Starting Jan. 1, undocumented immigrants in Virginia will be able to apply for a long-awaited special driver's permit.
Activists have been fighting for the permit, called a driver privilege card, to become a reality for years. Supporters argued that it was a matter of public safety, and in March, the Democrat-controlled General Assembly passed the legislation.
An estimated 300,000 immigrants in the state seek to benefit from the new law.
"I have many friends who have wanted this because they have their cars, and other people have had to drive them around because they're scared. But they are happy because they will be able to move from one place to another,” Sheila Esteban Gómez said.
To be eligible for a driver privilege card, one must:
- Be a non-U.S. citizen who is a resident of Virginia
- Have reported income from Virginia sources or be claimed as a dependent on a tax return filed in Virginia in the past 12 months
- Not have a driving privilege that is currently suspended or revoked in Virginia or any other state, to include insurance-related infractions
The following documents are needed to obtain the driver privilege card:
- Two proofs of identity (e.g., foreign passport and Consular identification document issued by country of citizenship)
- Two proofs of Virginia residency (e.g., monthly mortgage statement and utility bill)
- Proof of a Social Security number (if one has been issued) or the individual’s taxpayer identification number (e.g., W-2 form or ITIN letter)
- Tax return documentation (e.g. Virginia Resident Form, Virginia Part-Year Resident Income Tax Return Form or Virginia Nonresident Income Tax Return Form, filed in the past 12 months)
“We are pleased to offer this new credential to give thousands of tax-paying Virginians the opportunity to drive legally on our roadways, something they previously have not been able to do,” DMV Commissioner Richard D.
Holcomb said in a press release.
The steps to obtain a driver privilege card can vary depending on the applicant. Those interested will have to pass a vision screening, and some may have to take a driving test.
"Customers who have a driver’s license from another country or expired Virginia licens will not have to take the driving knowledge test or driving exam, only the vision exam,” Elizabeth Ramirez, DMV district manager, said.
Anyone interested in obtaining the driver privilege card should make an appointment in advance at the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles at dmvNOW.com/appt. For more information on the driver privilege card, click here.
Once a driver passes any applicable tests, they will receive their card at their home address within two weeks. If the applicant is under 18, the card will be sent to a judge in their locality.
The cost of the driver privilege card and permit is $53, according to the DMV. The permit will have to be renewed every two years.
It's important to remember for those seeking to apply that this is not a REAL-ID, so the document comes with certain limitations.
It will not allow the holder to apply for a commercial driver's license, board an airplane, or enter federal buildings.
Clara Garcia and Alban Zamora contributed to this report.