In a conversation at work today, a colleague mentioned that her Iceland-born spouse needed someone to go with him to the local branch of the California Department of Motor Vehicles (aka the First Circle of Hell) because he had to take a test. There was widespread surprise at this - didn't he have a valid licence from another country, and wasn't this OK? Yes he did, and no it wasn't; as of 15th May, the California DMV will no longer issue temporary driving licences when you pass their written test.
For context on why this matters: for foreign citizens, when you move to California and become resident (paying rent / utility bills locally) you're required to get a driving licence within 10 days of this event if you want to continue driving in California. Up until May, this was straight forward: you went to the DMV, took their written tests - tedious but not too hard - then booked a practical test and in return got a temporary driving licence that you could renew if the test got postponed. The practical test took 1-3 weeks to reserve a reasonable slot until recently, but this year's announcement that certain immigrants didn't have to prove any legal residence status has caused a huge rush of applications and backlog of tests.
Now that foreign citizens don't get the temporary licence, they can't drive unaccompanied from day 11 of their residency until the date that they pass the (admittedly easy) driving test. Sounds like a bit of a regression, so what's going on?
Let's look at the requirements for California DMV form AB60 guidelines on proving identity if you're not already a Californian:
Foreign Document that is valid, approved by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and electronically verified by DMV with the country of origin:Well, that's tough luck if you're an illegal immigrant (i.e. not able to get a legit Social Security number because you're not a legal resident) and not Mexican, right? Luckily there's an alternative if you have a foreign passport but not an SSN: if you have one of the following then you're OK:
- Mexican Federal Electoral Card (Instituto Federal Electoral (IFE) Credencial para Votar – 2013 version)
- Mexican Passport (issued in 2008 or later and includes digital photo and digital signature)
- Mexican Consular Card (Matricula Consular – 2006 and 2014 versions)
- Foreign Passport that is valid and approved by DMV (see page 4 & 5 for list of DMV approved passports). The customer must also provide his/her social security number (SSN) that is electronically verifiable with the Social Security Administration.
Or you can show another foreign passport: so if you're a dual national then by my reading, you're sorted. Other than that, if you're not from Central/South America and don't have legal residence then you're pretty much sunk. Yay for the major South American nations, except Venezuela or Uruguay, but boo for anyone else.
- Argentinian Identification Card (Documento Nacional de Identidad (DNI) – 2009 or 2012 version)
- Brazilian Consular Card (Carteira de Matricula Consular – 2010 version)
- Chilean Identification Card (Cedula de Identidad – 2013 version)
- Colombian Consular Card (Consular Registration – 2015 version)
- Ecuadorian National Identification Card (Cedula de Ciudadania – 2006 or 2009 version)
- Ecuadorian Consular Card (Tarjeta De Identification Consular – 2015 version)
- El Salvadorian Identification Card (Documento Unico de Identidad (DUI) – 2010 version)
- Guatemalan National Identification Card (Documento Personal de Identificacion (DPI) – 2012 version)
- Guatemalan Consular Card (Tarjeta de Identificacion Consular – 2002 version)
- Peruvian Identification Card (Documento Nacional de Identidad (DNI) – 2005 version)
To recap: if you're an illegal immigrant then you don't really care about driving illegally in the short term. But long term it could be a problem, which is why California has the above AB60 guidance about handing out driving licenses. If you're from Central/South America then they have you covered, otherwise they really don't seem to care. It's perfectly fine for a country to be antagonistic to illegal aliens (that's me struck off Shahid Haque-Hausrath's Christmas card list) but to be arbitrarily receptive to citizens of some countries and not others smacks of, oh I don't know, naked political favouritism?
And now legal immigrants will find it substantially harder to comply with the laws of the state that they're living in - and paying taxes to. Nice one, California.