As part of their traditional state police powers, states determine the eligibility requirements for their driver’s licenses. Standard eligibility requirements include proof of age, residency, identity, and knowledge. In the 1990s, some states amended their vehicle codes to require proof of lawful status, effectively barring undocumented immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses.

In response to inconsistent issuance and verification standards, Congress passed the REAL ID Act of 2005. The Act prohibits federal agencies from accepting state driver’s licenses for official purposes unless states comply with minimum issuance and verification standards. These standards include requirements to verify Social Security numbers and lawful status. However, the REAL ID Act also allows states to continue issuing non-compliant driver’s licenses if those licenses have a design that distinguishes them from compliant ones.

Currently, Pennsylvania requires an applicant to provide her Social Security number and proof of lawful status to obtain a driver’s license. This Comment recommends that Pennsylvania should amend its vehicle code to offer alternatives to its Social Security number and lawful status requirements. Doing so would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses, leading to benefits in public safety, community relationships, and increases in the Commonwealth’s revenue.



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