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Virginia's Legal Presence Law

Introduction

Legal presence means that a person is either a U.S. citizen or is legally authorized to be in the United States. Virginia law requires anyone applying for an original Virginia driver's license or for a DMV-issued identification card to show proof of their legal presence.

Persons who are authorized by the federal government to be present in the U.S. temporarily are issued limited duration driver's licenses or identification cards.

Customers can make their driver's license or ID card transactions a success if they plan ahead and know what to bring to DMV. Come prepared!

Legal Presence Affects Everyone

Legal presence requirements apply to U.S.citizens as well as foreign-born individuals. It affects teenagers applying for their learner's permit or first driver's license. It affects anyone who has just moved to Virginia from another state or country. It affects senior citizens and anyone else applying for an ID card.

Specifically, legal presence affects:

  • Applicants applying for an original Virginia driver's license.
    Anyone who has never held a Virginia driver's license for the first time must show proof of legal presence in the U.S.
  • Applicants for a DMV-issued identification card.
    Anyone applying for a DMV-issued identification card must show proof of legal presence. However, if the individual is either a U.S. citizen or a Legal Permanent Resident of the U.S. and has once proven that status on or after January 1, 2004, proof of legal presence will not be required. Proof of legal presence is required for persons who are temporarily authorized by the federal government to be present in the U.S.
  • Drivers reinstating their driver's license because of a license suspension, revocation or cancellation.
    Anyone with a cancelled, suspended, or revoked license or permit must show proof of legal presence unless the suspension or cancellation is based solely on a medical review imposed by DMV. However, individuals who are either a U.S. citizen or a Legal Permanent Resident of the U.S. and have once proven that status on or after January 1, 2004, will not be required to submit proof of legal presence.
  • Drivers who have allowed their license to expire.
    Anyone who lets his driver's license expire, even by just one day, must show proof of legal presence to renew. However, individuals who are either a U.S. citizen or a Legal Permanent Resident of the U.S. and have once proven that status on or after January 1, 2004, will not be required to submit proof of legal presence.

If a driver loses his driver's license, he will not need to prove legal presence as long as he requests a duplicate while his license is still valid, before the license expiration date. The replacement license will display the same expiration date that was on the license he lost.

If DMV receives notification from a local, state or federal government agency that an individual is not a citizen of the U.S. and is not legally present in the U.S., DMV places an indicator on the individual's record requiring him or her to prove legal presence before renewing or replacing his or her driver's license or ID card. DMV will take these actions only if the state or federal governmental entity notifies DMV in writing that the person's authorized stay in the U.S. has ended.

Requirements for Obtaining a License or ID Card

Each time an individual applies for a first-time issue of a Virginia driver's license or ID card, he will be required to show proof of the following until the license or ID card has been issued:

  • Identity
  • Legal presence
  • Virginia residency
  • Social security number, if the person has one and is applying for a driver's license. Proof of social security number is not required for ID cards.

For a complete list of acceptable documents for proof of identity, residency and social security number, refer to either the online Document Guide for Licenses and ID Cards or the publication "Obtaining a Driver's License or Photo ID Card" (DMV 141).

Va. Code §46.2-328.1 identifies the groups of individuals who are eligible to apply for a Virginia driver's license or ID card. These categories and the corresponding acceptable documents are listed in the Acceptable Documents by Status chart. Further information regarding the listing of eligible categories can be found in the Review of Virginia's Legal Presence Law.

DMV does not accept the Employment Authorization Document (I-766) as proof of legal presence. However, holders of a valid Employment Authorization Document (I-766) should be able to present other official documentation as proof of Legal Presence as outlined on the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Chart. The Document Guide for Licenses and ID Cards provides further information.

Length of Period That a License or ID Card Is Valid

For individuals temporarily authorized to be in the U.S., a driver's license or ID card will be valid only for the amount of time that an individual is legally present in the U.S. The expiration date on the driver's license or ID card will be the same as the expiration date shown on the document used to prove legal presence.

Driver's licenses based on temporary lawful status will display an indicator that they are valid for a limited duration. Individuals are not eligible to receive a driver's license, permit or ID card if their authorized stay in the United States is less than 30 days from the date of their application.

Individuals required to register with the Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry (Virginia Code Chapter 9 of Title 9.1) (Registry) will be issued a driver's license or ID card valid for five years.

If an applicant is authorized to be in the U.S. for an indefinite period of time, DMV will issue a driver's license or ID card valid for one year.

Even if an individual's stay in the U.S. is limited in duration, DMV will issue a driver's license or ID card for the amount of time that the individual is authorized to remain in the U.S.

Cost of a Driver's License or ID Card

The cost of a license or ID card varies; refer to the DMV Fee Chart for details.