More Immigrants in Maine Can Now Apply for Commercial Driver’s Licenses

A wide array of noncitizens in Maine can now apply for a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) or a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).

A coalition including MeBIC, ACLU-Maine, Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project,  Maine Equal Justice, Portland Adult Education, and SIGCO advocated with Maine’s  Secretary of State and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) that their interpretation of federal CDL regulations was too narrow.  Maine had been restricting CLPs and CDLs to only U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

The Secretary of State’s office ultimately agreed.  Computer system updates made to accommodate the updated policy were completed by the BMV in September, 2019.  The change does not apply to hazardous material CDLs.

Maine has been facing a critical shortage of individuals with CDLs, affecting the ability of public transit systems, school districts, construction firms, trucking companies, and snow plow contractors, to name only a few, to get the drivers they need.   As a result of this change, now refugees, asylees, those with pending asylum applications, and anyone with an unexpired work permit, including individuals with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA),  among other noncitizens, can apply to get a CLP, or if they have the appropriate driving qualifications, a CDL.  They will also have to show that they reside in Maine.

With Maine’s unemployment rate below 3% as of August 2019, the ability of more of Maine’s immigrants to get CDLs and to choose a driving career will benefit employers and immigrants alike.