Don't be surprised by law change
That is what workers who have been employed with the Utah Driver License Division are saying to themselves these days. It was only a few years ago that online license renewals became available to citizens. For years, before that option was available, if the person applying for renewal had no citations during the driving period of the license, and if his address hadn't changed, he could renew by mail.
Prior to the 1980's, every person renewing a Utah driver's license had to go to a driver's license office to fill out papers, take an eye test and get his photo taken. That meant long lines, a bit of time out of the day when it wasn't especially convenient and sometimes, many unhappy people crammed into one room.
Well, those who decide to renew their licenses after January 1, 2010, will find a throwback to those days. In fact, it may be more uncomfortable than it was prior to the time when the state started allowing renewal by mail. That's because the requirements to get a first license and even renew a license are going to get tougher, starting next week.
While most government interactions are becoming increasingly convenient via the Web (i.e. paying taxes or purchasing a fishing license), the Utah State Legislature took a step back in time (Senate Bill 40 that was passed in the last regular session) to assure themselves that people obtaining licenses are in the country legally, either by being a citizen or having proper documentation that they are here legally. Much of the impetus behind this move is to deal with the illegal immigration problem. The law allows for the division to issue a "regular driver's license, identification card or commercial driver's license to United States citizens, legal permanent residents or nationals."
What does that mean to the regular everyday Utahn who may have lived here his whole life and who has never even been out of the United States? It means he has to prove he belongs here by presenting a number of documents to driver's license officials, and the old driver's license that is being surrendered isn't one of them.
In the last month, those citizens whose licenses are coming up for renewal in the first part of the new year have begun receiving letters that explain the change. The letter and an accompanying brochure explain which documents are needed to renew or obtain a license in Utah for the first time. Basically, residents have to provide the following:
Proof of U.S. citizenship or legal/lawful presence in the United States.
Proof of identity.
Proof of Social Security number, ineligibility to obtain a Social Security number or proof of possession of the taxpayer identification number.
Proof of Utah residency.
Based on the tone of the letter, it appears there will be no excuse for not having the required documents. That means that all applicants should be aware of what is needed and what can be used as proof of the four requirements. Documents must be originals (for instance, a birth certificate cannot be an unofficial copy, nor can it be faxed). Variations from the original documents must be accompanied by further official documentation that explains the differences.
The brochure (all the information is also available at http://driverlicense.utah.gov) explains the various documents that can be used for verification. Basically, citizens who have an unexpired passport or official birth certificate, a Social Security card or a W-2 form or paycheck stub with the SSN number on them, and a bank or credit card statement (dated within 60 days before presentation to the driver's license bureau) will suffice. Other documents can be accepted as proof as well, and those details are defined on the brochure/Web site.
Employees who work at the driver's license offices are girding themselves for not only the onslaught of people who now have to visit the office in person for the first time in years, but also for the fact that many won't be happy about it.
"We're going to be dealing with a lot more people," said one driver license division worker who did not want to be identified when contacted last week. "And a lot of them will be ornery, too."
For those whose licenses will come up for renewal in the next six months, the maximum period in which a citizen can renew before the license expires, they can still renew before Friday without following the new requirements. However, online renewals are no longer allowed (they were suspended after Dec. 21), and regular mail renewals were discontinued some time ago. Residents wishing to renew must go into a driver's license office to conduct that business.