Massachusetts Governor signs into law legislation to make drivers' licenses compliant with the REAL ID Act

In an action that could significantly impact many immigrants, Massachusetts Governor Charles Baker signed legislation in July requiring all applicants for a Massachusetts Driver's License to provide evidence that they have the legal right to be in the United States. A copy of the Governor's press release regarding the REAL ID Act is available on the Commonwealth's official website. According to the new legislation, duration of the license will not exceed the period of authorized stay, meaning that many immigrants who traditionally are granted short stays but who routinely have their authorized stay extended may face difficulties renewing and extending their driver's licenses. For example, a holder of H-1B status that is valid for just a one-year period will be issued a driver's license for only one year. At the time for renewal, the applicant will need to provide proof of an approved extension and it is unclear whether proof of a timely filed extension (but not an approval notice) will be sufficient for a driver's license renewal.

Over the coming months we expect further developments on this issue as advocates for immigrants will be working to educate authorities within the Registry of Motor Vehicles and other interested state agencies about the intricacies of what constitutes legal status in the United States. In the meanwhile, the Registry will update Massachusetts licensees throughout its compliance efforts and anticipates the REAL ID compliant licenses will begin to be issued in the fall of 2017. We will provide future updates on these efforts in our newsletter and on our website at