SANTA ANA. (AP) — Mexican immigrants in the country illegally will need one form of valid identification from their country to apply for a California driver’s license while other immigrants will need at least two, state officials said Friday.
The Department of Motor Vehicles said immigrants from Mexico would need to show their consular identification card or a passport — not both— to prove their identity because each document is considered secure and electronically verifiable by the DMV.
Citizens of other countries would need more documents to apply for the licenses, which the state will issue to immigrants in the country illegally starting Jan. 2.
“Our approach continues to be to require fewer documents for proving identity when those documents are very secure,” said Armando Botello, a DMV spokesman.
The agency recently developed an interface with the Mexican government to verify documents and could do the same with other countries, he said.
The move was welcomed by immigrant advocates and comes as California readies to receive 1.4 million applicants for the licenses in the first three years. Officials said they do not have specific estimates but expect a large number of applicants will be Mexican.
The rules for identity documents vary by country. For example, an immigrant from El Salvador would need an identification card and a passport, while citizens of countries who hold passports that have not been approved by the DMV would need to undergo a secondary review process with a department investigator to obtain a license, said Brian Soublet, legal counsel for the DMV.
In recent months, immigrants and their advocates urged the DMV to accept a broader number of documents to make it easier to apply for the licenses. Initially, the department had discussed requiring Mexican citizens to present both consular ID and passports.
Patricia Perez, the Mexican consul for protection in Los Angeles, said she does not anticipate a rush for documents at the consulate. At recent outreach sessions about the license, Perez said she has found most people already have at least one of the two forms of identification.
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, said a passport is more secure than a consular card, and added that the ability to verify foreign identification rests on the reliability of the foreign data.
In addition to identity documents, immigrants will also need to provide a document such as a rental agreement, mortgage bill or home utility bill to prove they live in California.
The rules should be finalized in a few weeks under an expedited process, officials said.
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