Virginia Works Newsletter
October 2003

VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON VIRGINIA'S LEGAL PRESENCE LAW

July 2003

What is the new legal presence law?
This new law requires all applicants for an original Virginia driver's license or for a DMV-issued photo ID card to show proof that they are legally in the United States. Legal presence means that a person is either a U.S. citizen or is legal authorized to be in the United States. Legal presence may be proved using documents such as a U.S. birth certificate or U.S. passport. It also can be proved using a variety of other documents, such as a Certificate of Citizenship, Resident Alien Card, Employment Authorization Card, or a valid foreign passport with a visa, I-94 or I-94W. Later this year, DMV will publish a complete list of documents that will be accepted as proof of legal presence.

Driver's licenses and DMV-issued photo ID cards are widely used to verify a person's identity and may be required for everything from opening a bank account to cashing a check. Verifying an individual's legal presence helps ensure the integrity of the documents issued by DMV. Legislation requiring DMV to verify driver's license and photo ID card applicants' legal presence was passed by the 2003 Virginia General Assembly.

When does it go into effect?
January 1, 2004.

Why are you publicizing this new law so early?
DMV wants to ensure that the law is implemented equitably, fairly and in a cost-effective manner. We want to minimize the negative impact that it might have on our customers. By publicizing the law early, we want to make sure that we receive input during the implementation process and that all customers are aware of the new requirements.

DMV has established a ten-member advisory Legal Presence Panel to help us make policy decisions affecting implementation of this legislation. DMV's Commissioner chairs the Panel. The Panel's recommendations will be reviewed by the Secretary of Transportation and the Attorney General's office.

Who is affected by the legal presence law?

  • All applicants applying for an original Virginia driver's license. If you have never held a Virginia driver's license, you will be asked to show proof of your legal presence in the U.S.
  • Applicants for a DMV-issued photo identification card. Anytime that you apply for a DMV-issued photo identification card, you must show proof of legal presence. You must show proof even if you have previously held a photo ID card and you showed proof of legal presence when you applied for that card.
  • Drivers reinstating their driver's license because of a license suspension, revocation or cancellation. If your driver's license was suspended, revoked or canceled, you must show proof of legal presence to reinstate your driving privilege. Although your driver's license may have been suspended, revoked or canceled before January 1, 2004, you will still be required show proof of legal presence to reinstate your driving privilege.
  • Most drivers who have allowed their license to expire, must show proof of legal presence.

If I already have a driver's license, will I have to prove legal presence when I renew?
No. If you currently hold a valid driver's license, you will not have to show proof of legal presence when you renew it. However, if your license expires before you renew, you will be required to prove legal presence before you can renew.

Also, if your driver's license is suspended, and you have never shown proof of legal presence, you must show proof of legal presence to have your driving privileges reinstated. If your driver's license is revoked or canceled, you may have to show proof of legal presence to reinstate your driving privileges even if you have previously shown proof.

If I am out of the country and my driver's license is about to expire, can I renew it?
If you qualify to renew using an alternative service, you will be able to renew your driver's license using the Internet or mail. Your renewal notice will state if you qualify to use one of these services. You cannot use an alternate service if your driver's license has been suspended, revoked, canceled or has expired.

If you are a member of the U.S. military, you will be granted an extension of your Virginia driver's license while you are out of the country.

If I lose my driver's license and need a replacement, will I need to prove legal presence?
No. As long as you request a duplicate driver's license while your license or card is still valid, you will not be required to show proof of legal presence.

What documents can I use to prove my legal presence?
Many people will be able to prove their citizenship using a U.S. birth certificate or U.S. passport. DMV will identify additional documents that can be used as proof of legal presence, such as a certificate of citizenship or a certificate of naturalization, Resident Alien Card, Employment Authorization Card, or a valid foreign passport with a visa, I-94 or I-94W. Later this year, DMV will publish a complete list of documents that will be accepted as proof of legal presence.

Can I show a photocopy of the document I'm using to prove legal presence?
No. You must show the original document. DMV does not accept any photocopied or faxed documents.

I am only in the U.S. for a limited amount of time. Can I get a driver's license or ID card?
If you can meet all the requirements for a driver's license or an ID card and show that you are legally present in the U.S., DMV will issue you a driver's license or ID card. Your driver's license or ID card will be valid only for the amount of time that you are allowed to remain in the U.S. The expiration date on your driver's license or ID card will be the same as the expiration date shown on the document that you use to prove your legal presence. Your driver's license will also show that it has been issued for a limited amount of time.

If you are authorized to be in the U.S. for an indefinite amount of time, your driver's license or ID card will be valid for one year.

Even if your stay in the U.S. will be very short, DMV will issue you a driver's license or ID card for the amount of time that you are authorized to remain in the U.S. Your driver's license will cost $4 per year. You will be charged $4 even if your driver's license is issued for less than one year.

If my I-94 expires, will my driver's license still be valid?
No. Your driver's license or ID card will be valid only for the amount of time that you are authorized to remain in the U.S. DMV will base your driver's license expiration date on the expiration date shown on the document that you use to prove legal presence. This may be the I-94 or another document acceptable for proof of legal presence. The agency will publish a list of acceptable documents later this year.

Additionally, if DMV receives notification from the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, law enforcement or another agency that your authorized stay in the U.S. has been terminated, DMV will cancel your driver's license or ID card. The agency will also place an indicator on your record prohibiting you from renewing your driver's license. DMV will take these actions only if the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services verifies in writing that your authorized stay in the U.S. has been terminated.

How will you verify my citizenship or other legal status in the U.S.?
DMV employees will receive extensive training about the acceptable documents and document verification. Although the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services supports a computer-based system (SAVE) for verifying immigration status, the DMV Legal Presence Panel recommended that the agency not use this system until it becomes more reliable. DMV will record the document that you use to show proof of legal presence in our computer system.

Will DMV have special offices for issuing driver's licenses?
No. DMV's Legal Presence Panel recommended that the agency conduct driver's licensing or ID card issuance transactions at all of their 73 customer service centers (CSCs). Our electronic queuing system will direct you to an employee trained in issuing driver's licenses and ID cards. Additional employees will be available to verify customers' proof of legal presence documents.

If I meet all the requirements, will I receive my driver's license right away or will it be mailed to me?
DMV will issue your driver's license or ID card at the time of your visit if you meet all the requirements. Both DMV and the Legal Presence Panel want to minimize any inconvenience to our customers.

Can I give DMV my input about the implementation of this law?
Yes, definitely. You're welcome to send an email to presence@dmv.state.va.us or you may send a letter to DMV, P. O. Box 27412, Richmond, VA 23269, Attention: Correspondence Office.

Can I learn more about this law as it is being implemented?
Yes. DMV will send out news releases about implementation of the legal presence legislation throughout the summer and fall. Additionally, you can visit the DMV web site at www.dmvNOW.com. All news releases will be posted here, as well as the list of acceptable documents once it is finalized, and minutes from the Legal Presence Panel's meetings. Information will be posted in both English and Spanish.

DMV will also conduct information sessions around the state. We need volunteers who are willing to learn about the legal presence requirements and assist people in their businesses and communities. DMV will provide all necessary training and materials for you to use. If you are interested in volunteering, please email us at presence@dmv.state.va.us or write to us at DMV, P. O. Box 27412, Richmond, VA 23269.


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