Did you know that a law was recently passed in New York State known as the “Green Light Law”? It’s relevant to those who are in the country and don’t have a social security number, but who want to get a driver’s license/permit, and that could be you!

Here’s the summary direct from the DMV in New York:

The Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act, commonly called the ‘Green Light law’, was enacted on June 17, 2019, and takes effect on December 16, 2019. It allows all New Yorkers age 16 and older to apply for a standard, not for federal purpose, non-commercial driver license or learner permit regardless of their citizenship or lawful status in the United States.

Basically what this means (and why it’s relevant to you) is:

You do not need a Social Security card to apply for a license or permit

Under the Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act, driver license applicants who have never been issued a Social Security Number are eligible to apply.

So how do you get a license without a social security number?

First things first, it’s important to know that if you have ever been issued a social security number, this path is not available to you, you must use it.

That number is attached to you forever, and no matter what you try to do, there’s no way around that.

If not, you must sign an Affidavit (sworn statement) of never having been issued a Social Security Number when you apply for a standard driver license.

Documents required without an SSN

All Applicants for a standard driver license must show a combination of documents that prove 1. name, 2. date of birth, and 3. New York State residency.

In addition to the combination of proofs the DMV currently accepts, beginning December 16, 2019, they also started accepting

  • a valid, unexpired foreign passport issued by your country of citizenship
  • a valid, unexpired consular identification document issued by a consulate
  • a valid foreign driver license that includes your photo, and which is either unexpired or expired for less than 24 months
  • Permanent Resident Card, which is either unexpired or expired for less than 24 months
  • Employment Authorization Card, which is either unexpired or expired for less than 24 months
  • Border Crossing Card
  • U.S. Municipal ID Card (e.g. NYC ID) with photo
  • foreign marriage or divorce record or court issued name change decree
  • foreign birth certificate

You will also have to sit the test and go through the whole process of getting a license, just like I explained here!

REAL ID compliance

It’s very important to note that if you do not have proof that you have a Social Security Number, been issued a Social Security Ineligibility Letter by the Social Security Administration or have proof of your lawful status in the US, your standard driver license will not comply with the federal REAL ID Act.

In accordance with the law, all licenses that do not meet REAL ID standards are marked “NOT FOR FEDERAL PURPOSES.”

Why does this matter? Well, as of October 1, 2020, you cannot use your license to board a domestic flight (within the United States) or enter some secure federal buildings.

Your passport will still work for this though!

You cannot apply for a Non-Driver ID Card

Please note that the Green Light Law only applies for drivers licenses and not Non-Driver ID cards.


Thanks to America Josh Community Member, Heather A, for tipping me off to this one!