Governor Bob McDonnell announced today that the Department of Motor Vehicles will suspend acceptance of the federally-issued Employment Authorization Document (I-766) as proof of legal presence in the United States, a condition of obtaining a driver's license or identification card in Virginia. This precautionary action is the result of concerns over the document's reliability as evidence of an individual's federal government authorization to be in the country. The card, issued by the U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Service arm of the Department of Homeland Security, is obtained by individuals temporarily authorized to work in the U. S., even if the individual is in a pending deportation status.
The concerns surfaced in August after an alleged drunk driver was charged in Prince William County with a fatal crash in which one person died and two others were critically injured. Police say 23-year-old Carlos Martinelly Montano from Bolivia had been reported to ICE after two previous drunk driving convictions in 2007 and 2008, but was released pending a deportation hearing.
Police report that Montano received an Employment Authorization Document in January 2009 while federal deportation actions were pending, and subsequently used the document to prove legal presence while applying for a Virginia ID card in accordance with current Virginia law. It is important to note that Montano did not have a Virginia driver's license at the time of the crash.
Speaking about the decision to suspend use of I-766 documents, Governor McDonnell commented, "The integrity of the credentials issued by the Commonwealth is of the utmost importance. We must ensure that documents accepted as proof of legal presence are reliable. Virginia law is clear in the requirement that an individual be lawfully in the United States to be eligible for an identification card or to have the privilege to drive."
DMV will seek additional guidance from the Attorney General regarding federal documents that should be accepted going forward as proof of legal presence.
Of the 21 documents DMV continues to accept as proof of an applicant's lawful status, 20 are issued by the federal government, including 12 issued by U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.