful status in the United States. Read more. 

Will my information be shared with the federal government? 

No. The law restricts access by immigration enforcement agencies unless it is required by a judicial order.

Also Read: How to apply for IDNYC

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