drivers license pending green card

EP17: Can I Get A Drivers License With Pending Green Card?

Driving in the United States is a must in most cities and suburbs. So, today’s podcast episode is all about getting a drivers license with pending green card.

But, if you’re fortunate enough to live in New York and prefer public transit, then you can skip this episode. However, if you are eager to get your drivers license then license on darling!

Personally, I hate public transit and prefer the privacy (and safety) of my own vehicle, thank you very much! 🙄

When I first got my K1 visa approved, I decided to keep my car and drive it across the US/Canada border. Let me tell you, this was the best decision I’ve ever made!

Not only was I more independent, but I didn’t need to apply for a US diver’s license right away because I was able to use my Ontario driver’s license with my car which still had a valid registration for 6 more months.

Understandably, not everyone can just drive across the border (especially those coming from across the Atlantic Ocean!) 😅

So, we’ll talk about how to get your US driver’s license even though your green card isn’t approved yet.

Find out what you need to bring to the DMV.

Download the drivers license checklist!

(for pending or approved I-485)


Related Post: Getting A Drivers License With Pending I-485

Show Proof Of Legal Status In US

Since Trump came into office, I noticed that there has been an increase in restrictions for issuing driver’s licenses even to people in the country legally.

Sadly, this may affect you personally, but you can overcome these restrictions by knowing the right documents to bring with you to the DMV. 🙌 (whoop-whoop!)

Firstly, you must present proof of lawful presence in the US. The local DMV must verify applicable lawful presence documentation through the US Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) Program. 

Verification through SAVE is often instantaneous, if not it may be delayed for up to 30 days. If SAVE cannot verify your status on the first attempt, SAVE will permit two additional stages of verification. 

Next, each stage may require additional documentation. After each stage, you will receive instructions either verbally or by mail on how to proceed with the transaction. 

Finally, to avoid further delay, you should comply with the instructions fully and as soon as possible. The DMV may require secondary verification from USCIS of your legal status and this can take 2 weeks to complete.

Furthermore, after approval you will receive a letter that you must bring to the DMV. Along with the letter, be sure to bring the following documents as well:

  • EAD card
  • Green card
  • I-797 notice of action* (sometimes this is not acceptable)

Related Post: EAD Expedite Process: Getting Work Authorization Faster (I-765)

Documents Required By DMV

After proving that you are not an illegal alien hiding out in the US 😂 you are ready to gather documents showing that you are a resident of the US and your identification as a real human being.

The following list is a general guideline, please double check with your local DMV website or by calling them directly. There is no way that I can go over all the requirements for all 50 states!

  • 2 Proof of residence (address) – most states require that you are resident for 30 days
    • Lease agreement, mortgage, utility bills, credit card bills, phone bill
  • Passport– valid, unexpired as acceptable form of ID + legal status
  • SSN– many DMVs require a SSN before issuing DL
  • Name Change– proof of name change (marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court-ordered name change)
  • EAD card
  • I-797 Notice of Actionshowing pending application
    • I-485 pending
    • I-130 pending
    • DACA approved
    • U visa pending
    • Asylum pending
    • TPS approved

Related Post: Getting a Driver’s License on K1 Visa During Adjustment of Status

Drivers license checklist

After Driver’s License Is Approved 

Congrats!!! Take a minute and do your happy dance, people! 😆🕺🎉

Okay, now compose yourself and get ready to drive around and enjoy your freedom. But, for those of you who still need to pass your written or driving test it’s time to study hard.

I remember getting a learners permit back home and learning to drive with my dad. It was a nightmare and he was terrified of my crashing the family sedan.

I ended up learning from an older friend of mine who didn’t really care too much about having an accident! Now that I think back, that may not have been the best idea but I did eventually pass the driving test! 😅

Your brand new driver’s license will be valid for 1 year or when status expires (if less than 1 year).

For example, if you used your EAD to show proof of your lawful status in the US, then the driver’s license will be good for the length of time that your EAD card is good for.

However, once your green card is approved you should return to the DMV and have them issue a new license that is valid for the duration of the green card. (Yes, having to deal with the DMV is a pain-in-the-butt, but it’s worth it, I promise!)

Driving Without A License In The US

Hopefully, by now you are not considering driving without a license if the process is taking too long or you weren’t successful in getting your driver’s license.

Unfortunately, I know that some people will drive without a valid license, so I’ll provide you knuckleheads with some information about the severe punishment that is waiting for you. 😌

Driving without a license is illegal in all 50 states

If you have never had a license, the penalties will probably be less severe compared to someone caught driving with a suspended or revoked license 

  • Washington: You could receive a jail sentence if a judge determines that you are a habitual offender
  • Illinois: There is a 2 month suspension for first offense of driving without a valid license; possible jail sentence of up to one year for driving with a suspended driver’s license
  • California: Your car could be impounded for 30 days; you must appear in court (or have an attorney appear on your behalf) 
  • New York: There is $40 to $300 fine for an expired license; misdemeanor charge of “Aggravated Unlicensed Operation” (2nd or 1st degree) for multiple suspensions or DUI-related suspensions, with possible felony charge (which can carry a jail sentence)

Conclusion: Getting Driver’s License With Pending Green Card

As you can see, getting your driver’s license with pending green card can be difficult but it’s possible. The main point is that you show you are in the country legally, show your identity and pass the driving test.

Additionally, if you arrive at the DMV and they have no idea what you are talking about when it comes to getting your Drivers license with pending green card, ask to speak with a manager.

Sometimes the people at the counter don’t know the rules of the DMV that they are working for. Trust me, I’ve seen this first hand and it’s extremely frustrating but keep your cool! 😎

If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.

Finally, once you get your driver’s license approved and in the mail, be sure to check the expiration date! You don’t want to be caught driving with an expired license. A police officer will not accept the excuse of “I didn’t know it expired so soon!

Alright boys and girls, I hope this was helpful to you! If you see me on the road one day, give my a honk and a smile! Maybe we can grab a coffee on you, haha! 😂

Find out what you need to bring to the DMV.

Download the drivers license checklist!

(for pending or approved I-485)

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