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Virginia's Legal Presence Law

Introduction

Legal presence means that a person is a U.S. citizen, Legal Permanent Resident of the U.S., or is legally authorized to be in the U.S. in one of the eligible immigration statuses outlined in Va. Code (§46.2-328.1) .

Virginia’s legal presence requirement went into effect on January 1, 2004. Since that date, all applicants for an original Virginia driver's license or a DMV-issued identification card (ID) have been required to show proof of their legal presence. Additionally, anyone who held a valid license or ID on that date but who allowed it to expire or be cancelled, suspended, or revoked has been required to present proof of legal presence in order to get their license or ID back.

Legal Presence Affects Everyone

  • Applicants applying for an original Virginia driver's license or ID card:
    Anyone who has never held a Virginia driver's license or ID card for the first time must show proof of legal presence 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, permit, or ID 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.
  • Individuals who have allowed their license, permit, or ID card to expire.
    Anyone who lets his license, permit, or ID 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.
  • Notification Regarding an Individual's Status by a Government Agency:
    If DMV receives notification from a local or state government agency that an individual is not a citizen of the U.S. or is not legally present in the U.S., DMV will place 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. If DMV receives notice from a federal government agency that an individual is not a citizen of the U.S. or is not legally present in the U.S., DMV will cancel any license, permit, or ID card held by that person. DMV will take these actions only if the state, local, or federal governmental entity notifies DMV in writing that the person's authorized stay in the U.S. has ended.

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

Documentation 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 individual has been issued one

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

Generally, driver’s licenses are be valid for 8 years and ID cards are valid for 5 years. However, there are some exceptions:

  • 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. 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.
  • 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.
  • First-time ID cards will be issued for a period of between 3 and 7 years to get the holder into the cycle where their ID card expires at a time when their age is divisible by 5.
  • Individuals age 75 or older will be issued a driver’s license valid for 5 years.
  • 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.