DMV Getting Stricter

News of a federal review of state DMV records has many undocumented immigrants in the state concerned.

The new year is always a time of celebration and resolutions. However, this year it was also a time that Homeland Security took aim at state immigration laws. Individual states have the authority to dictate some of their own laws, such as which individuals can obtain driver’s licenses in the state, and how that information is shared with the federal government. These laws are important because immigrants often have to drive to get to work, take their children to school, and run errands, such as buying groceries. So, what is changing within these laws, and how do they affect immigrants in Tennessee?

Federal Government Reviews DMV Laws

No actual laws have changed just yet, but Homeland Security is going to review the DMV laws in certain states. New York and New Jersey are just two of the states that currently allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. These individuals can use identification from their home country, such as a passport, to obtain a driver’s license.

As of January 1, 2020, Homeland Security will now be reviewing the laws in certain states, and perhaps even change them. They will also analyze what information state DMVs share with the federal government. The government often uses these records to discover and prosecute people that are not in the country legally, and they may start challenging the law of states that do not forward information to the federal government.

How Does This Affect Tennessee?

Although the recent news has made national headlines across the country, it is not known how it will affect individuals in Tennessee. The state does not provide driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. People applying for a driver’s license must currently show their Social Security card, which is something undocumented immigrants do not have. Immigrants also must show documentation of their legal status, such as their green card, Employment Authorization Card, or visa before obtaining a driver’s license. Typically, the Tennessee DMV will only approve driver’s licenses for the period of time remaining on a visa or work permit.

This does not mean however, that there is no way for immigrants in Tennessee to get around, even if they do not currently hold legal status. Tennessee allows individuals without permanent status to obtain a driver’s license, such as people with TPS, visas, work permits, etc. This license, called a Class X license, has more restrictions than a typical driver’s license, such as that it cannot be used for identification purposes. Individuals must still present two documents verifying their identity, as well as two documents that verify that they live in Tennessee.

Due to the fact that Tennessee does not provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, it is also unknown how the federal review of state laws will affect those in the state who were “grandfathered” in under the old law that allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain licenses. Tennessee’s Driver Services Division does likely have information pertaining to undocumented immigrants that have obtained licenses, but whether the state will have to share that information will only be certain after the federal government’s review.

Our Tennessee Immigration Lawyers can Help

Every day is often filled with worry for undocumented immigrants, and news like this only stokes those fears. At Ozment Law, PLC, our Nashville immigration lawyers can help. If you want to obtain legal status, we can help you determine what your options are, assist you with navigating the complicated system, and give you the best chance of a successful outcome. We also understand driving is often essential for residents of Tennessee, where there is not adequate public transportation. We will be happy to review your case to determine if you may qualify for a status that might qualify you for a license to drive. Call us today at (615) 321-8888 so we can start reviewing your case.