Back in January 2013, Illinois passed a law extending driving opportunities to undocumented immigrants. Prior to its implementation, non-U.S. citizens without a visa could not legally drive in Will County or anywhere in Illinois. Yet out of necessity, many did so anyway.
Faced with this reality, the Illinois legislature decided to provide non-visa-status drivers with a way to become licensed (and presumably safer) behind the wheel. These “undocumented” (non-visa-status) individuals are now able to apply for a Temporary Visitor Driver’s License (TVDL). The Illinois Driver Services Department has stated that the goal of the program is to improve traffic safety, while underscoring the importance of driver’s license integrity and security.
In essence, the new law extends a program already in place for Illinois residents unable to obtain a Social Security card. Previously, the program was only available to documented immigrants (i.e. those with a visa). Now, visa-status and non-visa-status immigrants alike can apply for a TVDL.
To qualify for a TVDL in Will County, the applicant must be a non-U.S. citizen residing in the State of Illinois, authorized to be in the U.S. for at least one year with at least six months of authorized stay remaining.
Furthermore, the TVDL applicant must provide a valid unexpired passport or consular ID, one or more accepted forms of identification, and proof that the applicant has already lived in Illinois for at least one year. Once the individual’s application has been accepted, s/he must pass the same vision, written, and road exams that are administered to all Illinois residents seeking a license.
To prove length of residency in Illinois, the applicant must provide one of the following documents dated at least 12 months prior to the date of his or her TVDL application: certified school transcripts; bank statement; real estate deed/title, mortgage, or lease agreement; homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy; medical claim or statement of benefits from private insurance company or government agency; official mail received from a state, country, city, village or a federal agency that includes applicant’s first and last name and complete current address; Homestead Exemption receipt; pension or retirement statement; school report card; tuition invoice or other official mail from a college or university; or a utility bill (gas, electric, water, trash, telephone, or cable). If you have moved within the past year, you will also need to supply one of these documents indicating your current address.
Note that there are several important differences between a regular driver’s license and a TVDL. Most significantly, a TVDL is not a valid form of identification; this means it cannot be used for purposes such as boarding an airplane, registering to vote, entering a federal building, or applying for a Firearm Owner Identification (FOID) card. Additionally, unlike a regular driver’s license, a TVDL is only valid with proof of auto insurance. Therefore, if a TVDL-holder is caught driving without insurance, s/he will be ticketed both for driving without insurance and for driving without a valid license.
Additional differences involve license expiration and renewal. Whereas a regular Illinois driver’s license is valid for four years with options to renew, a TVDL is valid a maximum of three years and cannot be renewed. If you are allowed to be in the U.S. for more than three years and your TVDL expires, you must go through the entire application process again to obtain a new one. Conversely, if you are authorized to be in the United States for less than three years, your TVDL will automatically expire at the end of your authorized stay.
Last but not least, a reassuring detail regarding TVDLs, your immigration status, and your privacy: Law enforcement officers will not know if you are an undocumented immigrant by applying for or holding a Temporary Visitor Driver’s License. The same TVDLs are available to both visa holders and undocumented individuals, so they will not “tip off” anyone about your visa status. By that same token, however, TVDLs do not grant you legal immigration status—immigration is a matter of federal law, and TVDLs issued in Illinois do nothing more than enable undocumented immigrants to comply with Illinois traffic laws.
If you believe you qualify for a Temporary Visitor Driver’s License, you must make an advance appointment at one of the 36 designated facilities in order to apply. But note that you will not receive the license on the same day as your appointment. The license will be printed and mailed to you after the Secretary of State’s office has verified your documents and a facial recognition search has been completed. The application fee is $30 ($35 for a motorcycle license).
For more information about your eligibility and the documents required to apply, please contact us at 815.729.9220. Our attorneys are experienced in traffic law and immigration issues, and we can look at the facts of your specific situation to advise you on your best course of action. To make an appointment to apply for a TVDL, go to www.cyberdriveillinois.com or call 855-236-1155. There is a designated TVDL appointment office in Joliet at 201 S. Joyce Rd.
If you are located elsewhere in Will County or in a different Illinois county, we can help direct you to the nearest location.
Written by: Sarah Hanneken