By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) - More than 500 illegal immigrants in Colorado mistakenly received driver's licenses or photo identification cards intended for U.S. citizens because of a vendor's printing error, the company and state officials said on Friday.
Colorado began issuing licenses to non-citizens in August under a law approved this year by state lawmakers and supported by law enforcement.
Advocates argued that letting undocumented residents receive valid licenses would make the state's roads safer, as applicants would need to pass a driving test and buy automobile insurance.
The license states on its face that it cannot be used as identification allowing the holder to vote, as a form of federal identification, nor to apply for government benefits.
The vendor, MorphoTrust, said in a statement that 524 cards were printed as if they were identification cards or licenses for Colorado residents who are U.S. citizens.
The company said it discovered the error three days after it began printing the credentials last month. "The cause of this was a software update error," the firm said.
Colorado Department of Revenue spokeswoman Daria Serna said the state took "action immediately" after learning of the error.
"The Department of Motor Vehicles correctly issued the temporary state card to the customer, it was the vendor that issued the incorrect permanent state card," she said.
Since the program was implemented, the state has issued 1,646 driver's licenses, 343 learner's permits and 327 photo identification cards to illegal immigrants, she said.
Under the law, applicants must show they live in Colorado, have filed a state income tax return, and provide proof of their identity from their country of origin.
Additionally, they must swear an affidavit saying that they already have applied, or will apply, for citizenship.
The company said it has notified the recipients of the invalid documents, and it will replace them with the proper ones after the erroneous ones are turned in.
(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Eric Beech)