Obtaining a state ID and driver's license

Obtaining a driver's license is a pivotal moment for a refugee family. They are able to access and do more than they could before. 


A refugee individual must wait until they receive their Social Security cards in order to obtain their Driver's License. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has Driver's Handbooks in several languages. Refugees from Afghanistan are able to study these handbooks in either English or Farsi. The DMV also provides free interpreters during appointments if requested in advance. 


California IDs are usually obtained by the wife of the family, while the husband attains his Driver's Licesne instead. Although they can use their Green Cards as proof of residency, wives can use their California IDs as an extra proof of residency or to reference their address.There is an option to pay a reduced application fee for California State IDs if a family meets certain income requirements.An individual must fill out the Verification for Reduced Fee Identification Card from (DL 937) which will be taken with them when they apply at the DMV.  


For more information, please visit the DMV driver's license and ID cards website.



Organ Donor: The officer at the DMV might ask the applicant whether or not s/he would like to be an organ donor. The volunteer should try to communicate this to refugees beforehand to get their opinion. If refugees are unable to understand the volunteer, the default answer should be “no.” Sometimes the DMV will write “no” for refugees and will not even ask.


If a family member has been waiting for their driver's license for a protracted time, it might be due to the types of documents they applied with. It is typical for an application to be put on hold if an individual applied using their visa and did not update the DMV with their Green Card. To solve this, they need to visit the DMV, show their Green Card, and then their license should be approved.


If you have time, taking a refugee to tour a DMV office would be beneficial. Such practices like taking a ticket, waiting for the ticket number to be called etc. can be confusing for a first timer. You can prepare them to navigate the DMV office by familiarizing them with the location, even if you cannot accompany them at a DMV appointment.