A law that took effect last month means Dina Guirguis, an Egyptian in the United States on a temporary student visa, cannot renew her Tennessee driver's license when it expires.
The law allows U.S. citizens or permanent legal residents to get a driver's license. That rules out illegal immigrants and temporary visitors such as Guirguis, 27, a Vanderbilt University Law School graduate.
But Tennessee is offering a unique compromise -- a "certificate of driving" that illegal immigrants cannot use for official identification but that allows them to drive. The certificate guarantees the person knows the rules of driving in Tennessee but cannot use it to buy a gun, rent a car or board an airplane.
Melissa Savage, a policy analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures, said the certificate is the first of its kind, and other states will be watching to see how it works.
Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D), whose administration developed the law, said the change was prompted by the threat of terrorism after Sept. 11, 2001.
Savage said Bredesen's reaction is typical. State leaders across the country are weighing the risks of giving a driver's license to anyone who passes a test.
"When it came out that so many of the terrorists had acquired driver's licenses, the trend now is to tighten restrictions," she said. "It's way beyond driving now, and 9/11 put that all into focus."