AUGUSTA, Maine — Obtaining or renewing a Maine driver’s license is going to take a lot longer beginning next month when new rules go into effect requiring applicants to prove they are U.S. citizens or are in the country legally.
Deputy Secretary of State Cathie Curtis of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles said new rules definitely would prolong visits to branch offices. She predicted that the changes would stress not only the department’s employees, but also those who come in to get their license.
Everyone seeking a passenger-vehicle or commercial license will have to visit a BMV branch office at least once under the new rules and show the required identification. Once entered into the system, an individual subsequently can renew their license online, Curtis said.
Besides longer lines, the new rules also will result in people being turned away after long waits in line in cases where they do not have the proper identification.
“It could take several trips to Motor Vehicles,” Curtis told the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Transportation on Wednesday. “I doubt that it’s reasonable to believe that everybody has these documents at home … We’re expecting this to have an impact.”
Curtis said the changes go into effect Nov. 15. She said they were instituted in response to legislation passed earlier this year aimed at avoiding a standoff between the state and the federal Department of Homeland Security. The “Act to Enhance the Security of State Credentials” requires that Maine driver’s license applicants must prove they either are citizens of the United States or are in the country legally.
Curtis said that the easiest way to get a new license or a renewal would be to show up with a U.S. passport or passport card.
Without either of those, however, applicants will need to provide a certified copy of a birth certificate. If married and using the name of one’s husband, the applicant also would have to provide a certified copy of a marriage license. If married multiple times, certified marriage licenses and divorce records for each marriage must be submitted.
Curtis said many people probably would have to go out of state to obtain some of their identification records. The changes also will place an added burden on town and court clerks.
Curtis said that recent time studies have found that on average the process takes 8.5 minutes from the time one is waited on until walking out with a license. The changes will add an additional 8.5 to 11.5 minutes to the process, she said.
“We’ve all heard of road rage,” said Rep. Edward J. Mazurek, D-Rockland. “I envision motor vehicle office rage.”
Curtis noted that every document provided by applicants would need to be copied and that bureau offices have only one copy machine. Although it will require added work, no additional staff will be hired. Homeland Security will not provide money for positions, she said.
“Motor Vehicles is judged by the length of lines in our offices,” she said. “This could double our line and yet we’re not getting any help for staff.”
Curtis said employees already were undergoing training in anticipation of the new rules and also were being counseled on how to deal with added stress.
Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, questioned whether the department had made it more difficult than necessary in response to the law. He said he would prefer that “a little more common sense” had been used in making the rules.
“These rules and regulations seem to have gone almost to a ridiculous level,” Diamond said. “I think in this case you’re almost creating unnecessary turmoil.”
Curtis replied that the rules met the letter of the law that stipulates that the secretary of state may not issue a license to an applicant unless the applicant presents valid documentary evidence of legal presence in the United States. She said the rules are similar to what is required to obtain a passport.
“It just seems like we’ve got so much red tape here that it’s doomed to failure,” Rep. William P. Browne, R-Vassalboro, told Curtis. “I sympathize with your plight, but I don’t know what the solution is.”
One thing that won’t change is the cost of obtaining licenses. The cost is $30 for drivers of passenger vehicles under age 65, $21 if 65 or older. The cost is $34 for commercial licenses, $28 if 65 or older.
ID REQUIREMENTS AT A GLANCE
Here are the ID requirements for new or renewed Maine driver’s license, effective Nov. 15:
If you are a U.S. citizen:
United States passport or pass-port card, or certified birth certificate from state office of vital statistics, or at least one of the following: baptismal certificate, religious record or tribal record showing name, date of birth and where the birth occurred, or hospital birth certificate showing name, date of birth and where the birth occurred, or doctor’s record of birth showing name, date of birth and where birth occurred, or newspaper or insurance file showing name, date of birth and where birth occurred.
If you were born outside the U.S. with U.S. citizen parent:
U.S. passport, or birth certificate, or proof of U.S. citizenship of parent, or evidence of the applicant’s legal relationship to parent.
If you are not a U.S. citizen:
Permanent Resident card or Resident Alien card, memorandum of creation of record of Law-ful Permanent Residence, Arrival Departure Form I-94, Temporary Resident card, Re-entry Permit, Employment Authorization card, Travel Document or Refugee Travel Document, Arrival-Departure card Form I-94 stamped or endorsed.
Maine licenses for passenger vehicles (Class C) must be renewed every six years if you are under age 65 at a cost of $30, and every four years if you are 65 or older for $21.
Commercial licenses in Maine must be renewed every five years if under 65 at a cost of $34 and every four years thereafter for $28.
For more information go to www.Maine.gov./sos/bmv/licenses