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Illinois Driver’s License Renewals

October 19, 2021
Aaron Lawee

We have heard reports from clients who have experienced difficulties renewing their driver’s licenses or state IDs at the Illinois Secretary of State.

General Background:

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Illinois residents have struggled to get their driver’s licenses or state IDs renewed. The Secretary of State’s offices have frequently been closed or only open with limited capacity, which has created long wait times and a large backlog. To help in this situation, Illinois has been automatically extending the validity of Driver’s Licenses and ID Cards, most recently through January 1, 2022. This includes regular driver’s licenses and TVDLs (Temporary Visitor Driver’s License). Unfortunately, CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) and commercial permits are excluded from the automatic extension and do require an in-person appointment.

How our clients have been impacted:

Immigrants applying for a non-TVDL license must generally show proof that they are in a valid immigration status. This has resulted in two common problems when renewing their licenses. First, people with certain pending immigration applications are not considered in a valid immigration status until USCIS actually approves their application. Depending on the application, they may simply not eligible for a driver’s license until their application is approved.

Other immigrants may remain in valid immigration status, but the Secretary of State may not understand their status or recognize that they are entitled to a driver’s license. For example, someone with a conditional green card who files their petition to remove conditions (form I-751) remains in lawful status while their petition is pending, which can take well over a year. Other people who timely file for an extension of their status (such as an H-1B, L-1, or many other work authorization categories) may receive an automatic extension. However, we have seen that sometimes the Secretary of State employees are simply not aware of these automatic extensions or do not recognize the documents submitted to prove the extension (such as a receipt notice). We have at times seen clients turned away even when they submit valid proof of their immigration status that should entitle them to apply for a driver’s license or state ID. This seems to be a training issue, and if this happens, it may be necessary to speak to a supervisor. At other times, we have had to contact the Secretary of State to inform them in advance of a client’s appointment to ensure that our clients are able to enter the facility and renew their license or ID.

If you have questions about how your immigration status could impact your ability to renew your driver’s license, please speak to an immigration attorney at Minsky, McCormick and Hallagan to understand your options.

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