Visitor driver's license applicants must show U.S. approval

Foreign-born immigrants and visitors in Texas must prove they are legally permitted to stay in the United States before obtaining or renewing driver's licenses, under a new rule that went into effect Oct. 1 by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

If the license applicant cannot show valid documentation of federal approval to remain in the United States, the state will cancel the existing license and will not grant a new one.

In addition, the state will issue a new type of driver’s license to foreign visitors who have legal permission to remain in the United States for six months or more. The new licenses will include a “Temporary Visitor” stamp and a date of expiration that coincides with the lawful visit expiration date.

The rule, adopted in August 2008, is intended to enhance the security of the Texas driver's license and identification cards, protect the integrity of the licensing process and reduce the risk of identity theft and fraud, the department said in a statement.

Under the controversial Real ID Act, all states are to be required to collect proof of U.S. citizenship or legal residence from noncitizens before issuing a driver’s license. Implementation deadlines have been extended to 2009 and possibly to 2011 for many states. Several state legislatures have approved measures blocking compliance with the law’s requirements, because of concerns about privacy.

One of the arguments made in favor of granting driver’s licenses to immigrants without extensive documentation is that it makes it possible for those drivers to obtain insurance and to be held accountable in traffic accidents.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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