DACA recipients and driver’s licenses in North Carolina

By Armando Bellmas, Director of Communications

UPDATE – January 17, 2013: NC Attorney General says DACA recipients should get drivers licenses

In August of 2012, the Department of Homeland Security began the policy of granting deferred action to undocumented young people who met very specific criteria. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy permits individuals who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 and who meet other age, education, continuous presence, and criminal history–related requirements to remain in the U.S. for a renewable two-year period and to apply for work authorization.

For many of these young people, the ability to obtain a driver’s license is essential- to go to work, school, care for their families, and serve the public interest by being trained, tested, and insured drivers.

However, the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has started denying the privilege of obtaining driver’s licenses to DACA recipients. Even after several DACA recipients in North Carolina received driver’s licenses in the last few months on 2012.

The DMV released this statement on January 15, 2013:

In early September of 2012, North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles experts raised concerns that the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program might not conform with North Carolina law. On September 10, 2012, out of an abundance of caution, DMV officials requested a legal opinion from the North Carolina Attorney General’s office and decided to stop issuing driver licenses to applicants under the DACA program until a legal opinion was issued.  

In the meantime, the DMV has cancelled each license it awarded to DACA recipients. Their statement continues:

An internal review of DMV’s records late last week, however, revealed that 13 licenses had been unintentionally issued to applicants in the DACA program before federal database updates were complete.

To maintain consistency of policy, the DMV mailed notification to these applicants on Jan. 11 letting them know their licenses were issued in error; therefore, their driving privileges have been cancelled. Once the AG’s office issues an opinion, a determination about issuing licenses to DACA applicants will be made. 

DACA recipients who are granted deferred action and obtain an employment authorization document (EAD) and Social Security numbers fit well within the general rules for driver’s license issuance in almost every state, including North Carolina. They undergo background and identity checks, submit biometrics, and prove residency to qualify for DACA. They should be able to obtain North Carolina driver’s licenses.

While denying DACA recipients the privilege to receive driver’s licenses is at the state’s discretion- Arizona and Michigan, for instance, have created special rules making DACA recipients ineligible for driver’s licenses- doing so is outright discrimination.

We demand Attorney General Roy Cooper and the NC DMV do the right thing in North Carolina and grant driver’s licenses to DACA recipients immediately.


Have you been received deferred action yet been denied a driver’s license or had it cancelled? Contact us and we’ll try to help you.


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