As many of our frequent visitors (visitors => More Than Two) may remember, back in December and January I posted about a problem with our local DMV. It seemed that the various DMV officials were making stuff up in increasingly new and original ways, to prevent Winnie from obtaining her driver’s license (and by default, proof of Virginia residency). My breaking point was when, on our fifth trip over a period of 7 weeks, they denied her license on basis that she could not prove how she made the jump from her maiden name “Wei Fang Li” to married name “Wei Fang Li Charest.”
The document of choice that reasonable people would accept, our marriage certificate, was not acceptable to our fine defenders of Virginia’s right to drive automobiles (at 5 MPH on a ten lane Interstate Highway bumper-to-bumper during rush hours traffic; but that’s another story). Not content to challenge Winnie’s name, they took the great leap of faith into assuming that she also could not prove she was even in the U.S. legally. At that point, I wrote a letter to their big boss and our beloved Governor.
The problem was handled quickly and quite nicely. The letter we subsequently received from the Commissioner, DMV, gained Winnie her driver’s license. But, as Winnie had not yet gained her permanent green card, the license was only valid for the duration of her K3 visa (and the DMV clerk we were dealing with on our sixth trip seemed very pleased in telling her this point).
So, this past Saturday, we went back to the DMV to get Winnie’s license renewed, this time against her green card, which should have kept us away from the DMV at least until our tags needed renewal in October. Alas, this was not to be. Our local DMV once again denied Winnie’s license renewal. This time it was on the basis that she could not prove her legal name, as shown on her still valid Virginia’s Driver’s License, was in fact “Wei Fang Li Charest.”
So I had to write another letter to their big boss and our beloved Governor, again.
Governor Timothy M. KainePatrick Henry Building,3rd Floor 1111 East Broad Street Richmond,Virginia 23219Ph: (804) 786-2211
Dear Governor Kaine;
For the second time in less than one year, I must ask for your assistance in resolving an issue with the Dale City Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office, on behalf of my wife, Wei Fang Li Charest.
My wife is a native of Southeastern China (PRC), and we were married in China. Her Chinese passport shows her name as “Wei Fang Li,” following Chinese custom (attachment 1). In China, a married woman does not adopt her husband’s last name. Her USCIS-issued residency card uses her name shown on her passport (attachment 2). Here in the U.S., she has adopted my last name, and all of her U.S. identification shows her name as “Wei Fang Li Charest.”
On December 17, 2006, I wrote your office with a request to assist my wife in gaining a Virginia driver license as a transfer from the state of Mississippi. I made this request when my wife was denied her license and proof of state residency on basis that our marriage document was not valid in the state of Virginia, and therefore not valid proof of my wife’s married name. During this visit Dale City DMV officials also questioned my wife’s legal status in the United States, with implication they suspected her of being in the U.S. illegally.
Your office responded promptly, which we greatly appreciate. We did receive a letter from the DMV (Tracy H. Griffiths, December 27, 2006) which validated my wife’s name and provided a list of documents she needed to gain her driver’s license (attachment 3). Dale City DMV officials did subsequently, grudgingly, accept this letter and issued her driver’s license (attachment 4). However, as her application for permanent residency had not at that time been approved by the USCIS her license was only valid until July 15, 2007; the expiration date of her K3 visa.
In February 2007, after a 39 month wait, my wife’s application for permanent U.S. residency was approved.
This past Saturday, June 23, my wife and I visited the Dale City DMV office to renew her driver’s license. On this visit, my wife was denied renewal of her Virginia driver’s license and recognition of valid state residency. The reason stated was that her USCIS residency card shows her name as “Wei Fang Li”, and DMV officials refused to recognize that her legal name within the United States as “Wei Fang Li Charest.”
We provided a number of documents clearly showing my wife’s name is legally recognized in the United States as “Wei Fang Li Charest” including:
- Letter from the Virginia DMV, Tracy H. Griffiths, of December 27, 2006 (attachment 3)
- Valid State of Virginia Driver’s License (attachment 4)
- Our International Marriage document (proof of marriage) (attachment 5)
- S. Social Security Card (attachment 6)
- S. Department of Defense Dependent’s ID Card (attachment 7)
- Two current utility bills (attachment 8)
DMV officials (Ms. C. Brown and assistant manager Mr. B. Ghowrwal) stated that our marriage document was not recognized as a legal document in the State of Virginia. They refused to consider the Social Security Card, two different valid photo IDs we presented, and would not even look at the utility bills. Ms. Brown and Mr. Ghowrwal also refused to recognize the DMV letter, despite the second sentence of paragraph two clearly stating:
“Although your name is displayed differently on your employment authorization document, we have been able to determine that your full name is Wei Fang Li Charest and will therefore, use that name in our records.”
Ms. Brown provided a Customer Information Form stating that my wife was required to show “acceptable proof of name change” to gain a renewal of her Virginia driver’s license (attachment 9). She did not explain what this document might be.
So, I am once again writing to ask for your assistance. I respectfully make the following requests:
1. 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 (attachment 5), is in fact valid anywhere in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and does in fact accord us all the rights and benefits of married couples in this state.
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. Please note that our marriage document has previously been recognized by:
- S. Department of Homeland Security, US Citizenship and Immigration Services
- S. State Department, including the US Consulate in Guangzhou, PRC
- S. Customs and Border Control, Los Angeles International Airport Division
- S. Social Security Administration U.S. Department of Defense, Department of the Navy
- State of Mississippi, Department of Motor Vehicles
- People’s Republic of China, Office of Foreign Marriages
2. That your office provide us a list of documents the Commonwealth of Virginia considers “acceptable proof of name change” that will be accepted by all Virginia state government agencies, including the Dale City DMV office.
As before, your assistance is greatly appreciated. Despite the open hostility we have received from the local DMV, my wife and I do wish to remain residents of Dale City, Virginia, for many years to come.
As always, I will post the updates to this. Winnie’s license is valid until July 14, so we are both hoping this problem can be cleared up by then. Without a valid driver’s license, Winnie will be forced to take a vacation from work…
DHS Immigration Takes Us to the Next Step : Winnie’s immigration and naturalization process creaks ever so slowly to the next step.
Dealing with the Virginia DMV : The start of my personal war on the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, Dale City edition.
Virginia DMV backs Down! : My first victory over the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, Dale City edition.