Driver’s Licenses for Foreign Workers in Colorado Beginning August 1, 2014

The 2014 Colorado Legislature adopted SB 251 to extend the benefit of driver’s licenses, instruction permits, and identification cards to foreign workers and family members temporarily present in the state. The law was effective July 1, 2014, and key provisions will be implemented August 1, 2014. The affected group includes both individuals with temporary legal status in the U.S. and undocumented individuals. These provisions do not extend to foreign-born residents of Colorado who are lawful permanent residents, naturalized citizens, or U.S. citizens by birth.

This benefit fits within a national trend of state efforts to accommodate foreign individuals living and working within their boundaries, regardless of their legal status under U. S. immigration law. Employers need to be aware of challenges arising from this new benefit:

  • Effective August 1, 2014, all temporary foreign individuals, whether legally authorized to work in the U.S. or not, must follow the process designed by the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for issuance of licenses and identification cards. The DMV describes the process in detail here. These license applications or extensions can be processed at only five license center locations: Denver, Aurora, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, and Grand Junction. Appointments must be made in advance, and the centers are already booked through at least October 31, 2014.
  • Any authorized temporary foreign worker who is able to apply for or renew his or her driver’s license before August 1, 2014 using the current system should plan to do so. This includes persons in H-1B, L, TN, O-1 and any other employment-based status or persons working on employment authorization documents. After August 1, 2014, the delays in the appointment system described above may make it impossible for them to renew their licenses for several months. In some cases, an unexpired driver’s license from the worker’s home country may provide short-term authorization to drive while waiting for a DMV appointment and processing.
  • The new licenses and identification cards will contain a banner on a black background stating, “NOT FOR FEDERAL IDENTIFICATION, VOTING OR PUBLIC BENEFITS PURPOSES.” Sample care images are available by clicking here. These licenses will have the same effect as a restricted social security card. They cannot be used for I-9 purposes, and in almost all cases the bearer will have to present a List A document (employment authorization document or foreign passport with I-94 admission and sometimes additional items) to show work authorization.
  • Licenses and identification cards containing this banner DO NOT constitute evidence that the presenter is undocumented or not legally authorized to work. This card will be issued to workers both with and without legal authorization to work in the U.S. The card simply cannot be used for I-9 purposes or E-Verify.
  • Workers who have used false documents to obtain driver’s licenses previously may be identified through this application process. The DMV currently intends to investigate these situations and may refer these individuals to county district attorneys for prosecution. Consequently, workers with this background should be advised to seek counsel from a specialized immigration attorney before submitting their applications.

Contact MSEC’s Immigration Services if you have questions about this law. DMV regulations were just published July 1, 2014, and changes are being announced almost daily. MSEC is monitoring these developments closely.