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Tennessee State Immigration Laws

Traditionally the doctrine of preemption prevented states from making laws having to do with immigration. The federal government had the sole authority in these matters. In recent years, however, state laws affecting immigrants have become increasingly common. A range of different approaches have developed, with some cities and states offering refuge to undocumented immigrants and others seeking to cooperate with federal efforts to identify and deport undocumented immigrants.

Welcome to FindLaw's coverage of existing Tennessee legislation and rules related to individuals' immigration status. Below you will find information on what, if any, rules Tennessee has regarding immigration checks by law enforcement, educational institutions, and employers, as well as the existence of E-Verify requirements, restrictions on public benefits based on an individual's immigration status, and more.

Law Enforcement and Immigration in Tennessee

Officials at city and county jails in Tennessee are required to report anyone who may be in violation of federal immigration laws to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities.

Enforcement agencies are required to contact federal immigration officials if they can't verify legal status of arrestees within three days.

As part of the 287(g) ICE ACCESS Program, officials with the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Davidson County Sheriff's Office cooperate with federal authorities in enforcing immigration law.

Under a federal program called "Secure Communities," all arrestees are fingerprinted and run through a federal database which checks their criminal record and immigration status.

Employment Checks

State officials may deny, suspend or revoke the business license of employers who knowingly hire undocumented immigrants.

Also, refer to federal employment eligibility verification rules and the requirements for Form I-9.

Tennessee E-Verify Requirements

All employers in the state with six (6) or more employees are required to verify employment eligibility using E-Verify. Employers also are required to maintain records of all E-Verify results.

Driver's License/ID Requirements

Proof of U.S. citizenship or legal residence is required for obtaining a driver's license or state ID.

Public Benefits Restrictions

Under federal law, illegal immigrants are prohibited from receiving most public benefits. However, they are allowed to receive emergency services, health care and other programs that have been deemed "necessary to protect life and safety."

Education Checks


Voting ID Rules

Valid and current photo identification required to vote. Examples include a Tennessee driver's license, a valid photo ID issued by any state, a U.S. passport or valid U.S. military ID with photo. Those without a photo ID may vote via provisional ballot as long as they return within two days with a photo ID or sign an affidavit.

Housing Ordinances and Immigration


Related Resources

Get in Touch with an Attorney to Discuss Tennessee State Immigration Laws

Immigration laws are notoriously complicated and the consequences of a wrong decision can be catastrophic. For these reasons, it's important to contact an experienced immigration attorney who can help plan your immigration process carefully, taking into consideration your individual needs.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified immigration attorney to help you get the best results possible.

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