Whether undocumented immigrants can get auto insurance depends on which state they live in. Location matters for undocumented immigrants because state law determines whether they're legally allowed to get a driver's license.
If they live in a state that lets them get licenses, they shouldn't have a problem getting insurance once they've gotten their license.
But if they live in a state that doesn't allow them to get a license, they'll have a much harder time buying car insurance. And even if they are able to purchase insurance, that insurance might be worthless. There have been numerous reports of insurers selling policies to unlicensed undocumented immigrants and then refusing to pay for claims filed through those policies.
Read on to find out which states allow undocumented immigrants to get driver's licenses and learn about the insurance situation for undocumented immigrants in other states.
Insurance in States That Do Allow Undocumented Immigrants to Get Licenses
A handful of states have already adopted laws granting driving rights to undocumented immigrants, and the total number of states with these laws will increase by 2015.
As of January 2014, five states have immigrant-licensing laws:
- New Mexico
The following states have similar laws going to effect in 2014 and 2015:
Washington, D.C., also just recently passed a municipal law allowing the issuance of "limited purpose" driver's licenses to those who haven't "been assigned a social security number and cannot establish legal presence in the United States." The card program is set to be implemented on May 1, 2014.
The purpose of these laws ultimately is safety. If more of the people on the roads have gone through necessary testing to drive and have purchased insurance, roads are safer.
All of these programs require applicants to pass written and driving tests and get auto insurance before hitting the road. However, each state's licensing program has different standards to meet before a license is granted.
For example, the laws differ on the forms of identification and proof of residence when issuing a license. Some common items that can be used to prove identification and residence through the programs are foreign passports, home utility bills, vehicle title, bank-issued documents with an in-state address, or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.
State laws also differ on:
- How long a driver's license or temporary ID lasts before expiration
- Whether fingerprinting is required
- Whether the applicant gets a full, unrestricted license or a different form of driving privileges
If you're a resident in one of the states mentioned above and are looking to get a license or card granting you driving privileges, the links below will take you to the relevant websites of each state's motor vehicle departments. There, you can find out what's required of you before you can get on the road with a license.
State License & Effective Date
California Driver's License, regulations being drafted for new law effective by Jan. 1 2015
Colorado Driver's License, effective Aug. 1, 2014
Connecticut Driver's License, effective Jan. 1, 2015
Illinois Temporary Visitor Driver's License, appointments for applicants began in November 2013
Maryland Federally Non-Compliant DL/ID, now in effect
New Mexico Driver's License, now in effect
Nevada Driver Authorization Card, now in effect
Oregon Driver Card, set to go into effect December 2014 unless overturned by referendum
Utah Driving Privilege Card, now in effect
Vermont Driver's License, effective Jan. 1, 2014
Washington Driver's License, now in effect
Washington D.C. Limited Purpose Driver's License, effective May 1, 2014
You should know as a new driver that you're subject to all the rules of the road that others are. So once you have the license to drive, you're also required have the insurance, too. Visit or call an agency or broker to find out how how much it costs to get covered.
In Illinois, having a TVDL but dodging the insurance won't work for authorities; the TVDL is considered invalid if coverage can't be proved. What's worse is that being unable to prove at a traffic stop or crash scene that you're insured and licensed can sometimes end up as an arrest.
"And once in jail you could be turned over to immigration and end up in deportation," says the Illinois Highway Safety Coalition (IHSC).
Also know that drivers, undocumented or not, need to be able to offer proof of insurance coverage just like other drivers on the road have to, including at traffic stops and after accidents. So once you have your driver's license or temporary visitors card or state ID card, bring your policy card along too in case proof is needed.
Expansion of Immigrant-Licensing Laws
Oregon's law had been set to kick in that January 2014 also, but a statewide voters' referendum on the issue pushed the law's effective date past the November 2014 election.
The state Legislature in Florida had approved a licensing bill for undocumented immigrants, but the piece of legislation was vetoed in June by Gov. Rick Scott.
Minnesota senators greenlit a bill in May, but it never made it out of the state House; Gov. Mark Dayton publicly stated his opposition to proposals that allowed undocumented immigrants driver's licenses, though he told supporters he'd establish a dialogue with them if he were to receive a bill to ratify.
Insurance in States That Don't Allow Undocumented Immigrants to Get Licenses
Currently, most states don't have laws allowing undocumented immigrants to get licenses. Undocumented immigrants in those states should not drive without legal driving privileges, even if they are able to get insurance.
And here's why: There have been reports in some states that insurers will sell policies to unlicensed drivers and then refuse to pay for any claims filed through those policies.
This was the case in Illinois before the state adopted its own immigrant-licensing law. The problem caught the eye of Illinois legislators, who in 2012 fought what they believed to be the industry's deceptive business practices toward undocumented immigrants. That year, lawmakers introduced legislation to tighten rules on insurers that advertised policies for license-less drivers and then denied their claims because they lacked a license.
"While some insurance companies sell auto insurance policies to unlicensed motorists, they generally will not pay out any claims on these policies when the motorist is unlicensed," the IHSC said. "For such motorists, there is no point to buying insurance."
Whether undocumented immigrants can in fact get insurance in these states is up in the air.
Stacey Burke, a case manager for the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, told Online Auto Insurance (OAI) that it was relatively easy for undocumented workers getting coverage from insurers in her state.
"I haven't seen undocumented people in Alabama have an issue getting auto insurance," she said. "It's very possible for undocumented workers to provide the documentation insurers want."
But Eben Cathey, the communication coordinator for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), says that's not the case in neighboring Tennessee.
"Undocumented workers don't get auto insurance here, period," he told OAI.
According to the TIRRC, 80 percent of all deportations statewide stem from charges for driving without a license.
"When people are worried about being deported, auto insurance is a secondary concern," he said.