Since the end of 2022, the state of North Carolina has reported complaints from immigrants who were denied a driver's license, or were issued only a temporary document. This, despite meeting the requirements to obtain the permit.
Faced with this situation, last December the North Carolina Justice Center and the state General Assembly (ACLU) requested clarification from the competent authorities.
According to both institutions, it violated the law to deny immigrants residing in the country access to driver's licenses.
Immigrant residents entitled to full driver's licenses
The request forced the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to clarify its licensing policy for non-citizen immigrants. This is now in effect.
North Carolina authorities specified that permanent residents, or those with indefinite status, are entitled to receive full-term driver's licenses. Even if their immigration document expires, such as a green card, for example.
That is, "as long as their immigration status is still valid," clarified ACLU attorney Maneeba Talukder.
Consequently, to apply for or renew their driver's license, non-citizen applicants must verify their immigration status through SAVE, a federal verification process.
North Carolina law enforcement corrected.
"Driver's licenses will not end on the date that an individual's immigration document expires, which is really what's important here. And it's important because that's what the DMV was primarily wrong about," Talukder stated.
In North Carolina, it is not legally valid to apply restrictions such as denying driver's licenses to resident immigrants or issuing them short-term licenses. This was confirmed by the ACLU representative.
The state is moving forward with the implementation of SAVE, even beyond what is required by the federal government, she added. This tool allows non-citizen applicants to verify their immigration status, a requirement for the process.