Be aware of new DMV law

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 6, 2004

On the heels of Sept. 11, 2001, the American government instituted strict rules and heightened security measures to ensure that all U.S. citizens live in a safe-as-possible environment. During the Christmas holidays when air travel was up tremendously, a Code Orange (high risk of terrorists attacks) alert was announced and citizens were asked to notice anything suspicious around them. Bridges, tunnels and interstate highways were also patrolled with extra caution, costing the government billions of dollars.

In addition to other states nationwide, Virginia has gone the extra mile to protect the safety of its residents. More specifically, people should be aware of drastic changes to protect their safety, which involves everyone owning a Virginia driver’s license. Why? Because seven of the 19 hijackers involved in terrorists attacks in September 2001 held Virginia driver’s licenses.

As a security measure beginning Jan. 1, a new law requires people obtaining a Virginia Driver’s license or photo identification card to prove that they are U.S. citizens or legally authorized to live in Virginia. The new law was passed in the General Assembly last year.


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My birthday is this month and my driver’s license is due to be renewed. For others who have a birthday in January, you may also be scheduled to renew.

If you do let your license expire after the month runs out, this law will require applicants to reinstate proof that they are legally living in Virginia. This law also applies to those whose licenses have been suspended or revoked.

According to the DMV, valid documents that applicants will have to supply are a U.S. birth certificate or passport for natural-born citizens, a certificate of citizenship or naturalization, a resident alien card, or a valid foreign passport with a visa. I-94 or an I94W with a participating country.

I don’t know how difficult it is to get other proof, but if you can’t locate your birth certificate, it is not a document you can get in a hurry. You can obtain it at the Social Security office off Rt. 10 at Hill Point Farm, 502 Hill Point Blvd. You will be given an application form to complete and mail to Richmond, along with $10. It usually takes at least six weeks to receive the birth certificate via mail. For a quicker return, but a higher cost of $40, another method is to apply online for your birth certificate. Online transactions require a credit card.

You can get more information 24 hours a day by calling the Social Security toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 or 934-0532. You may also call on business days for an appointment or to speak to a service representative between the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. When you call, always have your Social Security number handy. If you have a touch-tone phone, recorded information and services are available 24 hours a day including weekends and holidays.

Residents who renew their licenses before the expiration date won’t be affected by this law and anyone who has received a photo ID card and already has established his permanent right to be here won’t have to meet the guidelines for future applications.

Under the new guidelines, an immigrant or refugee who has authority to live temporarily in America will receive a driver’s license or ID card with an expiration date linked to their length of stay. If an applicant is authorized to remain in the country indefinitely, his or her ID or license will be valid for one year. The DMV currently issues mostly five-year driver’s licenses and ID cards.

More than 1,000 DMV workers across the state have received a two-day training seminar to familiarize themselves with residency documents and to be able to spot forgeries. The state has also hired an additional 21 employees for its high-volume offices in Northern Virginia and the Hampton Roads area.

Since the new law has been in effect, you’re expected to endure a few extra minutes when you have transactions at the DMV office. However, a few extra minutes will be well worth the wait to keep society safe.

Evelyn Wall is a resident of Suffolk and a regular News-Herald columnist. She can be contacted at 934-9615 or via e-mail at