West Virginia recently instituted some stiff requirements for residents renewing their driver’s licenses.
You don’t just fill out a short paper and take your current driver’s license to the Department of Motor Vehicles, pay a fee and get your renewed license.
The state adopted federally recommended guidelines meant to reduce the possibility of potential terrorists getting in-state identification.
Four pieces of paperwork are required, along with your old license.
You must show proof of Social Security¸which would be your original Social Security card, a W-2 or a Social Security benefit form.
You also must show proof of identity, which would be a birth certificate, an unexpired U.S. passport or an unexpired Department of Homeland Security document.
If you’ve had a change of name, you must show proof; for instance, if you got married, you have to show your marriage license.
You must show two proofs of residency. There are two lists of documents and you must choose one from each. The lists include West Virginia utility bills not more than 60 days old, tax records that show street address, West Virginia mortgage documents, West Virginia weapons permits, West Virginia Homestead Tax exemption, college admissions letter with the letterhead of the school that states you’re an in-state student. The lists go on but you get the idea.
Unfortunately for me, this was the year my license was due for renewal.
Over the last two months, I gathered my paperwork and stored it in a designated envelope. I ordered a birth certificate. By some miracle, I had kept track of my Social Security card and my marriage license.
I had two utility bill receipts and, just in case, I had my voter’s registration card and property tax receipt.
I was nervous.
On a good day, going to the DMV is a pain, notorious for long waits and odd glitches. With these new hoops to jump through and meticulous paperwork requirements, I expected trouble.
I got there just 30 minutes after the office opened and already the line just to get a number to be waited on was out the door.
The sneaky feeling that I would wait for an hour just to be told I didn’t have the right paperwork overwhelmed me. I felt like someone trying to escape Nazi Germany.
“Just be cool,” I told myself. “If the papers are wrong, don’t have a meltdown. Just find out what you need and come back another day.”
However, I’d put off the inevitable for so long, I was running out of time to renew my license before it expired, so I needed to get this over with.
After standing in line for at least 30 minutes, I was accepted at the first window.
I opened the giant manilla envelope and dumped my paperwork on the counter. The clerk and I sorted through it all until he had the four pieces of evidence that I am who I say I am, live where I say I live, etc., that he had to see before he could let me advance to the next counter.
What if the next clerk doesn’t agree with the first and I'm sent away? I will have wasted at least an hour. Besides, the woman sitting behind me was coughing and sneezing as freely as the woman beside me was bragging about her psychiatrist-guaranteed mental illness; I didn’t want to have to experience that atmosphere again, at least not for another five years.
But I made the cut. I got the approval of the second clerk, who took my money (that’s how I knew it was a sure thing) and asked if I’d like to get a federal ID card, too. She said all West Virginia residents would be required to have one by 2017. I declined; my driver’s license would be due to be renewed that year and I will deal with it when the time comes.
The clerk sent me to the final line, the one where I would get my picture made, wait five more minutes and get my laminated card.
West Virginia isn’t the only state to require this rigamarole and I’m sure it won’t be the last to adopt these guidelines, so Kentucky and Ohio readers, start searching for your birth certificate and Social Security card now.
LEE WARD can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2661.