Going Nuclear on the Virginia DMV

Commonwealth of Virginia
Commonwealth of Virginia

Incredible as this may sound, I have now written a second letter complaining about the Dale City DMV. This time, I wrote to the Governor of the Commonweath of Virginia.

It seems that, according to the DMV, our marriage is not valid in Virginia.

Here’s the full text of my letter to the governor:

Governor Timothy M. Kaine
Patrick Henry Building, 3rd Floor
1111 East Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219
Ph: (804) 786-2211

Dear Governor Kaine;

I am writing to you to make my strongest possible complain about the conduct of the Dale City Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. On Saturday, December 16, during our fifth visit to this DMV office attempting to gain state residency and a transfer drivers license for my wife, this office denied legal recognition of our marital status. On the basis of this denial, they have indefinitely denied my wife residency and Virginia driving privileges.

My wife, WeiFang, and I arrived here in Dale City, Virginia, effective October 13, 2006. At the time we started residency here my wife and I held valid driver licenses issued by the state of Mississippi, our former residence.

Within days of our arrival we initiated the process of gaining state vehicle registration and state driver’s licenses. The 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 from the Commissioner regarding this complaint.

At the time I wrote my December 6 letter, I fully intended to wait for the Commissioner’s response before attempting a fifth trip to the Dale City DMV. However, my wife wanted to gain her new driver’s license.

This past Saturday, December 16, my wife and I went back to the DMV office. We brought with us her two most recent pay stubs and a current NOVA utility bill all showing her full name and local address. Both of these were fully compliant with the DMV’s “Miscellaneous Return Reasons” letter of December 6 (enclosure 5).

We also brought with us all documentation that could possibly be requested during the proof of residency process. Note that as my wife has difficulty with understanding English, I was with her on this visit, as on all previous visits, to assist her. I therefore know from first-hand experience exactly what transpired.

On this visit, the DMV official, Ms McDaniel, barely glanced at my wife’s proof of residency documents (paycheck stubs and NOVA bill, enclosure 6). She then requested my wifes Social Security (SSN) card and a picture ID. My wife did present her SSN card and Mississippi Driver’s license (enclosures 7, 8). Ms McDaniel then demanded my wife’s work permit. My wife presented this (enclosure 9). Ms McDaniel then demanded my wife’s birth certificate. My wife presented her Chinese passport (my wife’s passport is in her maiden name.) as a legal equivalent to her birth certificate (enclosure 10).

At this point, Ms McDaniel demanded to see our marriage license (enclosure 11). We presented our international marriage license and I inquired why she needed it. She rudely responded “because I need to see it.” She looked through it, stated “this is not acceptable here. I’ll need to check with my supervisor.”

She left her counter carrying our marriage license. After a few minutes, Ms McDaniel returned, handed back our marriage license, and stated “this is not valid here.” To me she stated “you wife cannot prove how she made her name change from her passport to her social security card, and therefore cannot prove she is here [in the united states] legally.”

We then presented my wife’s military dependent’s ID card as further proof of identification (enclosure 12), but Ms McDaniel would not even look at it. She stated “your wife’s name on her passport and other identification does not match. Until she can show how she got from here [pointing to the passport] to there [pointing to the SSN card, working card and Mississippi Driver’s License], we will not issue a driver’s license.”

I stated that our marriage license was proof of my wife’s name change. Ms McDaniel snapped “Your marriage license is not acceptable here.” She then wrote out a “Miscellaneous Return Reasons” (enclosure 13) stating that my wife was required to petition the courts for a legal name change to complete the process of gaining a Virginia driver’s license. My wife and I then left the DMV.

As I interpret this event:

  1. The Commonwealth of Virginia, though officials of the Dale City DMV, has determined that our October 14, 2003 marriage in Yulin, China, is not legally recognized in the state of Virginia. After denying us recognition of a legal marriage they have denied my wife state residency and Virginia driving privileges.
  2. In denying recognition of our marriage the Dale City DMV has implied that any Commonwealth of Virginia government agency may, in the future, arbitrarily deny my wife and I the rights and benefits accorded to married couples in Virginia.
  3. Ms McDaniel has presented a verbal opinion that my wife may be residing in the United States illegally, based on her momentary review of the five documents we presented.

Ms McDaniel (with apparent concurrence of her supervisor Ms Chestnut) has ordered my wife to petition the courts for a “name change” process to complete her proof of residency, which makes no sense whatsoever. My wife is already legally recognized by her married name within the United States. Petitioning the courts to change her name to the name she already has does not address the validity of our marriage document, which is the issue raised by the DMV for denying my wife’s Virginia residency.

Our marriage license is in full compliance with all requirements for proof of marriage between American and Chinese nationals, as per formal agreements between the governments of the US and the PRC, and has previously been accepted by various United States government agencies including:

  • US Department of Homeland Security, US Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • US State Department, including the US Consulate in Guangzhou, PRC
  • US Customs and Border Control, Los Angeles International Airport Division
  • US Social Security Administration
  • US Department of Defense, Department of the Navy
  • State of Mississippi, Department of Motor Vehicles

In addition, our marriage license is legally recognized by the PRC. In fact, with the proper translations, our marriage license is valid and recognized in any country in the world that has diplomatic relations with the United States and the PRC. Except, apparently, in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Sir; I do not want to believe that the Commonwealth of Virginia has an official written policy denying recognition of a foreign marriage between US and non-US citizens. If I thought that the Commonwealth of Virginia has learned nothing in the 39 years since Loving v. Virginia, I would already be seeking legal counsel.

Instead, I chose to believe the treatment we received on December 16, and during prior visits to the Dale City DMV, is the result of a few overzealous low-level state employees who have not received adequate training and guidance from their supervisors. However, I am extremely upset at the amount of time and effort my wife and I have spent to date unsuccessfully attempting to prove that my wife does in fact reside in the same Dale City apartment as her husband (myself), who has already been granted Virginia residency status.

I am angry that any government official not part of the US Citizenship and Immigration Service would question my wife’s legal residency status.

And I am beyond furious that Anybody would deny the validity of our marriage.

I respectfully make the following requests:

That your office provide to my wife and I written correspondence verifying that our marriage in Yulin, PRC, as documented by our international marriage certificate, is in fact valid anywhere in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and does in fact accord us all the rights and benefits of married couples. We are willing to present any and all documents pertaining to our marriage to a designated member of your staff, at a time and place mutually convenient, if you wish to formally investigate the exact status of our marriage.

That your office provide to my wife written correspondence that you have no reason to suspect she is residing in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws. Again, we are willing to present any and all original immigration documents to a designated member of your staff, at a time and place mutually convenient, if you wish to formally investigate her immigration status.

That your office provide us a precise and detailed list of documents my wife needs to complete her process of attaining state residency status and a Virginia Driver’s license, and provide a copy of these documents to the official(s) responsible for managing the Dale City DMV. We will happily abide by your list of required documents so my wife can finally attain her residency and Virginia driver’s license.

Your soonest response to this letter would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely Yours,

I’ll let you’all know what happens next…

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