Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles May Become Busy With Illegal Immigrants This Year

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By Sam Drysdale
State House News Service

If all 200,000 newly-eligible illegal immigrants apply for a driver’s license next fiscal year, their applications would far exceed the number of first-time license applications the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles issues every year.

On average, about 120,000 people in Massachusetts get a driver’s license for the first time each year, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Under the new law the state passed last year, which was upheld by voters who shot down a repeal effort at the ballot box in November 2022, illegal immigrants will be eligible to apply for a license for the first time on July 1, 2023.

With a few months until this new group of people will become eligible all at once, the state Registry of Motor Vehicles is preparing for an influx of applicants.

The Registry anticipates hiring approximately 140 new workers and has already started that hiring process and planning for July, according to the agency.

For some agencies, such as the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, that are facing worker shortages and hiring struggles, the state is offering sign-on bonuses for new workers. But the Registry of Motor Vehicles said it is currently not considering this tactic to fill the extra 140 positions.

The fiscal year 2023 state budget (which covers July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023) included about $9 million for initial start-up costs for the Registry of Motor Vehicles; Governor Maura Healey is recommending that $28 million be spent in fiscal year 2024 (which begins July 1, 2023) to implement the law.

The $28 million Healey recommends, if approved by the Massachusetts Legislature, would be used to train staff to verify new identification documents from other countries, hire more customer service representatives and road test examiners, invest in new technology to expand service operations, and develop procedures to ensure data privacy, Transportation Secretary Gina Fiandaca said at a department of transportation board meeting last week.

“Our registry leaders have been preparing for this both in personnel, you also have individuals who help with the driver’s tests themselves, language acuity, so we are gearing up to make sure we’re ready and have those adequate assets,” Driscoll said. “These dollars are important to make sure we can do that, and again a lot of these resources are going to be recouped as members of the undocumented community come in to take those licenses, or take their driving tests.”

The Legislature overrode former Governor Charlie Baker’s veto of the licensing bill to make it law. Baker said last year that the Registry of Motor Vehicles lacks the expertise to verify the many types of documents that other countries issue and that will be relied upon as proof of identity.


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