For most people, making a trip to the local driver’s licensing office is something you dread doing. Every few years, this trek is done to renew things like your personal driver’s license, car tags and anything else that is tied to being a legal driver in the state. Due to just the sheer volume of people coming in and out of the office, this process can take hours.
While most of the people coming into the office are pretty routine as far as renewing their license, this is not always the case in exceptional circumstances like someone who is a foreign national trying to get their license. Instead of processing through the usual channels, these cases can take hours to verify a range of documents that the average driver does not have. The verification process alone can take a lot of time for those working with the new drivers because it often entails several phone calls to government agencies to confirm information.
In areas like Orlando, Florida, the impact of these particular cases is being felt at many local offices. Instead of being able to help hundreds of people each day renewing a standard license, workers can get bogged down by a handful of individual cases that require hours of work. Because these cases can also be incredibly complex, the average employee may not be trained to do this correctly.
In Florida, driver’s licenses are handled by the county tax office. In the Orlando branch of the Orange County Tax Collector’s office, something was causing a bag log each day as locals were trying to renew their licenses. The backlog was tied to too many employees working on foreign licenses and not being able to help the high volume of visitors that they usually help. Every visitor was spending more time in the office because the wait time was extended for many hours, and this, in turn, started a parking problem as well.
Instead of being able to get an updated license before the allowed parking time expired, visitors now were watching their meters run out. Tow companies were more than willing to use this to their advantage as they monitored parking just to tow away violators.
To help the flow of traffic and visitors, the local office implemented a few new things. They opened an hour earlier to see more customers, and they implemented a new policy that shifted the harder to handle foreign driver’s license to an office that was better equipped to handle the increased demands.
While some locals have held this move to be discrimination against those who are not citizens, the office was quick to explain this is only based on the complexity of the cases and extra time each takes. According to a statement from the State of Florida:
“When we look at this policy, it’s not something that we see through the prism of affecting a specific class of people. We look at this in terms of the type of transaction.
The policy relates to driver license and ID services only because of the complexity of those transactions. All other services are available to every resident, including non-U.S. citizens.”
The move to group services for the most complex cases in only certain locations is not unusual. For example, in the state of North Carolina:
“…a spokeswoman for the state Department of Motor Vehicles said that due to the “complexity” of processing international licenses, only about a third of the state’s 67 DMV branches carry out transactions for international customers, including lawful permanent residents.
“Due to specialized training for certain transactions, people have to travel to specific branches across the state frequently,” the spokeswoman explained in an email. Her other examples included motorcycle testing and obtaining a commercial driver’s license.”
Whether all locations of state licensing offices can handle this type of special service is up to each state. In Texas, for example, each office is required to perform this type of services for everyone. The liberal state of California takes this one step further by not only licensing foreign drivers in every office but also offering driver’s licenses to those in the country illegally. Given the fact that one does not need to even be in the country legally to become a driver in California, it does not make a lot of sense that every office needs to slow down the process by working with unusual cases.