Thursday, January 17, 2013

The DMV a.k.a. where patience goes to die...

Patience. Apparently it's a virtue and not long ago I was rather proud of my ability to keep my cool in the face of frustration and (ahem) challenging individuals. And then I went to the DMV.

I've mentioned some of my experiences with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in previous posts such as taking the US driving test, but it's been around a year since my last encounter. Since I got my first license using my Employment Authorization Document (EAD), it was due to expire when that document expired, meaning that my latest renewal trip to the DMV required new proof of legal residency. Fair enough. So off I went, with my 2 year Permanent Residency Card in hand, to prove that I was very much allowed to grace the US roads with my presence (at least until next year when that particular document runs out too). I dressed nicely for my new license photo, put on a smile and prepared myself to be polite to those who were quite possibly, not having the best day as of yet. Maybe I could make their day with my understanding and relentless niceness, and in turn they would be gracious towards me? Yeah, right.

If you're currently in my shoes i.e. a new immigrant to the US needing to renew your license post US driving test, then heed my warning... do not believe what the websites, or sadly what even the folks on the phone tell you. The information dished out is inconsistent at best, misleading and stress inducing at worse (when I first arrived it was once told to me that I wouldn't be able to drive in America for 6 months plus, due to 'additional documentation requirements and USCIS approval processing times' - I got my license the next week upon returning and challenging this information). Half a year of being housebound flashed before my eyes and I suffered needless stress since apparently this person was speaking out of their... well, you know.

Okay, that sounded harsh but I speak from a multitude of past experiences here. Twice before renewing I spoke with individuals who assured me that despite my need to renew with a NEW immigration document, I needn't worry about scrambling around trying to find yet more proof of address, as that was not relevant for renewals. Liars!

I know it should really go without saying, and as someone who underwent the immigration process and over prepared on every single level I should have trusted my instincts. Always bring more proof of address! And your passport, your previous immigration documents, all your previous licenses and just about anything else that crosses your mind before leaving the house. You'll be glad you did.

Four trips to the DMV later with ever changing (and often contradictory) instructions, plus a redirection to a different DMV office which was apparently the only one able to process me as a permanent resident (oh if only they had, say, a website for communicating such things!?) I finally walked out $19.90 lighter, and with one more driver's license to tide me over until next year.

I'm counting the days DMV... counting the days.

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