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A Times Editorial

Licensing hassle about to get worse

Applying for a driver's license already is a hassle. And it could get worse. To comply with federal law, on Friday Florida will start requiring that applicants for drivers' licenses and state-issued ID cards provide more documentation than ever. The requirements could be taxing and frustrating, especially for the elderly. State and local agencies will need to reach out and help.

To better verify an individual's identity, the state will now require several documents to verify a person's name, place of birth, residence and Social Security status. The changes are aimed at improving the integrity of state-issued identification cards in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Eighteen of the 19 hijackers obtained drivers' licenses or state ID cards, including several from Florida.

U.S. citizens will have to provide at least four documents: 1. Proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, U.S. passport or citizenship form. 2. A Social Security number, either from an original or certified copy of a Social Security card or pay stub. 3 and 4. Two documents confirming a current address, such as a mortgage, lease, voter ID card, homeowner's insurance policy, utility bill or even a letter from a homeless shelter or halfway house.

But the requirements are more complicated for immigrants or anyone who has changed their legal name, such as for marriage or divorce. A divorced woman who has resumed using her maiden name, for example, will need an original or certified copy of her divorce court order and possibly even her original marriage certificate.

The upside: Most driver's license holders have several years to prepare, as long as their license isn't expiring. Anyone born after Dec. 1, 1964, who counts on his or her driver's license or state ID to be able to board a commercial flight or enter a federal building will need to meet the new requirements by Dec. 1, 2014. Older individuals have until Dec. 1, 2017 to comply.

The Florida Division of Driver Licenses has put together an easy-to-follow Web site, Gather Go Get (www. gathergoget.com). The site includes a tool where users can plug in their personal information and see a checklist of documents they need to bring. The site is also translated into Spanish and Creole. These are helpful steps. But state and local licensing offices need to prepare themselves. For many residents, compiling this paperwork will be hard and will require several trips. These agencies need to help ease the hassle any way they can, whether by adding counter help, offering night and weekend hours or even serving the public from remote locations, such as shopping malls. The requirements are going to be especially hard on seniors and low-income residents who may not have passports, birth certificates or other government documents readily accessible.

Floridians routinely need a driver's license or ID card to perform everyday tasks. The state needs to ensure that these new requirements are not a barrier to the orderly conduct of people's lives. And applicants need to do their homework. Check out the Web site or call for information at (850) 617-3995.

Licensing hassle about to get worse 12/30/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 31, 2009 4:37pm]
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