Undocumented immigrants became eligible on Monday to make appointments for California driver's license applications under a new law set to go into effect in January 2015.
The law, Assembly Bill 60, requires the DMV to issue a driver's license to applicants who cannot submit proof that their presence in the United States is authorized by federal law. The applicant must meet all other qualifications for a driver's licenses in California, including written and driving tests required by the Department of Motor Vehicles.
California is expecting some 3 million undocumented immigrants to apply for the right to drive legally when it goes into effect starting Jan 2.
To accommodate that demand along with standard driver's license applicants, the DMV is urging applicants to use their website instead of crowding offices and phone lines.
Immigration attorney Rosa Nieto reminds potential applicants they must still supply identification documents and proof of California residency.
Nieto recalls this type of license being attempted in other states only to fail because many attempt to get the license by "any means necessary."
"If somebody commits fraud, is submitting documents that are not theirs, is perjuring themselves in any way, the DMV can pierce that veil and share this information with ICE," Nieto said.
Driver's licenses under AB60 will include federal limits, but law enforcement officials cannot use the license to detain or arrest a person based on immigration status. Instead, the applicant must go through standard written and driving tests as any other California resident.
"People are driving with licenses from their countries or other states with different rules and they are not properly trained in California driving safety," Nieto said. "So this will up the safety record for the state of California."
Because all driver's license holders must have insurance, Nieto said this law will help in making claims if drivers are in an accident.
The cost for any new license is $33 and is valid for five years. More information about AB60 can be found on the California DMV website and by calling a phone bank hosted by NBC4 and Telemundo 52 on Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.