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Undocumented Virginians can now apply for a state ID

Person seated
Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D-Prince William) spearheaded efforts to allow undocumented Virginians to apply for state IDs. (Photo: Craig Carper/VPM News)

Starting this week, undocumented Virginia residents, including children, can apply for state ID cards.

The new law builds on legislation that went into effect last year permitting non-US citizens in the state to obtain a driver privilege card.

On Monday, Del. Elizabeth Guzman, who carried the bill during the 2021 legislative session, encouraged individuals in the undocumented community to apply for the ID at their local Department of Motor Vehicles.

“We need an ID to buy a car, rent an apartment, open a bank account, pick up a prescription, and even enter our children’s schools, so this new law will empower undocumented Virginians to more fully participate in our communities and economy,” Guzman said in a press release.  “Furthermore, many of our undocumented neighbors have worked to keep Virginia running during the pandemic, and granting them the dignity of a state-issued ID sends the message that they are seen and their contributions are valued.”

Neither the driver privilege card nor the identification card are REAL ID compliant, meaning they can’t be used to board domestic flights or enter a secure federal facility.

Both credentials require applicants to show they’ve either paid state taxes on income or have been claimed as a dependent on an individual tax return filed in the last year. Otherwise, adults need two proofs of identification, two proofs of Virginia residency, an individual taxpayer identification number and a tax return.

With this ID, Guzman says, individuals will no longer have to expose their immigration status every time they are asked to present identification while opening a bank account, getting a library card or picking up their child from school early.

“This was a privilege that residents of Virginia had prior to 2003. So what we’re doing is just bringing back a law that existed in the past that was removed from this community,” she said.

Guzman says there are plenty of incentives for undocumented residents to seek credentials. Lawmakers passed a bill last year limiting the information the Department of Motor Vehicles can share with the federal government for immigration enforcement purposes, soothing some fears of arrest or deportation. 

There’s also an  incentive to pay taxes. If an individual eventually finds a path to citizenship, their tax history can be transferred to their new social security number. 

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.