Experts predict that most DMV offices will send licenses through the mail after the act goes into effect.
SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE
Soon to be gone are the days when you could walk out of your local Department of Motor Vehicle office, putting your new driver's license in your wallet on the same day you make an application.
That's one of the changes expected to come under a new federal law known as the Real ID Act. Drivers will have to present verified proof of birth data, citizenship and residency to get a new license.
Because DMV officials are going to have to verify the information -- and that process will take some time -- experts predict that most busy DMV offices soon will send licenses and renewals via the U.S. mail, just like most U.S. passports are currently delivered.
Jason King, spokesman for the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, said 42 states currently verify Social Security information on license applications, but no states are verifying birth certificate or other documentation that the Real ID Act requires.
"I think it is fair to say you may not get your license on the day you go to DMV," King said. "It may take DMV some time to do its homework."
Changes in store
King said states haven't yet completed their assessment of the full impact that the Real ID Act will have on their operations, and some changes are awaiting federal regulations, which have yet to be drafted by the Department of Homeland Security.
Although the Real ID Act doesn't take full effect until May 2008, some states are expected to phase in changes over the next three years. One key provision of the law President Bush signed last month takes effect this September, when state DMV offices are required to use federal databases to verify the legal status of all non-citizens applying for licenses.
Virginia's Department of Motor Vehicles is already making changes to comply with the law, and says that within two years it will only use its DMV offices to do the initial paperwork and have pictures taken.
At the end of this process, applicants won't get a license as currently happens, but will be given a receipt printed on secure paper. Virginia DMV Commissioner D.B. Smit said the receipt will permit people to drive until their new license comes in the mail, but the receipt cannot be used as an identification card.
Cheye Calvo, director of the transportation committee at the National Conference of State Legislatures, said the Real ID Act will change operations in local DMV offices.
"There are serious operational challenges for state DMVs," he said. Adding five to eight minutes to the time clerks spend processing individual applications can only result in longer lines at local DMV offices, or additional costs to states for hiring DMV staff to do the work, he said. More than 40 million driver's licenses are issued in the United States each year.