Driver’s License Dilemmas

Canadian citizens seeking TN status should familiarize themselves with the driver’s license requirements of the state where they will reside while working under TN status. Non-citizens constantly face roadblocks when it comes time to obtain or renew their driver’s license. With a myriad of state laws referencing inappropriate or inaccurate immigration laws and regulations, Canadian professionals can face more difficulty in obtaining a driver’s license than an actual TN.

Many states require that non-citizens apply for a driver’s license within a certain period of time once they become a resident of that state. While technically a Canadian professional in TN status should not have an intent to become a resident of any state for immigration purposes, he or she can still be considered a resident of a state for vehicle and traffic law enforcement purposes. For example, in New York State, a resident is defined as one who lives in that state with the intention of making it a fixed and permanent abode. An individual who maintains a place of abode in NYS for a period of 90 days is presumed to be a resident of NYS. Thus, a police officer can use this evidence as a reason to issue a traffic ticket if such an individual drives in NYS without a NYS driver license.

A non-citizen seeking a driver’s license should review the relevant state driver’s license application requirements as soon as possible. Most states have specific requirements with respect to acceptable documentation evidencing immigration status and proof of identity. Furthermore, many states require that non-citizen workers have a certain amount of time remaining under their period of authorized stay at the time they apply for a driver’s license. Check the pertinent state’s department of motor vehicle web site for information on obtaining a driver’s license.

Do not be surprised if you face resistance or confusion when applying for a driver’s license, as many department of motor vehicle officials are poorly informed of U.S. immigration laws. It is best to come prepared to the DMV armed with the right documents and supporting evidence. If you are still having difficulty, many times a call from your attorney can clear up any confusion with department officials.