I was driving with an expired driving license in the 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. It was one of those naive mistakes that I did. In this article, I will explain my experience and why I got citations and what are the exact rules, and how to handle if your H1B is pending.
Driving license expiration in the US, situation with H1B Pending
I applied for an H1B visa extension and I did not get an approval notice until the last day of expiration. The expiration date on my license was exactly the date of my H1B visa expiration. It reflected the I-94 date, which is in turn tied to the H1B visa expiration date.
What I knew from my friend’s experience was that many states in the US do not renew your driving license without having an H1B extension approval notice from USCIS.
The rule to renew a Driving license varies by state in the context of H1B pending applications; at least in IL state they do not extend your license without H1B extension. Bottom line, I did not have a choice to renew my license other than wait for my extension approval notice to come in mail. It was a naive mistake on my part, and I just took a chance to drive for some work. I was pulled over just on 4th day after expiration…I was pulled over in neighboring 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 were to be in my state of residence (a 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. Driving with an expired license in the state of Illinois is a criminal or quasi-criminal offense.
Anyways, because I was out of state and driving in Wisconsin, the officer belonged to other state as well and that IL law could not be exercised. I was let go with a citation of $75 and a 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 would not commit the offense again and I would abide by the rules.
What it means is that I cannot drive from then onwards until I get the renewal of my license. Anyways, luckily I had my friend with me, and the officer took my friend’s Driving license and ran a check, and told me 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 the USA, and I knew that I could not really fly anywhere because at the airport they might ask me for a valid ID. But, what I did NOT know was, it was illegal to drive with an expired license (when I have H1B pending with USCIS). I was very naive in the beginning years of my life in the US as a foreigner.
I assumed that it was ‘ok’ to drive with an expired driving license when I have my approval pending with USCIS. Also, I assumed that there would not be any option from the DMV based on my friend’s feedback.
In all reality, every state is different, and some do give an extension of you 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’s 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 your home country and get an international driving license (If you already have one)
- If you know that another state does give an extension of your driving license with your kind of situation, you may consider options to get a 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 a 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 an expired license, but my bad luck knocked my door on 4th day… In any case, NEVER TRY TO BREAK the 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 an expired driving license for some time, but it was not true) and I was too naive to inquire about my options before expiration ( I did not call DMV and ask for my options)”. You should NOT make 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 an expired Driving License? Does your state renew the license without approval notice and just an application receipt from USCIS, when it is pending? Share our experience in comments section below