Driver license renewal law leaves many in limbo

Transportation » American Indians, elderly, military spouses initially unable to renew because of documentation problems.
This is an archived article that was published on in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

When Irene Burns saw that her license was going to expire earlier this month, she was a bit annoyed about having to appear in person to renew her license.

But a minor annoyance quickly devolved into a major problem.

The woman, who was born on the Navajo Nation, didn't have any documentation the Driver License Division would accept to prove her citizenship and identity as required by a new law that took effect Jan. 1.

"I wish they had given some more time to resolve these issues," said Burns, who had no other way to prove her citizenship. "I just don't think they considered all the ramifications when the law passed."

After inquiries from The Tribune , leaders at the Driver License Division contacted the Navajo Nation and now will accept Affidavits of Birth and Certificates of Degree of Indian Blood to fulfill the new requirements.

"We didn't know about all the issues right up front, but as we become aware of them, we're addressing them," said Jill Laws, deputy director of the division, adding she has called agency managers and informed them of the change to allow tribal documents.

She has also contacted the Ute Tribe, and leaders there say Utes should be able to obtain birth certificates.

Forrest Cuch, executive director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs, said he has heard complaints from other American Indians and had started talking with others about the problem.

"There's always a problem educating the different agencies' staffs, especially with tribes because we are such small entities," Cuch said. "It always takes time to implement policy changes."

State lawmakers began making changes to driver license requirements in 2008 through SB81, Utah's comprehensive immigration reform, though they did not take effect until July 1, 2009. In the 2009 legislative session, Sen. Curt Bramble drafted a bill that carved out driver license provisions in order to keep driving privilege cards intact and comply with the federal REAL ID Act, which takes effect in May 2011. He said he used the definitions of documents needed to prove citizenship directly from SB81.

"It's not a matter of pointing fingers or playing the blame game, but as those issues come up, the question arises, should they have been known before now?" Bramble said.

While Navajo Indians should be able to renew their driver licenses now, other questions remain. Some of Utah's oldest residents would not have been issued a birth certificate, so they might not be able to produce one to renew their licenses.

Laws said she has contacted the Utah Office of Vital Records and Statistics to determine which years people would not have been issued a birth certificate and is working to see if they can get a delayed birth certificate. However, nothing has been resolved.

Active members of the National Guard were exempted from the new requirements, but their spouses who have moved out-of-state with them were not included. Some lawmakers have discussed adding them into the exemption list this legislative session.

Meanwhile, there are other issues with the new law that are drawing concerns.

The application for a driving privilege card, which will be issued only to those who can't produce the documentation for a driver license or who don't have a valid visa to be in the country, asks people if they are an undocumented immigrant.

"This is causing a lot of concerns," said Frank Cordova, director of the Coalition de la Raza and a community activist. "We need an explanation of why this is necessary and what the ramifications are for people who answer yes."

Also, some of the licenses issued in the first days of the new year could have had problems that required drivers to return with different documentation, Laws said. The division is attempting to stay in compliance with the federal REAL ID Act so Utahns won't have to change licenses again next year.

The new law eliminated mail-in renewal, so the majority of the driver license offices have seen extended wait times.

"Some offices haven't seen much of an impact, but others were hit pretty hard," Laws said.

However, she says the process has "gone very well considering the magnitude of the change and the impact it has to our customers."

"It seems to be getting a bit better every day," Laws said. "Hopefully, that trend will continue."

Documentation needed to obtain or renew a driver license

Must present one of the following:

» Valid, unexpired U.S. passport or passport card

» Certified copy of a birth certificate filed with the State Office of Vital Statistics or equivalent agency in the driver's state of birth

» Consular Report of Birth Abroad issued by the U.S. Department of State, Form FS-240, DS-1350, or FS-545

» Valid, unexpired Permanent Resident Card, Form I-551

» Certification of Naturalization issued by DHS, Form N-550 or Form N-570

» Certificate of Citizenship, Form N-560 or Form N-561, issued by DHS

» Affidavits of Birth and Certificates of Degree of Indian Blood

» Regular Utah driver license, CDL, or ID card that has been issued on or after Jan. 1, 2010 is only acceptable for renewal or duplicate certificates

» Alternate documents may be accepted if approved by DHS or the division director or designee

Drivers must also present one of these documents for proof of Social Security

Must present one of the following:

» Social Security card issued by the U.S. government that has been signed and has not been laminated

» If the Social Security card is not available, the applicant can present one of the following documents that contains the applicant's name and Social Security number:

» W-2 Form

» SSA-1099 Form

» Non SSA-1099 Form

» Pay stub showing applicant's name and SSN

For a Driving Privilege Card only

» Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

» Document or letter from the IRS verifying the ITIN

Must present two of these documents for proof of Utah Residency

» Two documents which display the applicant's name and principal Utah residence address, including:

» Bank statement (dated within 60 days)

» Court documents

» Current mortgage or rental contract

» Major credit card bill (dated within 60 days)

» Property tax notice (statement or receipt dated within one year)

» School transcript (dated within 90 days)

» Utility bill (billing date within 60 days; cell phone bills will not be accepted)

» Valid Utah vehicle registration or title