Illinois Rules of the Road… For Immigrants!

When I moved to Austin a few years ago to start my new job, I immediately wanted a driver’s license, but faced two obstacles. First, I needed to find someone willing to lend me his/her car so I could take the driving test. I had just arrived in the city and didn’t really know anyone, but I was able to connect with a fellow Texas A&M University alum (go Aggies!) who was gracious enough to lend me her car. The second obstacle was passing the driving test itself. Now I had driven for a while in Nigeria before coming to the US, but I never really had to do parallel parking (it still isn’t my cup of tea) and I knew I was going to be asked to parallel park as part of my test. Thankfully, I got lucky and did a pretty good parallel park on my second attempt, passed my test and got my driver’s license. Life was good, and I no longer had to take the driving test again… until I came to Chicago.

My Texas driver’s license was set to expire by October 31st this year, so once I got back from my summer internship, I went to the DMV in Chicago to renew my license. The lady I met at the counter took my Texas driver’s license and my Nigerian passport and told me that I had to take a written test and a road test before I could get the Illinois driver’s license. This didn’t make sense to me, but I didn’t have some of the other documents with me at the time and so I decided to go home and not argue. When I returned a few days later with all my documents, I was told again that irrespective of the fact that I had a valid driver’s license from Texas, my foreign citizenship meant that I had to take a written test and a road test before I could get the Illinois driver’s license.

Just to be clear, Chicago Illinois is part of the United States, and Austin, Texas is also part of the United States. Furthermore, US citizens and permanent residents who moved from Texas to Illinois are not subject to this ridiculous law, and can exchange a valid version of their Texas driver’s license for an Illinois driver’s license. I have been trying to figure out if there is something immigrants drink that makes them lose their driving ability once they cross state lines.

Seeing that I wasn’t gaining any traction with my protests, I decided to take the written test and the driving test. As I didn’t bring my car to Illinois, I once again had to find a friend who was willing to let me use his car. I also had to practice parallel parking again just in case! (I wasn’t asked to do one though) I think it would have been really embarrassing if I failed the driving test after making so much noise about my driving record. 🙂

So now I have my Illinois driver’s license, and I’m hoping I never have to take the driving test again. It seems like I’ll be fine when I move to Seattle. Apparently the state of Washington is yet to understand that immigrants lose their driving skills once they cross state lines; they still exchange our valid out of state driver’s licenses for a Washington driver’s license.

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4 thoughts on “Illinois Rules of the Road… For Immigrants!

  1. Illinois makes everyone retake the written test. My friend from Minnesota can’t get his Illinois DL until he takes the written test as well. It doesn’t make sense. Probably just a way for that state to make money.

  2. Thanks for the clarification Juliana. Yes they probably do this to make some money. It’s just sad that they have to create different rules for different people.

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