What's going on with legalization and driver's licenses in Michigan?

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February 22, 2013

Recently, there has been a lot of conversation about possible changes in immigration and driver’s license laws. There also have been some actual changes that affect small groups of people. Unfortunately, some unclear reports in the media and some dishonest people have created confusion in our communities. 

• There is no new legalization program. President Obama and members of Congress have been talking a lot about ideas for change, but there are no new laws.

• President Obama announced a temporary program in June 2012 called “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” or “DACA.” Some people call it the “DREAM Act” but that isn’t correct because the “DREAM Act” did not become law. DACA is just a temporary program. It provides temporary work authorization and temporary legal presence for people who came to the U.S. before their 16th birthdays and meet other requirements.

• The State of Michigan began accepting driver’s license applications on February 19, 2013, from people who have applied to Immigration for DACA and been approved. These people have valid “work permits.” The State of Michigan had previously said it would not give driver’s licenses to people with DACA.  The rules about driver’s licenses in Michigan did not change for anyone else. Everyone in Michigan still has to prove that they are “legally present” to get a driver’s license here. The only change is that Michigan is now considering people with DACA to be “legally present” because they actually are.

• In January, there was a small change in the way that some people who are applying for status through their U.S. citizen family members can have their cases processed. This change starts on March 4, 2013, and it means that some people will have to spend less time outside of the U.S. waiting for a decision on a “hardship waiver” application. We urge everyone who is applying for family members to get high-quality legal advice about the process. Also, everyone should know that when adult U.S. citizens apply for their undocumented parents, those parents are usually not eligible to apply for these kinds of waivers based on hardship to their adult U.S. citizen children. Parents may have to spend 10 years outside of the U.S. if they leave the country for visa processing.

• The best thing you can do to prepare for future changes in the law is to make sure everyone in your family has a valid passport from your home country that is valid for more than one year. You should also save all school and employment records and keep copies in a safe place. U.S. citizen children should get U.S. passports. It’s reasonable for attorneys to charge consultation fees, but we don’t recommend paying any fees to anyone who is promising future services that can only be provided if there is a change in the law.

How can I get real answers to my questions?

Contact one of the nonprofits authorized to provide assistance with immigration law listed in our Immigrant Service Provider Reference Guide linked here or contact us at (269) 492-7196 for information and referral services.