The DMV Wars are Over!

Commonwealth of Virginia
Commonwealth of Virginia

Well, it’s over.  After seven trips to the local DMV office, two letters to the Governor of Virginia, one letter to the DMV Commissioner, and three phone calls to the DMV office of Identification Review Service, Winnie has a driver’s license good for five years, in her married name, and with our current address.

Once again I’m left wondering:  Why was that so difficult?

The last go-around with our Dale City DMV office was back on June 23.  When Winnie’s driver’s license was finally issued last January, it was only good until expiration of her K3 on July 14.  Once she had her permanent residency card, Winnie should have been home free on driving here in beautiful Virginia, The State for Lovers.

But, as described in my post “DMV Wars, Part Duex” Winnie was once again turned away, again on the basis that our marriage certificate was not valid here in Virginia.  Once again, I wrote a letter to the Governor of Virginia.

This time, it didn’t take very long at all to get a response.  I mailed the letter on Monday, June 25, and Friday, June 29, I received a phone call from the DMV office of Identification Review Service (IDS).  This is the office that responded back in January with a letter certifying that Winnie was who she really claimed to be.

I didn’t get the name of the woman who called me, but she was very polite and apologetic.  She explained that she had received a copy of our letter faxed from the governor’s office, and needed a copy of Winnie’s residency card for their records.  The woman explained that as soon as they had the copy, Ms. Tracy H. Griffiths would update their records and issue us another letter.  The woman assured me these actions would permanently fix the problem we were having.

I actually felt much better after getting the phone call.  For the first time, I accepted that the problems we were having were most probably local to our DMV office and not a state policy. We faxed over a copy of Winnie’s residency card before leaving on our trip, hoping that all would be taken care of upon our return.

When we returned home July 7 we found a letter from the DMV, Ms. Tracy H. Griffiths, waiting for us.  It was similar to the letter we received back in January.  The letter certified that after extensive research they agreed that Winnie’s name was what she claimed it was, and that she was eligible for a Virginia state driver’s license.  It listed the documents we would need to provide to the DMV along with the letter itself, and had the usual disclaimers and warnings.  Good stuff.

So Saturday morning, bright and early, we were once again waiting in line at the Dale City DMV when they opened.  We came equipped with all the documents we expected to need, a whole bunch of documents that might be needed, and a whole bunch of documents that there was no way the DMV would ask for but we had just in case.

We were ready.

We worked our way through the line and ended up at window #9, a woman we had dealt with back in December.  In fact, it was the same woman who reprimanded me then for “expressing frustration” after the first time Winnie’s documents were rejected.

The woman took our stack of papers and sorted through them.  The first thing she tossed back at us was our marriage certificate announcing “I don’t even know what this is.”  The second item she tossed back was the letter from the DMV, Ms Tracy H. Griffiths, and announced “This means nothing.”  She went through Winnie’s papers, and announced she would be issuing Winnie a driver’s license, but in her maiden name as shown on Winnie’s residency card.

I picked up the DMV letter and read aloud the sentence “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.”  The woman at window #9 became sharp, telling me “that letter means nothing.  The only thing we use is what’s on her INS card.  If there’s a problem, you have to go through the INS to have it changed.”  She made no attempt to double-check our papers with the supervisor.

I kept quiet as she was at least intending on issuing a driver’s license, and Winnie’s existing license expired that day.

The woman at window #9 finished and told us to go wait for the license to be issued at window #17.  I politely asked her name; she ignored me, and told us to leave the window.  We left, and waited for the card to be issued.

It took over 30 minutes and my asking the issue clerk before the paperwork transferred down.  Several people who had arrived at window #17 after us had received their cards before our paperwork arrived.  Winnie’s license was issued in her maiden name, and with our old apartment address displayed instead of the current address we had put on the application.  But at least Winnie could still legally drive, even though she couldn’t use her license for ID.

Monday morning I called Ms. Griffiths of the DMV IDS office and spoke with her directly for the first time.  She turned out to be a very pleasant-sounding woman, and very helpful.  I explained what had happened Saturday morning and included the fact that the DMV official refused to give me her name when asked.  Ms. Griffiths explained it was no problem for her to find out who had dealt with us, as the name was embedded in the records.  She took my phone number and promised to investigate and get back to me.

Tuesday morning she did in fact call me back.  Ms. Griffiths explained she had been in touch with the assistant manager of the DMV office, Ms. Chestnut, and conveyed an apology for the way we were treated on the past Saturday.  Ms. Griffiths asked that Winnie and I go to the DMV office either that day or today, Wednesday, and Ms. Chestnut would personally take care of us.  I thanked Ms. Griffiths for her help, and she sounded completely sincere in responding.

So, this morning we made DMV trip number 7 for Winnie’s driver’s license.  Ms. Chestnut was in fact there, and did in fact personally take care of us.  She was pleasant; made sure we had head-of-the-line privileges, but no apology or acknowledgement of what we’d been through.  Although we had not previously met, it was Ms. Chestnut who had “seconded” the rejection of our marriage certificate the first time, back in December.

It appeared that a lot of learning had taken place since then.  I observed Ms. Chestnut showing our marriage certificate to one of the window clerks and explaining the English language translation that made it a valid document.  I didn’t see the woman from Saturday’s Window #9, but that wasn’t necessarily significant.

Winnie received her replacement card, and true to form it still showed our previous address.  We pointed out the error immediately to the man at window 17.  He looked embarrassed and reissued the card with correct address.

So, it’s over.  After seven trips to the local DMV office, two letters to the Governor of Virginia, one letter to the DMV Commissioner, and three phone calls to the DMV office of Identification Review Service, Winnie has a driver’s license good for five years, in her married name, and with our current address.

To summarize what We (Winnie) has been though to gain a driver’s license:

  • Refused a driver’s license on basis that the DMV did not accept copies of apartment leases as valid proof of residency, only originals.  The same office had previously accepted the same copy for proof of residency to issue tags for our SUV and two trailers, and for my driver’s license.
  • Was told a letter sent to her at our previous address with the yellow USPS forwarding sticker would be adequate proof of residency.  Returned with such letter two hours later, and the same person stated it was invalid as proof.
  • Winnie’s immigration status has been publicity questioned by DMV official, with clear implication that she was in the US illegally.
  • Was told three on separate occasions by a total of five people including two assistant managers, that our marriage certificate was invalid.
  • Twice denied a driver’s license on basis that Winnie could not prove how she changed her name from maiden to married name.  Third time was issued a license under her maiden name on the basis that only her green card was valid proof of ID.
  • For four days held a Virginia Driver’s license in her maiden name with an invalid address, making the license unusable for identification purposes.

In October I get to go back to the DMV and get tags renewed for our SUV and two trailers.  I’m so excited.

Related Posts

Dealing with the Virginia DMV : The start of what quickly escalated into a war with the Dale City, Virginia, Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) over issuing Winnie a drivers license.
The Virginia Governor’s Office Replies : Response from the Governor of Virginia’s office on my letter complaining about the Dale City Department of Motor Vehicles.
Virginia DMV backs Down! : The Dale City, Virginia, Department of Motor Vehicles backs down and issues Winnie a drivers license.
DMV Wars Part Duex : Part two of our war with the Dale City, Virginia, Department of Motor Vehicles.

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