By CHELSEA JENSEN
Applying for or renewing a Hawaii driver’s license is a lot more complicated than it used to be thanks to new laws requiring an array of documents to prove a person’s identity and legal presence in the United States.
To receive a license or permit, every applicant is now mandated to provide proof of his identity, date of birth, legal presence in the United States and Social Security Number. If there is a name change involved, more documents, possibly old marriage certificates, will be required.
“It’s an initiative of the Department of Homeland Security that the state chose to adopt to make licenses more meaningful,” said Lee Lord, Hawaii County Department of Finance Vehicle Registration and Licensing Division manager. “We’re proving who you are by getting the official documents.”
Residents have expressed confusion, concern and frustration with the new rules that became effective March 5. Letters to Stephens Media have commented on long waits and frustration resulting from having to return to the Driver’s Licensing office with additional documents because those brought the first time were not acceptable.
North Kohala residents, during a May police-community meeting, asked officers for help understanding the new rules. During the meeting, residents also suggested police ask the county to hold an informational meeting.
The best advice Lord had for residents is to be prepared and have all the necessary documents. If in doubt, bring more documents than you think you’ll need.
For a U.S. citizen whose name is the same on his birth certificate and license, all that is needed is an original birth certificate and a Social Security card.
If a name change is involved, whether through marriage or a legal name change, or a license carries a different name than a birth certificate, an applicant needs to provide proof of name progression.
For example, Lord said, if a woman marries and then divorces her first husband, but keeps his last name and remarries, she will have to bring in both marriage certificates.
Such proof is not required when seeking a duplicate license, according to the division.
The requirement is a result of a 2010 law that prohibits the issuance of a Hawaii driver’s license to any person who is not legally in the United States.
While the new requirements may seem impractical or frustrating to some, Lord said the division has and will continue to improve its ability to provide service.
Prior to the new rules going into effect, Lord said the division installed scanners at each desk and opted for a centralized distribution of licenses, which means those seeking licenses receive a temporary license and then the hard copy will be mailed.
Documents that can be used to verify legal presence include a U.S. birth certificate or U.S. passport. Foreign born applicants may provide other documents, such as a certificate of citizenship or naturalization, resident alien card, or a valid foreign passport with a visa and I-94, according to the division.
Documents presented for proof of identity, legal presence or Social Security Number must be valid originals or certified copies. Photocopies or fax copies of proof documents, as well as laminated items, are not acceptable.
The Vehicle Registration and Licensing Division will hold a meeting June 7 in Kona to help residents understand the new rules.
Officials will review the new rules as well as take residents’ questions on applying for or renewing a license during the one-hour meeting that begins at 5 p.m. at the county’s West Hawaii Civic Center Liquor Control Conference Room in Building B. The meeting is one of several being held to help residents understand the new requirements.
Residents can also bring their documents to the meeting and have division staff help discern whether the items are acceptable, Lord added.
The meeting room is accessible to persons with disabilities. To request accommodations, call 961- 8021.
Information about the new requirements, as well as answers to frequently asked questions, is also available online at hawaiicounty.gov/finance-dl-hi-legal-presence.
Emai Chelsea Jensen at firstname.lastname@example.org