Illegal aliens (undocumented immigrants) are not allowed to get Nevada driver's licenses. Penalties for driving without a valid license include fines or even jail. But a skilled Las Vegas criminal defense attorney may be able to get the charge dismissed.
This page explains Nevada laws regarding the driving privileges of undocumented immigrants. Keep reading to learn the rules and punishments.
Can non-U.S. citizens get Nevada driver's licenses?
It depends. Non-citizens may get Nevada driver's licenses only if both of the following conditions are true:
- the non-citizen has lawful status, which means he/she in the U.S. legally and with proper documentation, AND
- his/her primary residence is in Nevada
Therefore non-citizens who are undocumented are not allowed to get a driver's license in Nevada. It's irrelevant if the non-citizen has been living and works in Nevada. Laughlin criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives an example:
Sergei attended UNLV on a student Visa. After he graduates, he decides to stay in Las Vegas to work but doesn't apply for a new Visa. If police ever catch him driving in Nevada, Sergei could face charges for driving without a license. Sergei might also land in immigration court for being an illegal alien.
It doesn't matter in the above example that Sergei entered America legally, that he lived in Nevada for years, or that he was an otherwise law-abiding person. Once his Visa lapsed and he became an undocumented alien, he lost the legal right to a Nevada driver's licenses.
Can non-citizens drive in Nevada with a driver's license from another country?
Illegal aliens living in Nevada may not lawfully drive there even if they have a license from their home country. Police officers may accept a foreign driver's license only if the driver is a visitor or tourist legally in the U.S.
Note that prosecutorial discretion plays a big part in whether illegal aliens face charges for driving in Nevada. Sympathetic prosecutors may choose not to bring charges, while other prosecutors will.
Isn't it true that undocumented aliens get Nevada driver's licenses all the time?
There have been news stories reporting that some illegal aliens have succeeded in getting Nevada driver's licenses. These articles claim that perhaps the Nevada DMV didn't do a proper background check, or that various DMV employees have been bribed into issuing licenses.
Be that as it may, the DMV's official stance is to deny driver's licenses to non-citizens without lawful immigration status. Note that the DMV does not recognize the following forms of ID when a non-citizen applies for a driver's license:
- "Matricula consular cards," which are ID cards issued by Mexican consulates in the U.S.
- Foreign driver's licenses
- Foreign birth certificates
- Border crossing cards
- Foreign passports without an I-94 Arrival-Departure Record
Meanwhile, the Nevada DMV does recognize the following documents when non-citizens apply for driver's licenses:
- Permanent or Temporary Resident Card
- Resident Alien Card or I-551 Receipt
- Valid foreign passport stamped "Processed for I-551"
- Permit to reenter the U.S.
- Refugee travel documents
- Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) with Visa or Passport
Also note that documents must be valid originals or certified copies issued in the U.S. (with the exception of foreign passports). See the Nevada DMV website for more information.
What's the penalty for driving without a license
- up to six months in jail, and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines
However a criminal defense attorney may be able to plea bargain the charge down to a full dismissal if the defendant soon succeeds in becoming a legal alien and getting a valid driver's license. The defendant may also have to pay a fine to the court.
Accused of driving without a license?
Call us for help ....
If you're an undocumented immigrant who's been arrested for 'driving without a license' in Nevada, call 702-DEFENSE (333-3673). Our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers can consult with you for free about how to get the charges reduced or possibly dismissed.
We represent client throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Washoe County, Reno, Carson City, Laughlin, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa, Elko, Pahrump, Searchlight and Tonopah.
For more information, see our articles on Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers, Laughlin criminal defense attorney, Nevada crime of driving without a license, criminal defense of non-citizens in Nevada, and misdemeanor in Nevada.