The next steps for the new Massachusetts licensing law

Lines of cars snake down a Massachusetts highway as the sun sets during the stampede.

Traffic, our familiar enemy. Photo: Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Now that voters have accepted a ballot that keeps a law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, Massachusetts transit officials are updating the rules before the new law goes into effect in July 2023.

Driving the news: The Motor Vehicle Register released draft recommendations this week and announced a December 2 meeting to discuss ongoing changes to the new law.

  • In line with legislation, the RMV recommends that unincorporated driver’s license applicants identify themselves by presenting two documents from a variety of options, including consular cards and marriage certificates.
  • The recommendations also require that applicants provide their social security number (if they ever had one), proof that they were denied a social security number, or a notarized certificate that they were never given a number.

Remarkable: The draft recommendations clarify that undocumented immigrants seeking driving privileges in Massachusetts are not eligible for commercial driver’s licenses or credentials to drive school buses.

Why it matters: RMV has almost eight months to prepare for the new law, which could lead to a flood of license applications from undocumented drivers.

  • MassBudget estimated that 45,000 to 85,000 people would apply for a driver’s license over three years, but that doesn’t account for people on temporary protection who may need to apply for a driver’s license.
  • RMV has come under scrutiny over the past decade for long waits for appointments and a massive backlog of processing out-of-state suspension orders, which came to light after a July 2019 accident in New Hampshire that killed seven motorcyclists came.

Zoom out: Massachusetts is the 17th state to pass legislation expanding driver’s license access for undocumented immigrants, and the boost comes as Gov.-elect Maura Healey is set to take the corner office.

  • “Your administration will work closely with public safety officials, legislators and attorneys, and will reach out to other states that have already implemented this law to ensure a smooth and effective process,” Karissa Hand, spokeswoman for the transition, said in one Email Statement.
  • Judi Reardon, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, says RMV “has a project plan and timeline and will be well prepared for the July 1, 2023 implementation date.”

In the meantime, Immigration policy advocates, including those at the Brazilian Worker Center in Boston, are warning people about scams targeting potential applicants.

  • “We’re sending a message to immigrant communities to be wary of people promising quick help of any kind, whether it’s licenses or insurance contracts,” said Frank Soults, spokesman for the campaign to keep the law.


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