NC DMV starts new license policy for certain immigrants

North Carolina’s Division of Motor Vehicles will now issue full-term driver’s licenses to more immigrants with permanent or indefinite residential status in the country after a ruling that implements a new policy.

State Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette ruled last week on a petition filed in December by advocacy groups on behalf of three non-U.S. citizens who had been issued limited-term licenses by the DMV despite such status types.

Some of the documents related to such status, like “green cards,” have expiration dates. But attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union and North Carolina Justice Center argued the dates don’t mean the person is no longer allowed in the country after that date. They wrote the DMV’s wrong interpretation of a state law addressing the issuance of limited-duration licenses for certain immigrants led to unfair and discriminatory practices, affecting tens of thousands of noncitizens who need reliable driving access. Licenses otherwise expire for adults age 18 to 65 after eight years.

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Boyette wrote March 21 that the Department of Transportation, which oversees DMV, “recognizes that drivers license issuances of shorter durations are not always necessary when the noncitizen applicant enjoys permanent or indefinite residential status in the United States.”

Boyette said that, starting this week, full-term licenses would be issued to people in these situations lacking a definitive end date as long as other prerequisites are met, he said. For example, the state will continue to run names through a Department of Homeland Security database program to verify applicants are lawfully present in the U.S.

A Friday news release from the advocacy groups announcing the declaratory ruling quoted Mayra Luna, one of the petitioners, who said the previous policy left her without a license for four months, forcing her to quit her job because she couldn’t drive to it.

“I’m happy that this ruling benefits so many more people than I thought and that they won’t have to go through the same experiences that I did,” Luna said.

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