Do You Have to Be a U.S. Citizen to Get a CDL?

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Getting your Commercial Driver’s License is required if you want to do any job that requires handling of heavy machinery or large vehicles. As such, you may be wondering whether you’re able to get a CDL without being a U.S. citizen. Is citizenship required to get a CDL?

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To get your CDL, you’ll need to provide your identity and Social Security number, as well as proof of state and U.S. residency. If you are a non-citizen, there are certain conditions under which you can get a CDL.

The conditions for getting a CDL are rigorous, and for good reason: driving large vehicles on a road with so many people is a difficult job; however, there are federal and state laws that allow for noncitizens to get a CDL under certain conditions.

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The rest of this article will walk you through the requirement for getting a CDL.

How to Get a CDL as an Undocumented Immigrant

As an undocumented immigrant, there are steps you can take to get a CDL, but your best bet is to research your state guidelines to see whether you are allowed to drive in your state. If so, you can follow these steps to obtain a CDL:

  • Prepare your application in accordance with your local state licensing requirements
  • Prepare documentation showing proof of residency and identity, including a letter from the Social Security Administration declaring that you don’t qualify for a SSN
  • Pass the necessary exams in your state
  • Contact an immigration lawyer to protect yourself from the risk of self-incrimination while applying
  • Obtain a learner’s permit, if required in your state
  • Travel to the DMV, submit your application, and complete the screening process and any required test
  • Pay any remaining balance in fees
  • Complete any remaining CDL license requirements and get your license

Other Ways to Get a CDL

Another condition under which you can be CMV driver in the United States if you aren’t a lawful permanent resident is if you live in Mexico or Canada and have your CDL.

You will be allowed to drive a CMV in the United States so long as you can prove identity and have a valid CDL from Canada or Mexico.

Non-Domiciled CDL

Federal law requires that, for a non-domiciled CDL, a state must request either of the following from a person:

  • An unexpired employment authorization document issued by USCIS
  • An unexpired foreign passport with an approved I-94 form showing the applicant’s most recent admittance into the U.S.

Keep in mind that this is the bare minimum that the federal government requires of a person to get a CDL. States are allowed to be more stringent on what documentation is needed. The federal requirements for a non-domiciled CDL are outlined here.

States are required to comply with federal law when it comes to documentation, so if you can provide your EAD or unexpired passport, you’re in luck

Who Decides How CDLs are Issues?

Both the federal government and the state government have guidelines regarding who is allowed to have a CDL.

The federal government has basic minimum guidelines that the states have to abide by, but many states are stricter with who they issue CDLs to.

In most cases as an undocumented immigrant, you’ll be able to obtain a regular driver’s license, but getting a CDL can be a lot more difficult.

The federal government only standardizes what vehicles do and do not fall under a CDL license, while the states put restrictions on who can obtain a CDL. Put simply, you have to comply with both state and federal laws for the best chance of getting your CDL.

Final Thoughts

As it turns out, getting a CDL as a non-citizen is possible under certain circumstances, and residents should have no trouble getting a CDL license.

If you have the right documentation, then there is nothing to be worried about; however, since the states can have additional guidelines regarding immigration status and documentation required to get a CDL, the local laws are very important to keep in mind when applying for a CDL.

At bare minimum as a non-citizen, you’ll need an unexpired employment authorization form or a valid passport with an approved I-94 showing the last time you were admitted to the U.S.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Minimum Age to Get a CDL License?

The minimum age to get a CDL license is 21.

What is a CDL License and How Do I Get One?

A commercial driver’s license (CDL) is required to operate heavy machinery or large vehicles like trucks and is a necessary requirement for many jobs like hauling.

To get a CDL, you’ll have to pass a variety of tests confirming your eligibility for a CDL as well as proof of residency and other information.

CDL Study Guide 2022-2023: With Practice Test Questions & Answers, 200 Printable Flashcards, And Test Taking Strategies | The Fastest and Easiest Way to Get Your License at Your First Try
  • Robinson, Michael (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 151 Pages - 11/22/2021 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)
Harold Thornbro