I was driving with an expired driving license in US and was pulled over in the state of Illinois. My situation was, I had applied for my H1B visa extension and was waiting for USCIS for the approval notice. It was a mistake on my part and I had to go to court and eventually I got out. In this article, I will explain my experience and why I got citation and what are the rules and how to handle, if your H1B is pending.
Driving license expiration situation with H1B
I had applied for H1B visa extension and I did not get approval notice until last day of expiration. The expiration date on my license was exactly the date of my H1B visa expiration. It reflected the I94 date which is in turn tied to H1B visa expiration date. What I knew from my friends experience was, they do not renew license without having H1B extension approval notice.
The rule to renew Driving license varies by state in context of H1B pending applications; at least in IL state they do not extend your license without H1B extension. Bottom line, I did not had a choice to renew my license other than wait for extension approval notice to come in mail. It was a mistake on my part and I just took a chance and was driving. I was pulled over just on 4th day after expiration…I was pulled over in other state.
Traffic Citation Severity, Court presence and Police officer Bail. Why NOT to drive ?
The police officer told me that as I was driving with an expired driving license, if I was in my own state(state where my license was issued), then my license would have been taken away and I would have been taken to jail (worst case scenario) and then someone should come and bail me out. In fact, driving with an expired license in state of Illinois is a criminal or quasi-criminal offense.
Anyways, because I was out of state, the officer belonged to out of state too, that law could not be exercised and I was let go with a citation of $75 and court appearance required. In fact, the citation says, it is a criminal or quasi-criminal offense and I was bailed out with an eye bond and was given 30 day grace period. I had to sign on the bail form that, I was bailed on the rule that, I will not commit the offense again and I will abide by the rules. What it means is that, I cannot drive from then onwards until I get the renewal of license. Anyways, luckily I had my friend with me and the officer took my friend’s Driving license and ran a check and told that my friend should drive and I should not.
My assumptions about driving license expiration in USA
What I knew was, I had an expired driving license from USA and I knew that I cannot really fly anywhere because at airport they might ask me for valid ID. But, what I did NOT know was, it was illegal to drive with an expired license. I was very naive in the beginning years of my life in US as a foreigner.
I assumed that it is Ok to drive with an expired driving license. Also, I assumed that there would not be any option from the DMV based on my friends feedback. In all reality, every state is different and some do give extension of Driving license if you have the H1B application receipt notice and then employer letter. So, I should have checked. Because of my assumptions I paid the price.
Now that we know the issue, let’s see what you should do if your license is expired and you are waiting for H1B
Options for Driving License Extension with H1B extension Pending
- Go to DMV with the original receipt notice of H1B and explain the situation. You may have to go with your employer letter too. There is an option here depending on the state. Some say in California, you can renew by mail and they just give extension. Some states do not renew, it is their discretion and policy…
- Another option is, you may contact home country and get an international driving license (If you already had one)
- If you know that other state does give extension of driving license with your kind of situation, you may consider options to get license from that state. This can be tough, but if you are a consultant and visit many states and have multiple locations changing, it may work…
- This is the last option, do not drive and take taxi, Uber or Lyft…I know it can be hard, imagine it is a criminal offense if you get caught. One of the people I know got away for 4 months with expired license, but I my bad luck knocked me door on 4th day… In any case, NEVER TRY TO BREAK RULES.
To summarize, I got this citation because of the dumb reason that “I did not know ( I assumed I would be ok to drive with expired driving license, but it was not true) and I was too naive and lazy to inquire about my options before expiration ( I did not call DMV and ask for my options)” . You should NOT do this mistake and end up in trouble like me.
I had a bad experience with speeding too, read my speeding mistake experience: Why NOT to Drive over speed limit in US ? Ticket, License, Insurance impact ?
Did you end up in any situation with expired Driving License ? Does your state renew license without approval notice and just application receipt from USCIS, when it is pending ? Share our experience…