Politics and Government

Tens of thousands of Minnesotans will be newly eligible for driver's licenses on Oct. 1

The new law allows Minnesotans to receive driver's licenses regardless of immigration status.

A big red sign says drivers licenses for all
Supporters of allowing undocumented immigrants to receive drivers license rally at the Minnesota State Capitol on Feb. 21.
Tim Evans for MPR News

Starting next week, all eligible Minnesotans — regardless of immigration status — can start getting their driver’s licenses.  

On Oct. 1, the state will start accepting applications without requiring proof of legal residency in the U.S. under the law passed earlier this year. An estimated 81,000 people are newly eligible for licenses, permits and state ID cards. 

In a press conference Thursday, Department of Public Safety Commissioner Bob Jacobsen said the state is ready for the rule change.  

“Too many people have been denied the opportunity to obtain a driver's license due to documentation restrictions,” Jacobsen said. “We fully expect this to be an immensely popular program. And it should be — it’s life changing for very many people.”  

To prepare for the new applicants, DPS and several community organizations have been expanding resources for immigrants. DPS is offering informational documents, forms and the written driver’s test in various languages. 

Several organizations that campaigned for Drivers Licenses for All shifted to providing resources for prospective drivers in anticipation of the law taking effect. Comunidades Organizando el Poder y la Acción Latina (COPAL) pushed for the law to pass; recently, they’ve offered road safety classes and added driver information to their website.  

COPAL’s worker’s center coordinator Claudia Lainez said they’re working on offering the written test at their site.  

“We remain committed to our communities as we navigate the implementation of this law,” Lainez said.  

The Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota and Unidos are both offering multilingual resources and information about the process, too.  

Jovita Morales is the founder of the Minnesota Immigrant Movement. She said she’s heard from a lot of people who are planning to get their licenses under the new law — she said mothers, in particular, are excited.  

“Moms can drive now,” Morales said. “They were telling us, I'm gonna go to school right now, I'm gonna involve more in my community.”  

Commissioner Jacobsen said that people looking to schedule driving tests might have to be patient and book appointments far in advance. He recommended checking the DPS website every day for open slots.  

“Anytime you add 81,000 people to a system, it's going to take us a little while,” Jacobsen said. “Just know that although we may not know the exact time or how quickly we're going to be able to get through this, we are going to be continually looking to improve our processes.”