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Problems with Temporary Visitor Driver’s License (TVDL) launch in Illinois foreshadow issues with future immigration laws

Temporary Visitor Driver's License IllinoisEarly in 2013, the Illinois became one of the first U.S. states to pass legislation that would permit undocumented immigrant residents to obtain driver’s licenses. Eleven months later, the state is officially ready to start issuing new Temporary Visitor Driver’s Licenses (example at left) to undocumented immigrants in order to improve the lives and safety of everyone on Illinois roads.

With overwhelming demands for the TVDL, the line is already too long

The office of the Illinois Secretary of State will begin accepting applications for the Temporary Visitor Driver’s License on December 3, but unlike conventional driver’s licenses, undocumented applicants must schedule their appointment in advance. As of last week, applicants have been able to schedule appointments through the official Illinois TVDL website or by calling 855-236-1155, but the state is already experiencing major issues with accommodating demand.

Since this a pilot program, the Secretary of State has chosen to host TVDL appointments at only four locations for the first 90 days after launch. It’s an incredibly small number of locations considering there are an estimated 500,000 individual residents in Illinois who may qualify for this license. Illinois officials estimate they will be able to process up to 100,000 Temporary Visitor Driver’s Licenses a year, a sure sign that many undocumented immigrants will have to wait a long time for the license they need.

On Tuesday, November 12, the day the Illinois Secretary of State office began taking TVDL appointments, all slots were filled by 3:00pm. Thousands of undocumented immigrants were disappointed with their inability to book an appointment, especially with many of them feeling the pressing need to be able to drive to work, school, and take care of their families in the short term. It may be months before new appointment slots open up.

Officials insist this bottleneck is a necessary symptom of their quest for quality control in a brand new, untested process. A spokesman from the Secretary of State’s office said, “We’re the largest state in the nation to do this. It’s never been done before in the state of Illinois. So look at the flip side, for us not to do a pilot phase to allow us to test how everything works, I think, would be irresponsible of us.”

Temporary Visitor Driver’s License scams already popping up

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan released a consumer warning immediately after TVDL appointments became available in response to scams artists that were preying on undocumented immigrants looking to get their TVDL licenses expedited. There is currently no such service available. There were also reports of scams offering “universal” driver’s licenses costing over $1,000.

All of these issues could play out on an even greater scale when immigration reform or other services for undocumented immigrants become available nationwide. With 11 million undocumented U.S. immigrants looking for a path to citizenship, how will the government, nonprofits, and legal organizations accommodate the demand? Highly organized and innovative legal services and technology will continue to be the only answer, whether people want to prepare for it or not.

Resources for immigrants looking to get a Temporary Driver’s License in Illinois

There was already a “Temporary Visitor Driver’s License” available in Illinois before this year. However, they were previously only available to documented immigrants with visas. The new law broadens the TVDL to include Illinois immigrants who cannot obtain a Social Security card due to their unlawful status.

Some of the differences in Illinois’ conventional versus TVDL application include:

  • The TVDL is only valid for three years instead of the conventional four.
  • The TVDL is only valid for driving, NOT identification, TVDL holders cannot use the license to board an airplane, register to vote, or own a firearm.
  • An advance appointment at a pre-selected location is required for the TVDL, unlike conventional applicants who can show up to any state facility during working hours.
  • More documents are required for the TVDL, including proof that the individual has resided in Illinois for at least 12 months.
  • With the TVDL, if the driver is caught without insurance the TVDL is revoked immediately. The TVDL is only valid upon purchasing liability insurance.
  • Most conventional applicants get their license right after the test. TVDL applicants must wait for their application to be assessed and processed before receiving the license at a later date.

To learn more about the TVDL in Illinois for undocumented immigrants, visit the official site, where you can also find translations and lists of documents needed to apply.