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NM Dumps Driver Authorization Card, Switches To Standard License

Courtesy of the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division
A standard state license that won't be Real ID-compliant

Driver’s licenses have been a political football in New Mexico going on a decade now. And for the last couple of years, the state was instead issuing driver authorization cards to people in the country without legal permission—or to other folks who didn’t want a federally compliant Real ID. Tuesday, Oct. 1, marked a rollback of that policy, and anyone who isn’t seeking a Real ID can once again get a standard state driver’s license.

A coalition of organizations filed a lawsuit about the driver authorization cards over a year ago. Marcela Diaz is the director of the immigrant-led nonprofit Somos un Pueblo Unido. The state doing away with those cards is a victory for immigrants, she said, but the change also affects many New Mexicans who can’t produce all of the paperwork required for a Real ID.

"It was immigrants and allies who really fought to have options when it came to the Real ID issue, and to make sure that it wasn’t just immigrants that had the opportunity to obtain a non-Real ID license," Diaz said.

Most states are creating a two-tiered system just like this one, she added.

"It really makes it more efficient for folks who need a license or ID card to drive, or to identify themselves, or to cash checks or to rent an apartment," Diaz said. "There are so many uses for our state-issued identification and driver’s license cards."

Credit Courtesy of the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division
A Real ID has a gold star in the corner

In New Mexico, people seeking a standard state license won’t be fingerprinted like they could be for an authorization card. And the license will again say “New Mexico driver’s license” on it, eliminating some confusion for businesses or law enforcement officers, Diaz said. The licenses can also be renewed for longer: four or eight years. They’ll bear the words “not intended for federal purposes” (as in the photo above) because they don’t meet Real-ID requirements.

Those old driver authorization cards will still be good until they expire.


Find information about what you need to bring to get a standard driver's license or a Real ID on the state Motor Vehicle's Division website

Marisa Demarco began a career in radio at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health for much of her time at the station. During the pandemic, she is also the executive producer for Your NM Government and No More Normal, shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice. She joined Source New Mexico as editor-in-chief in 2021.
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