Dealing with the Virginia DMV

Commonwealth of Virginia Image
Commonwealth of Virginia

It seems no matter where we live, some things are consistent. One of these is the local DMV, the dreaded faceless bureaucracy that controls our basic auto-driving American way of life.

Here in Virginia, we’re currently attempting to prove to the satisfaction of the local DMV employee that we do in fact live where we say we live, so we can gain a local driver’s license. As if somehow, we would actually enjoy spending hours of our free time in a bland building herded like cattle through the slaughter line, dealing with uncaring and unconcerned obnoxious officials, and paying out hard-earned money, if we didn’t actually live here.

Our attempts to prove Winnie actually live with me in the same apartment have not gone well.  In fact, they’ve gone so not-well I ended up writing a letter to the Virginia State DMV Commissioner.  Here it is, published in the interests of full disclosure:

Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
P.O. Box 27412
Richmond, VA 23269

Dear Commissioner;

I wish to voice a strong complaint concerning the Dale City Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The specific issue is changing my wife’s Mississippi Driver’s License to Virginia.

My wife and I relocated here in Dale City effective October 13, 2006, moving from the state of Mississippi. When we arrived we were advised we had 60 days to change over our vehicle registration and drivers licenses.

The week after arriving we did change over our driver’s insurance, then went to the DMV for our first attempt at changing driver’s licenses and registration. It took about one hour for us to finally determine what documents the DMV would accept as proof we actually did reside in Dale City (we had no acceptable documents with us on this visit).

Our next visit was about three weeks later, on a Saturday. During this 2+ hour ordeal, we did gain Virginia registration for our vehicle and trailers. My wife was refused a Virginia Driver’s License on this visit, on the grounds that her Mississippi Driver’s license had been issued less than 60 days prior.

Today we made our third trip to the DMV to gain my wife’s Virginia Driver’s license. Although I ultimately received my Virginia Driver’s license, my wife was once again refused her license. This time it was refused on the basis that she did not have acceptable proof of residency. (Please note I need to assist my wife on any official business due to her limited knowledge of English. So I was with her and do know exactly what transpired.)

We first presented our apartment lease as proof of residency. This document was refused by reason that it was a copy, not original. On our prior DMV visit this very same document was accepted by this very same DMV office as proof of residency for registering our vehicle.

We next presented the most recent ComCast Cable bill. This was rejected on grounds that it was only my name on the bill; my wife’s name did not appear (It was accepted for my driver’s license). I offered to show our marriage license as proof that we actually lived together, but my offer was denied.

We were sent over to “Window 11” to speak with the DMV official there. She explained that a copy of an apartment lease was never accepted at the DMV, only originals, and then explained what documents were acceptable (She also stated “if the lease was accepted on the previous visit, it shouldn’t have been”).

Among the options she described as acceptable was a copy of any letter addressed to my wife at our previous address, then forwarded by the post office to our present address with the yellow forwarding label still attached.

We went back home, and were able to find a letter with my wife’s full name on it addressed to our former address, and forwarded to our current residence by the post office. We also located a letter from our local health care provider addressed to my wife at our current residence using her full name.

We went back to the DMV, presented these documents, and my wife was again refused her Virginia Driver’s License. This time, the very same person at “Window 11” explained that the yellow forwarding label only had “Charest” written, not her full name, so was not acceptable. She also rejected the letter from the health care provider on the basis that it was not acceptable proof of residency, even though it showed my wife’s full name and current address.

I then received a lecture from one of your DMV officials concerning my “expressing frustration.”

As a 22 year navy veteran, I understand “rules and regulations.” I also understand that people earning their paycheck from taxpayers money have an obligation to make their rules and regulations work. I believe that public officials have an obligation to use a minimal amount of “common sense” and empathy in applying their rules, and working with the people (taxpayers) who are attempting to follow their rules.

My wife and I have been attempting to abide by your DMV department’s rules. Today, in your Dale City DMV office, an application of common sense and empathy in making your rules work did not happen.

Today, we presented all the documents we currently have available to prove that my wife actually does reside here in Dale City, in the same apartment I (her husband) does. It is possible that at some point in the future we may acquire additional documents that, if presented on a specific day to a specific DMV official, may be accepted depending on that DMV official’s mood. But this will not happen within our 60 day window of moving here, as required by the state of Virginia. In fact, this will not happen at all until your office responds to this letter and provides us with:

– A detailed description of which documents are acceptable for proof of residency, including all qualifiers, disclaimers, and exceptions.

– Written guarantee that if we bring a document as your office describes, it will actually be accepted by the Dale City DMV, regardless of who is working on the particular day we arrive.

– With your response we will attempt, once again, to gain my wife’s Virginia Driver’s license as per the information your office provides.


We’ll be sure to publish how this turns out.  Any bets?

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One Comment

  1. […] result of our first four visits are documented in attachment one (1) with enclosures 1 through 4, letter of complaint to the Commissioner, Virginia DMV, on December 6, 2006. Please note that as of this date, I had not received a response […]

    November 23, 2014

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