Obtaining an Ohio Driver License is Now More Complex

It’s a new “normal” at the Ohio BMV. Used to be, you could walk in and, with the right paperwork, walk out with your new driver’s license/state ID (DL/ID) in hand, normally in under 14 minutes – provided you were a U.S. citizen with no driver’s license suspensions.

All that changed last July , and many Ohio BMV customers are very upset. But don’t take your wrath out on the 180+ BMV independent contractor deputy registrars or the BMV state staff. They are obligated to follow the many main office directives that sometimes change weekly (or even daily) on how to administer the new DL/ID process.

The change in how Ohio and the other states are to issue driver’s licenses and state IDs has been coming for a while. The new Ohio DL/ID was in part mandated by the 2005 Federal REAL ID Act after the 9/11 attacks. The federal law was designed to make DL/ID issuance more secure; that is, making it less easy for terrorists to obtain (as they did prior to 9/11) and also addressing the need to make the Ohio DL/ID harder to counterfeit. States including Ohio have known for nearly 13 years they eventually would have to upgrade their DL/ID issuance process. Thinking as some did (not me), that the new DL/ID mandate might go away was not prudent.

So far, probably around 100,000 Ohioans out of the nearly 9 million who have an Ohio DL or ID have had to navigate the new DL/ID requirements. By Oct. 1, 2020 – just two years from now – all Ohioans wishing to fly scheduled airlines will need an Ohio compliant DL/ID or a U.S. passport to fly or enter a federal facility. On their face, the compliant card requirements appear easy enough. They are very easy if you want just a standard or non-compliant DL/ID – a customer option. A standard DL/ID, however, won’t get you on a plane, on a military base or into most federal facilities.

What do I need for a new compliant Ohio DL/ID? If you want the new Ohio “compliant” REAL ID DL/ID so you can get on a plane without a U.S. passport in hand, you’ll have to produce certain original “source documents.” These documents prove that you are who you say you are. Examples are a U.S. birth certificate, U.S. passport or passport card; these show your full legal name, U.S. citizenship and date of birth. Next is proof of social security number (W-2 or SS card) and two written proofs of where you currently reside (printed-off bank statement, utility bill, etc., with your name on it – not someone else’s). You can find your required source documents and online customer checklist at www.bmv.ohio.gov/NEWDL-ID.

Married women, married couples who changed their name and those who have been married and divorced: be prepared to have certified copies of all marriage licenses and divorce decrees showing the progression of name changes. As an alternative, securing a U.S. passport that matches your current name may be a better option and eliminate the need for documenting all marriages and divorces. It is the name-change thing that has the feds requiring all of those documents.

The BMV must then scan these source documents into the BMV database. After a rocky launch in July, the BMV quickly provided a new online checklist tool that helps you pull together what documents you need but doesn’t check the actual documents to ensure they meet the new requirements, e.g., that names on them match or come close to a match, there are no expired passports, etc.

Customer strategies that may lessen the frustration:

  1. Use the BMV online DL/ID app before you go stand in line. It should help ensure you have all the documents you need for a federally compliant DL/ID that can get you on a plane or in a federal facility. You don’t need lots of documents if you get a standard DL/ID and don’t fly.
  2. Find the required source documents you need now even though you have until Oct. 1, 2020 to get your compliant DL/ID. After you leave the BMV, store them in a secure place where you can find them later.
  3. Get a U.S. passport with your current name. If married or divorced, you won’t need to bring in certified copies of that paper trail on how you got from your birth name to the name you use now.
  4. Get to your local BMV Deputy Registrar early. Especially on Saturdays – some close at noon and some at 2 p.m. Check the website. Most open at 8 a.m.

Bring to BMV:

  • Source document: U.S. birth certificate, U.S. passport or passport card
  • Proof of social security number: W-2 or Social Security card
  • 2 written proofs of where you currently reside (printed-off bank statement, utility bill, etc., with YOUR name on it)
  • Copies of all marriage licenses and divorce decrees showing the progression of any name changes

By Mike Rankin, Esq., Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A.

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