Temporary Visitor Driver’s Licenses Q&A

Temporary Visitor Driver’s Licenses (TVDLs)

On January 27, 2013, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed SB 957, which enables undocumented immigrants in Illinois to get temporary visitor driver’s licenses (TVDLs).  

What is a Temporary Visitor Driver’s Licenses (TVDL)?

The TVDL is an existing document that is now available to many foreign-born individuals living in Illinois.  Since 2005, Illinois has issued TVDLs to individuals who do not have Social Security Numbers but who have lawful immigration status, including foreign students, spouses and children of temporary workers, and long-term visitors.  The new state law, SB 957, makes TVDLs available to other motorists who cannot get a Social Security Number and do not have lawful immigration status.

TVDLs are visually distinct from regular licenses:  TVDLs current use a purple color scheme, as opposed to the red scheme used for regular licenses.  TVDLs are also clearly marked as “not valid for identification.”

Why TVDLs instead of regular licenses?

The federal REAL ID Act requires that states can issue regular driver’s licenses only to those individuals with lawful immigration status.  Because they are visually distinct from regular licenses and are marked as not valid for identification, TVDLs already comply with REAL ID while still enabling undocumented immigrants to drive legally.

What do applicants need to do to get a TVDL?  

To qualify for a TVDL, an undocumented immigrant must

  • Provide a valid unexpired passport or consular ID;
  • Provide documents to show that she lives in Illinois and has lived in Illinois for at least one year;
  • Pass all applicable vision, written, and road tests;
  • Show proof of insurance for the vehicle she uses for the road test;
  • Pay a $30 fee.

Where can applicants apply?

The Secretary of State is taking appointments at 36 facilities, 18 in the Chicago area and 18 downstate.  Appointments can be made by visiting www.cyberdriveillinois.com or calling 855-236-1155.

Can applicants get a TVDL the same day as their appointment?

No.  The Secretary of State needs to review and verify the applicant’s documents.  The Secretary of State then issues the TVDL from a central facility and sends it to the applicant by mail.

Does the Secretary of State check previous driving records?

Yes.  All outstanding tickets must be paid before the Secretary of State will issue a TVDL.  Anyone who is subject to a suspension (for instance, for a DUI or giving false information to the Secretary of State on a previous license application) must serve the suspension and pay a reinstatement fee (and possibly get SR-22 insurance) before getting a TVDL.

How can someone get a copy of her driving record?

Anyone can get a copy of their driving record (abstract) at most Secretary of State facilities; the fee is $12.

What if someone got a license before using a false name or other false information?

The Secretary of State is sending applicants in this situation through its fraud unit, and imposing one-year suspensions before those applicants can receive a TVDL.  Applicants should be aware of possible immigration consequences that may arise during the fraud process.

If someone with a TVDL is stopped, will law enforcement know that the person is undocumented?  

TVDLs are available to both visa holders and undocumented immigrants, so law enforcement officers will not know and cannot assume that a driver with a TVDL is undocumented.

Can the TVDL be used as a bond card at traffic stops?

Yes.  Drivers with TVDLs can produce the card as bond during a traffic stop, just as drivers with regular licenses can.  They should get ticketed rather than being arrested (because they cannot produce bond) and ending up in jail and possibly in deportation.  Police time and jail space will no longer be taken up with so many motorists who are arrested for driving without a license.

What happens if someone with a TVDL drives without insurance?

TVDL holders will be subject to all provisions of the Vehicle Code, including those requiring insurance coverage.  In fact, anyone applying for any license, including a TVDL, must prove that the vehicle she is using for her road test is insured. Finally, if someone with a TVDL is stopped and cannot show proof of insurance, the TVDL becomes invalid, and the motorist can be ticketed for driving without a license; however, the TVDL will be restored if the motorist appears in court with proof of insurance.

Is the TVDL valid for driving outside Illinois?

Other states must decide individually whether to accept Illinois TVDLs.  Anyone planning to drive in another state should check whether that state accepts TVDLs.

Is the TVDL valid as proof of identity?

No—and as a result, the TVDL cannot be used for voting, getting a firearms identification card, boarding an airplane, or entering a federal building.  Hospitals, first responders, and others could still use the TVDL as a document to indicate the person’s name and address.  TVDL holders can still use passports and consular identification cards as proof of identity.

Does the TVDL grant any status to undocumented immigrants?

No.  Immigration status is a matter of federal law.  TVDLs issued under state law cannot confer any immigration status.  TVDLs do nothing more than enable undocumented immigrants to comply with our state’s traffic laws.

Where can someone go if she has any questions or issues?

Anyone who has questions regarding TVDLs can call ICIRR’s Family Support Hotline, 855-HELP-MY-FAMILY (855-435-7694) or email tvdl@icirr.org.

For more information, call ICIRR at 312 332-7360 or www.icirr.org.