Non-citizens with lawful immigration status or valid employment authorizations are. However, New Jersey has not yet passed any laws that allow those who are considered undocumented to apply for a license.
Having a valid driver’s license means you are legally permitted to get behind the wheel of a vehicle and drive where you need to go. Whether that be to the grocery store, the hospital in the event of an emergency, or to pick up your child from school or daycare, having access to a vehicle is essential for nearly every New Jersey resident. While some states have passed laws that allow non-citizens to obtain their driver’s license, including New Jersey, there are still some restrictions that prevent many immigrants from getting theirs.
Under current law, undocumented immigrants are restricted from applying for a NJ driver’s license.
So, who can apply for a NJ driver’s license?
Lawful permanent residents, asylees, and refugees can obtain driver’s licenses. If you are not yet a U.S. citizen but have received temporary visa status and fit into one of the following categories, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission says you may apply for a license:
- Treaty traders
- Students and their families
- Temporary workers as well as their accompanying spouses and children
- Foreign information representatives and their families
- Exchange visitors and their families
- Intra-company transfers along with their spouses and minor children
- Persons with temporary protection from deportation
- Canadians who have obtained temporary residence
- Religious ministers and spouses
- Parents of U.S. citizens
- International athletes or entertainment groups
- Individuals who are in a reciprocal exchange program
- Students and their families with an (F) visa
- You have previous driving experience and have a foreign driver’s license to prove this.
- You are under 18 years old and complete the GDL Program requirements.
- If you received your H-1B or L-1 visa but do not have current USCIS documentation, you can apply for your license but will need to bring a certification such as the H-1B or L-1 240 Day Extension Certificateand you will also need to bring your 6 Point ID documents to an MVC agency.
Again, in order to apply for a driver’s license, not only must you fit into one of these categories but you must have also received temporary visa status. If you have not yet obtained a visa or are having difficulty getting yours and you live in New Jersey, we encourage you to contact the Law Office of Eric M. Mark. NJ immigration and visa lawyer Eric M. Mark will not only be able to help you file the necessary documents USCIS must have to apply for a visa but he can also explain to you what your rights are as an immigrant living in the U.S.
In the event you do qualify to apply for a NJ driver’s license, there are a few things you should know, including:
- If the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) is unable to confirm your legal immigration status at the time you apply for your license, you will not be issued the document. The MVC does “use the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) system to verify the immigration status of all non-citizens who apply for or renew a driver’s license or non-driver ID.”
- You will be required to provide proof by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service that verifies you are authorized to be present in the U.S.
- You will need to bring your foreign license with you to the MVC to pass the 6 Point ID requirements. If you are unaware of what these are, click here for more information. You should know that you will not be required to surrender your foreign license after the MVC issues you a NJ driver’s license.
- If you are unable to show proof of your driving experience, you will be required to complete the GDL (Graduated Driver License) Program requirements. The GDL program occurs in phases. In the first phase, a driver would receive a Permit or “Probationary” License after having had driving practice. The second phase involves a driver receiving their “Basic” driver’s license.
- You will be required to take a photo of your full face, therefore, if you wear a head covering for medical or religious purposes, you will want to advise the MVC staff of this.
With U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other government agencies reforming immigration laws to make them stricter, many immigrants are uncertain as to what their rights are and if they should even take the risk of applying for a driver’s license despite whether they are legally permitted to or not. Know your rights and the risks before applying for a driver’s license.
If these are the current circumstances you are facing and need to speak with an immigration lawyer in NJ who you can trust, contact us at one of our office locations today.
The Law Office of Eric M. Mark is located at:
Jersey City Office
121 Newark Avenue, Suite 515
Jersey City, NJ 07302
201 Washington Street
Newark, NJ 07102
20 Commerce Drive, Ste. 135
Cranford, NJ 07016