Rian Immigration Center takes a look at Massachusetts’s new driver’s license law

Q. What is the status of the Work and Family Mobility Act? What should I know about it? 

A. On June 9, 2022, the Massachusetts Senate voted, 32-8 ,to override Gov. Baker’s veto of the Work and Family Mobility Act to create a law that allows state residents, regardless of immigration status, to apply for a driver’s license. This law will take effect next year, on July 1, 2023. This means that if you do not have legal status, you cannot apply for a Massachusetts driver’s license until that date.

To resolve some myths and misinformation about the law, we ought to examine what does and does not change:

Starting on July 1, 2023, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles will allow individuals to present a foreign passport or consular identification document along with another document (either a birth certificate, foreign county ID, marriage certificate or divorce decree issued by US state or territory, or a driver’s license from a different US state or territory) to prove their identities and dates of birth. If any of these documents are not in English, then they must be accompanied by a certified translation.

These potential drivers will still need to demonstrate knowledge of the rules of the road through a learner’s permit exam and a road test, akin to any other individual intending to acquire a driver’s license. If granted, the driver will receive a Standard ID, not a REAL ID. Although a Standard ID is not federally compliant – so it will not serve for domestic air travel after May 3, 2023 – the Standard ID allows Massachusetts residents to operate vehicles and demonstrate proof of identity.

The text of law specifically states that personal information, such as failure to provide proof of lawful status, cannot be shared by the RMV unless “required by federal law or as authorized by regulations promulgated by the attorney general.” As a result of this language, if you apply for a driver’s license or learner’s permit under the new law, you should not put yourself at risk of enforcement action by immigration officials. 

This new law does not impact foreign visitors who intend to drive in Massachusetts. In those circumstances, the same set of regulations apply. Massachusetts allows foreign nationals to operate a motor vehicle in the state provided they possess a valid driver’s license, are over the age of 16, drive the same type of vehicle that they are licensed to operate in their home country, carry an English translation of the license if the license is not in English, and not have a suspended or revoked license.

Disclaimer: These articles are published to inform the general public, not to advise in individual cases. All law, including immigration law, is always subject to change. If you seek legal advice you can contact Rian’s immigration legal staff at 617-984-6542.