Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Drivers license changes benign

The other day I posted a link to the Department of Public Safety's newly amended Texas drivers license and ID rules (pdf) that take effect this Friday, Oct. 6, but I didn't know yet what they meant. Turns out, the changes were essentially benign, clarifying what documentation legal, foreign visitors must show to receive a drivers license or ID card, and requiring a Texas residential address for all but military personnel. Thanks to the lovely and talented Rebecca Acuña of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition for analyzing the changes and providing the following summary:
The revisions to the identification policy were made to address primary documentation acceptable for foreign visitors, students and visiting workers applying for a driver license or identification card.

The amendment adds a foreign passport with a valid Visa (may be expired) issued by the United States Department of State and accompanied by an unexpired I-94, to qualify as Primary Identification, meaning they are complete within themselves and require no supporting instruments. (A USCIS Form I-94 shows the date you arrived in the United States and the "Admitted Until" date, the date when your authorized period of stay expires. You will receive an USCIS Form I-94 or I-95 from an USCIS inspector when arriving in the United States at a land border port-of-entry or from an airline or ship representative when arriving at an air or sea port-of-entry by aircraft or ship.) These documents must contain the applicant's complete name and full date of birth:

The unexpired I-94 must state::
  • For a fixed duration, the I-94 must have been issued for a period of at least one year and must be valid for no less than six months from the date presented to the department with a completed application.
  • For an I-94 marked valid for the “duration of stay”, the I-94 must be accompanied by appropriate documentation verifying current enrollment in an educational institution or sponsorship in a visiting worker program.
The revisions also reflect that the document previously issued by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service is now issued by the United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Additionally, a revision to the address requirement was made and requires that an applicant for an original, renewal or duplicate driver license or identification card to provide a Texas residence address. This amendment removes language regarding the use of an out of state address except for members of the armed forces.
Rebecca describes the changes as mildly positive, but essentially benign. That's good. I suppose the most egregious changes authorized last year have already occurred. The most urgent public safety improvements needed in Texas drivers license rules have yet to be seriously considered.

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