By Mike Rankin, Esq. of the Doucet & Associates L.P.A. law firm and former leader of the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) under Governors Ted Strickland and John Kasich
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 license/state ID (“DL/ID”) in hand, normally in under 14 minutes- providing you were a US citizen with no driver license suspensions. All that has changed since July 2, 2018; and, many Ohio BMV customers are very upset. But don’t take your wrath out on the 180 plus BMV independent contractor Deputy Registrars or the BMV state staff.
The change in how Ohio and the other states are to issue driver 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: less easy for terrorists to obtain as they did prior to 9/11; and, address the need to make the Ohio DL/ID harder to counterfeit.
In the first two months since July 2, 2018, 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 US Passport to fly or enter a federal facility. On their face, the compliant card requirements appear easy enough. They are real 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 US Passport in hand, you have to produce certain original “source documents”. These documents prove you are who you say you are. Examples are a US birth certificate; US Passport or Passport card-these show your full legal name, US citizenship and date of birth. Next is proof of social security number (W-2 or Social Security card); and, two written proofs of where you currently reside (printed off bank statement, utility bill, etc. with your name on it-not someone elses). You can find your required source documents and online customer checklist at www.bmv.ohio.gov/NEWDL-ID .
Married women and those 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 (emphasis added). In the alternative, securing a US 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 2018, 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, eg. names on them match or come close to a match, 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 prefer a standard DL/ID and don’t fly.
2. Find the required source documents you need now even though you may 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. If you do not have a compliant DL/ID, you’ll need one in hand by Oct. 1, 2020 even if your current DL/ID hasn’t expired by then- but only if you want to get on a plane without a passport.
3. Get a US 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 on any day. Especially on Saturdays-some close at noon and some at 2 pm on Saturdays-check the website. Most open at 8 am. Arriving over the noon hour or near closing time will probably have you waiting longer.
All of this is no fault of the Ohio frontline BMV staff or Deputy Registrars (DRs). In Ohio, Deputy Registrars are small businesses under contract to the BMV to provide certain services. Deputy Registrars are the face of the BMV who must take the heat for a DL/ID roll out that didn’t have a full year of customer education on what was coming. Deputies and their staffs provide BMV services to Ohio residents for: DL/IDs issuances; vehicle registrations; driver license reinstatements; driver records or abstracts; written driver tests; organ donations; state IDs for children; next of kin notification; and voter registration- among other services.