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Clerical Nightmares ... But for Our Own Good

March 2, 2012 - Phyllis Sigal
I thought it would be a 30-minute chore, tops.

Boy, was I wrong!

When I went to renew my driver's license last month at the Wheeling Department of Motor Vehicles office, all told, I had about two hours in.

Granted — part of it was my fault. I read and read and read and read AGAIN the instructions on the back of my renewal form.

I was a little confused. It seemed as if there were so many things to bring to prove that I was me. I thought I had it all down. I had one or two things from each category, or so I thought.

One of the items, in the Social Security number category, was a pay stub. That's easy. However, I failed to notice that the pay stub had to have your SS number on it — duh!!!

I also had failed to bring my current vehicle registration form. That was an easy fix. I had just picked up the old one instead of the new one in my glove compartment.

The clerk filled out part of my form, and sent me on my way. She also mentioned they close at 4 p.m., but Moundsville's office was open until 5. "It's just five minutes down the road," she pointed out. (I think she was trying to tell me something.)

I sat in the parking lot for a few minutes, rummaging through my purse, hoping a SS card would miraculously appear. It didn't. So off I went, back home, to search for my W-2 form — which I just should've gotten to begin with.

As I drove home, I was hoping against hope there would be a file of TAX information on my husband's desk that I could open, and there would be my W-2.

Fat chance. I rummaged and finally found it in a pile of envelopes.

OK. Now, I've got it all. I should breeze back in, and be out in no time.

No. There would be time. More time. Lots more time.

I sidled up to the front desk and proudly offered my proof.

OK. That was easy. "Have a seat, we'll call your name."

She failed to mention she'd be calling a dozen or so other names before she'd call mine.

I sat.

The young woman next to me chatted a bit. She had had to go get a pair of glasses before she could take the eye test. She should've been in class, she said as she waited, munching on a $3.19 protein bar that she "didn't even like."

(You learn a lot in close quarters.)

There was a lot going on at the DMV building this particular Wednesday. I suppose most Wednesdays are pretty crazy — that's the day you can take your driver's test or get your license renewed at the Wheeling office, without having to traipse to Moundsville.

We were all proud of the young boy who passed his driving test. When the tester came back in, she gave Dad a thumbs up and said he "did great."

"Good news or bad news?" I asked him. He wasn't so sure.

Another woman was having a difficult time proving residency. All the household bills were in her husband's name.

One woman couldn't prove a name change from her second marriage. She needed proof of "Smith" to "Jones." "We need to follow the trail," the clerk said.

Then there was the woman who came in with the nice, neat folder. Oh, she's got it all together, I thought. All prepared.

But, no. Among all those neat documents in her folder there was no official marriage license. She had a marriage certificate from the church — in Illinois, if I remember correctly — but that didn't count. It needed to come from a county courthouse. This did not make the woman with the folder very happy. Not at all.

She argued a bit and was obviously annoyed with the clerk.

"I'm not going to break the law because of your inconvenience," the clerk politely told her.

Inside, I was applauding the clerk.

But, while it did take a lot of time, I'm glad these new checks and balances are in place. I wouldn't want anyone else going in and getting a driver's license in my name.

The laws just changed Jan. 3.

"The new Secure Driver's License and Identification Card Program is a nationwide effort to improve the integrity and security of all driver's licenses and ID cards, in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks," according to the pamphlet available at the W.Va. DMV office.

"The goals of this new program are to reduce identity theft, make it more difficult for criminals to obtain false identities, to protect your personal information and help fight terrorism."

Well, who can argue with that?

Basically, you need to have with you your birth certificate, Social Security card and two proofs of W.Va. residency. That sounds simple.

And if you don't have a birth certificate, a valid U.S. passport will do.

If you don't have a Social Security card, you may bring a W-2 or payroll stub that includes your SS number.

W.Va. residency can include a utility bill; tax records; mortgage or homeowner insurance document; W-2; weapons permit; voter's registration; motor vehicles registration card; or a number of other documents that can prove your residency.

It seemed as if it was the name change that tripped up several of those wanting a new license. "Any change in your legal name must be represented through one of the following documents: Marriage Certificate, Certified Copy of a Birth Certificate, Court Order or Divorce Decree with Name Change."

Also, if you are applying for a W.Va. license but transferring from another state, you must provide your valid out-of-state license.

Commercial drivers must have additional forms and documents.

The brochure recommends calling 800-642-9066 or visiting if you have questions about what is needed to get your license.

One more piece of advice: While Moundsville may seem like a trek for us in Wheeling, it might actually be faster. The Moundsville DMV office will take care of your new license needs from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Therefore, the wait should not be as long. You only can get your new license in Wheeling from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays.

So good luck! But, if you have any confusion and any questions at all, be sure to check out the website or make a phone call before you go!

P.S. Despite the investment of time, it was worth it. Why? Because I am finally happy with my driver's license photo that I'll have with me for the next five years!

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