PORTLAND, Maine — The second of two state laws adopted in April to tighten regulations for getting a driver’s license goes into effect Monday, requiring motorists to prove they’re living in the country legally to obtain or renew a license.
For most motorists, it’ll be as simple as displaying a birth certificate at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, but clerks are prepared for some fits and starts as the new regulation is implemented, said Don Cookson, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office.
“The hope is that this won’t create large amounts of difficulty for people,” Cookson said. “When you’re looking at new regulations, there are always bound to be some bumps in the road, but generally speaking, we’re expecting a smooth implementation.”
The law that tightens driver’s license requirements came about after negotiations between the governor’s office and the Department of Homeland Security averted a high-profile showdown over the Real ID Act, an anti-terrorism law supported by the Bush administration.
In adopting the law, Maine joined 44 other states, including the rest of New England, in making proof of legal U.S. residency a requirement for getting a driver’s license.
The first part of the law went into effect in April requiring people seeking a driver’s license to prove they reside in Maine with a tax form, pay stub, utility bill or other documentation.
The second part, which goes into effect Monday, addresses the requirement that people must be living in the country legally to get a driver’s license. The goal is to keep licenses out of the hands of undocumented workers and, potentially, terrorists.
Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said the vast majority of Maine residents were born in the U.S., and a birth certificate is sufficient to fulfill the requirement. Other suitable documents include passports and certificates of naturalization or citizenship.
Foreign nationals who are living and working in the country legally shouldn’t be inconvenienced since they generally carry their documents with them, Dunlap said.
The Bureau of Motor Vehicles will do all it can to point people in the right direction when it comes to documentation. Clerks will even grant a 30-day temporary license for people who don’t have their paperwork when they seek to renew their licenses, Dunlap said.
But despite the efforts, Dunlap said it’s all but certain that some motorists will arrive without proper documentation and leave without a license.
“We have to run everyone through the mill, and it’s going to cause frustration and consternation. My job is to be responsive to that and do what I can to mitigate it,” he said.
He urged people not to take it out on clerks if they’re frustrated.
“If they have abuse to hurl, they can hurl it at me at 626-8400. I have no problem taking complaint calls. So if you really want to come uncoiled on a service representative, then save it for me because I’m the one who’s elected to take that abuse,” he said.