Saudade: News from and for the Brazilian community/Notícias de e para a comunidade brasileira

Massachusetts Driver’s License

—Courtesy Massachusetts RMV

A tradução deste artigo se encontra no nosso site:—translation/.


Following my last column regarding the topic of immigration, I decided to continue to talk about issues pertinent to immigrants’ lives when it comes to legal documents. This week, I am revisiting an old subject — the necessity of a driver’s-only program for undocumented immigrants. Such a program already exists in Connecticut, and it was implemented in 2015. But first, let’s talk about the changes regarding the Massachusetts driver’s license. Also, because this column is translated online, I hope that for those Brazilian Islanders who are lawful residents or naturalized citizens who aren’t yet proficient in English, the following information is helpful.


Real ID

As of March 26, 2018, a set of new federal requirements came into effect for the RMV, and what that means is that the RMV has begun to issue two new types of driver’s licenses and ID cards, defined as Real ID driver’s license and standard driver’s license.

The Real Act was enacted in 2005, and it is among one of the measures taken to protect American citizens from another terrorist attack such as the one on 9/11. Stricter requirements to obtain a driver’s license and state-issued ID help reduce fraud and increase security.

Under the Real Act law, by October 2020, everyone in the United States will need a Real ID to use their state-issued driver’s license or ID card to access federal buildings such as the White House and to fly within the United States. Valid, unexpired passports are still going to be accepted as identification for traveling. To obtain the Real ID driver’s license, you will have to prove eligibility. American citizens can use their unexpired passports or their birth certificate. Green card holders can present their green cards — if you had a temporary green card and have since applied to have the conditions removed and you have not yet received your permanent green card by October 2020, you will have to bring the expired green card plus the letter that USCIS issued to you extending your temporary green card benefits for 18 months. Currently USCIS, due to the high volume of applications for green cards, mainly through marriage, requires that temporary green card holders wait an average of 18 months to get the permanent green card. The reason why some people receive a temporary green card is that they have been married less than two years. As a side note, USCIS is also requesting that people who are applying to remove the conditions on their temporary green card go for another interview other than the obligatory initial interview. Exceptions may be granted should the couple have a biological child, the key word being “may.”

Going back to the Real ID card, individuals will have to produce proof of legal residency whether they are going for the Real ID or standard driver’s license. In the case of the individuals who are in the U.S. for work, school and such, after their status has been confirmed, they will receive a driver’s license for the length of the stay granted by the type of visa the individual has.

Since it is a new system, by October 2020, people acquiring the Real ID will have to go to their local RMV to take a new photo and provide the documents required. This applies to all first-time Real ID applicants, even if you have held a Massachusetts driver’s license or ID for years. Everyone applying for the Real ID driver’s license will also have to bring their Social Security card or provide documents with the number, which will also be verified for authenticity. As for individuals who are not U.S. citizens or lawful residents, and don’t have a Social Security number, they will have to provide an SSA denial letter with a foreign passport affixed with U.S. visa and approved I-94, which will also be checked for validity. No copies will be accepted; all documents must be original.
Not everyone needs a Real ID card, especially if they don’t fly frequently and can still apply for the standard driver’s license, which again is a valid form of ID. However, after Oct. 1, 2020, standard driver’s licenses cannot be used to enter specific federal buildings or fly domestically.

As for a standard driver’s license, in the state of Massachusetts applicants will still need to prove lawful residence, as this requirement already exists. Other changes to the the state’s RMV as an effort to make this transition smoothly with all the changes is that the time frame for a when a new picture is required has been extended from every nine years to every 14 years. Exceptions are applied to those turning 21 years old and to those 75 or older, where a new photo is still required every five years. The RMV partnership with AAA will support the transition for those seeking the Real ID driver’s license — AAA members can renew at AAA locations as long as they meet all the Real ID requirements. However, AAA members cannot obtain a credential for the first time from AAA.

Because this is a very brief explanation of the new changes, please check for additional questions.


Connecticut Drive Only Program

I have been advocating for a drive-only program for years, and I have also written about this issue before:

One of the explanations for why it was implemented in Connecticut is that undocumented immigrants were already driving on the Connecticut roads and were not licensed, and these individuals were also not insured. The Connecticut Drive Only license program has been improving public safety and ensuring that all drivers are tested, know how to drive, and understand the rules and laws for driving in Connecticut. Also, a Drive Only license is not valid for federal identification purposes, and cannot be used to vote.

In one of the Brazilian Consulates visits in 2016, they mentioned in an interview with me that in 2014 it was estimated that the number of Brazilians in the state was 300,000. Granted, that number might have decreased, but I firmly believe that it has only increased. Not every Brazilian in the state of Massachusetts drives without a license; a lot of Brazilian Islanders have licenses from other states, where a Social Security number is not required in order to obtain a driver’s license, unlike Massachusetts. However, the program implemented by Connecticut, in my point of view, serves and benefits everyone. It treats everyone with integrity and fairness, all while promoting public safety. My goal for this column was to once again promote information so that anyone interested can do more research or be better informed about issues facing our Island’s immigrants.