Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Photo IDs

When I first arrived in the US, I had no need of a driver's licence, but was advised that a photo ID would be a necessity. After my first experience of trying to get into a bar using my UK passport (refused entry - say what? It got me into the COUNTRY but not a bar?!!) I decided a photo ID would indeed be a good idea! I took the bus to the Registry of Motor Vehicles to get a 'liquor ID' - good for buying alcohol and identification when writing cheques, but not for driving.

A couple of years later, I took a Russian friend to the same Registry of Motor Vehicles to get a liquor ID. They wanted to see two forms of photo ID in order to issue her the liquor ID. Huh? If she had two acceptable forms of photo ID, she wouldn't have needed the liquor ID. She got so frustrated, she ended up yelling at the woman behind the counter, "This is worse than f***ing Russia!" Of course that didn't get her very far! The solution? As I by then did have a driver's licence, I was allowed to vouch for her - say that she was who her passport said she was so she could get the liquor ID! Current requirements for international students wanting a liquor ID are:
  • passport
  • birth certificate
  • home country license or home country ID (must contain the person’s signature)
  • a bill or letter received with your current Massachusetts address
So I guess that leaves a Brit with no UK driver's licence out of luck as we have no national ID card. (Yet.) And you probably didn't remember to bring your birth certificate with you, did you? Of course, if you're a British undergraduate studying in the US who hasn't turned 21 yet, you're out of luck anyway as you can't legally buy alcohol here even though you can back home :-(

Many years later, I went to renew my driver's licence once more only to be told that it would not be renewed until I handed over the liquor ID I'd been issued with originally. I had just spent over an hour queuing at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, so I was not best pleased, especially as I didn't have the faintest idea where the card might be given that I hadn't used it in years! I was amazed that they had finally made the connection. Although both the liquor ID and the driver's licence obviously had the same name and vital statistics on them, the ID numbers were different and I had renewed my licence at least twice without having been asked to surrender the ID card. Although I have very few photos at all of me back then, I still have my student ID as a souvenir of those days when I was so much less wrinkled and had no grey hair. I am puzzled by one thing about my student ID though - it has a validation sticker on it for the semester AFTER I graduated. How I weaselled that (entitling me to student discounts for another few months) I have no idea!


Expat mum said...

Although I love the ID card/licence thing, (so useful in a lot of situations) it was a bit of a faff to get. Especially since I think I am the only person ever known to fail their American driving test first time. Mind you, arguing with the stupid examiner probably didn't help!

Jane said...

Apparently, the DMV is notorious for long queues. Almost as bad as the Dept. Homeland Security! Although here in WA state you can drive on your European licence for 1yr after arrival, my insurance company would not insure me to drive my car unless I passed the test within 1 month of being here! On top of everything else, this was a pressure I could have done without!! Barely time to get to know my car before I had to parallel park the thing in a space the size of a mini cooper (I drive a mini-van.)Thankfully, I made it!
Sometimes visiting relatives have been asked for their ID when making credit card purchases. Not much fun having to carry a passport with you all the time. About time the UK got sorted on this one, although for 'the land of the free' it can be surprisingly 'Big Brotherish' here, especially if you're foreign.

Maddy said...

I'll hang onto my all the more dearly in that case!

Almost American said...

the DMV here actually has a website where you can check what the current wait times are, and it's actually pretty accurate! No use of course if you only have one DMV office nearby, but I'm lucky enough to have 2 within a 20 minute drive and one of them almost always has no line!

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