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Frequently Asked Questions

2004 Driver License Policy Changes

1. Why did Tennessee's driver license policy change?

Answer: Tennessee's new driver license issuance policy reflects the need to provide the highest level of safety to its citizens, both in homeland security and public safety. By requiring proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residency, the state hampers one's ability to fraudulently obtain a Tennessee driver license.

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2. Who is a U.S. Citizen?

Answer: A person is a U.S. citizen either by birth or through naturalization.

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3. What does lawful permanent residency mean?

Answer: A lawful permanent resident is an individual who has been granted permission by the United States government to reside permanently in the country.

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4. When did the U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residency requirement go into effect in Tennessee?

Answer: May 29, 2004. Anyone applying for a Tennessee driver license as of May 29, 2004 must show proof of either U.S. citizenship of lawful permanent residency.

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5. What do I need to bring to the driver license station when I apply for a Tennessee driver license?

Answer: In addition to proof of either U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residency, all original issue applicants, new and returning residents must provide two forms of proof of identity and two forms of Tennessee residency (click links for a list of acceptable documents for each requirement). Also, anyone issued an initial Tennessee driver license since January 2001 must meet U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residency requirements upon their first renewal.

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6. When applying for a driver license in Tennessee, who is required to show proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residency?

Answer:

  • Original Issue Applicants : Any person applying for a driver license in Tennessee for the first time including those who may currently hold a "photo identification only" license.
  • New Residents : Individuals moving to Tennessee from another state, even if they have a valid driver license issued from the other state.
  • Returning Residents : Former licensed drivers in Tennessee moving back to the state.
  • Anyone issued an initial Tennessee driver license since January 1, 2001 upon their first renewal

Tennessee's new law requires that anyone issued a Tennessee driver's license since January 1, 2001, as well as first-time applicants, be required to provide documentation they are either a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident at the time of their first renewal. In these instances, you may not renew by mail or by the internet; you will be required to visit a Driver License Station.

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7. My Tennessee driver license has been issued since January 1, 2001. Why do I have to show proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residency?

Answer: The events of September 11, 2001 have forever changed the world, but especially in the United States. It was hoped that the federal government would take the initiative to strengthen the positive identification of our fellow citizens and lawful visitors. When it became obvious this was not going to happen, it became our responsibility to ensure that our citizens were properly identified and accounted.

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8. If I'm not a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident can I still drive in Tennessee?

Answer: Yes, persons not meeting the requirements for a driver license may apply for a Certificate for Driving beginning July 1, 2004 . A Certificate for Driving allows only qualified individuals to operate a motor vehicle in Tennessee and enhances safety on Tennessee's roadways by verifying all drivers know the rules of the road. In order to obtain a CFD applicants are required to show proof of legal presence in addition to the standard requirements. Click here for a list of required documents.

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9. Who is eligible for a Certificate for Driving?

Answer:

  • Persons who have temporary, legal documents from the U.S. government (work visas, educational visas, etc.)
  • Persons who do not meet the eligibility requirement for a Tennessee driver license, but can provide proof of identity and residence in Tennessee. In order to obtain a CFD applicants are required to show proof of legal presence in addition to the standard requirements. Click here for a list of required documents.

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10. What is required to obtain a Certificate for Driving?

Answer: Two forms of proof of identity and Tennessee residency are required to get a Certificate for Driving. A list of acceptable documents showing positive proof of identity and proof Tennessee residency is found in the Tennessee Driver Handbook. (NOTE: Due to the large file size of the handbook, download time may be slow. As an alternative, please visit our HTML chart of acceptable documents that may be used as proof of identity and proof of Tennessee residency).

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11. Can I use a Certificate for Driving as a means of identification?

Answer: A Certificate for Driving may not be used as a form of identification. It cannot be used to board a plane, purchase a gun, rent a vehicle or any other activity that requires identification.

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12. When can I get a Certificate for Driving?

Answer: The Tennessee Department of Safety began issuing Certificates for Driving on July 1, 2004 at all driver license testing stations.

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13. Will other states accept a Certificate for Driving as a valid document for operating a vehicle in its state?

Answer: Yes. A Certificate for Driving simply ensures a person has been properly tested and understands how to operate a motor vehicle.

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14. What steps has the Department of Safety taken since the new driver license policy took effect?

Answer: TDOS has instructed its driver license examiners on the new qualifications required to obtain a license. In addition to instruction of acceptable documents, all frontline employees have received training on how to spot potentially fraudulent documents. Driver license employees also greet driver license customers and will check to make sure they have the required documents before they get in line for services.

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15. What can I do if I have additional questions?

Answer: Please call the department toll free at 1-866-849-3548 or send an e-mail to cfd.help@tn.gov.

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