New law will require immigrants to make appointments for licensesBy None | The Associated Press
Posted: 7/23/2010, 10:20 PM Mountain time
New Mexico is requiring illegal immigrants and other foreign nationals seeking a driver's license to make an appointment at a Motor Vehicle Division office, rather than walking in at any time for the transaction.
MVD Director Michael Sandoval said the change, which takes effect next week, should improve security by ensuring clerks have enough time to review applicants' identification documents.
It also should reduce the waiting time for customers in an MVD office, because issuing licenses to foreign nationals is among the most time-consuming transactions handled by the agency.
MVD is launching an online system Monday that will let people schedule appointments at any of its 33 state-run offices. People without access to a computer can make appointments by telephone.
Initially, the reservation system will be for just two transactions — a first-time driver's license for a foreign national who is ineligible for a Social Security number, and anyone needing to take a road test before they can get a license.
"Those, at this point, are our two most complex transactions, so we're going to be requiring people to make an appointment," Sandoval said.
In coming months, MVD plans to expand services for which an appointment can be scheduled. The goal is to help residents avoid long waits.
A 2003 law allows foreign nationals in New Mexico, including those living in the country illegally, to get a driver's license.
Rather than provide a Social Security number as part of their identification, applicants can submit a passport, a Matricula Consular card issued by a Mexican consulate, or a certified foreign birth certificate with a notarized English translation.
More than 82,000 licenses have been issued to people without a Social Security number, according to MVD. That's about 3.5 percent of all licensed drivers in New Mexico.
Sandoval said MVD makes an online check of Matricula Consular cards to verify the applicant's identity. Clerks also must make copies of identification documents, which are sent to the state's tax fraud investigation division for follow-up checks.
By scheduling appointments for lengthy transactions, Sandoval said, clerks shouldn't feel pressure to rush their work to deal with a backlog of other customers. It can take 30 to 45 minutes to complete a road test or handle a driver's license for a foreign national.
"If we get a lot of people wanting those same transactions on the same day and you walk in to just renew your vehicle registration or to do more of a simple transaction, you could end up waiting quite a long time. That's what we're trying to avoid," Sandoval said.
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