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Status and Driver's License

On May 20, 1999 the California State Senate voted to approve a bill, that if passed by the California State Assembly and signed by Governor Davis, will make it faster to obtain a driver's license in California.

Existing law requires the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to require every applicant for an original driver's license to submit satisfactory proof that the applicant's presence in the United States is authorized. This law has been interpreted by the DMV since March 1994 to require it to always verify the status of each applicant with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The bill passed by the Senate (SB 371) on May 20 will only require this secondary check with the INS if the DMV suspects the documentation of legal status is fraudulent. The vote was 23 to 11.

The current system of secondary verification is an excessive inconvenience that affects the efficiency of foreign national business executives who are legally residing in California. It results in the necessity to reapply for a driver's license as often as twice a year. According to Senator Solis, the author of the bill and chairperson of the Subcommittee on Asia Trade and Commerce, this reflects negatively on a state that aggressively strives to be a global trading center.

Moreover, it is sometimes very difficult to prove to the DMV that your status is legal. The reason is because the INS California Service Center takes so long to process many "extension of stay" and "change of status" applications. For example, the INS in California is currently processing E extension of stay/change of status applications that were filed in July1998. Also, applicants who are requesting that their status be changed from F (student status) to B (tourist status) are waiting approximately 8 to 9 months. This does not make sense, especially since one can only request up to 6 months in B status.

With the strong support of a number of large Japanese multinational corporations the bill passed the State Senate, but now it is time for everyone to urge their state representative and Governor Davis to support this change.

To find out who your state representative is and to e-mail your support letter visit the California State Assembly web page at www.assembly.ca.gov.

To find the text of the bill visit the California State Senate web page at www.sen.ca.gov and search for SB371 in the "Bill Info" section. The DMV has a pamphlet on the current birth verification/ legal presence requirements. This can be obtained on the internet at http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/brochures/fast_facts/ffdl05.htm