Thursday, 29 December 2011

Salvation for the mirror blind

My early birthday present from Ben - I can now explore!
Well, soon...
I am sat in the lounge of our apartment, staring at the computer screen with a slightly dazed, slightly frustrated expression on my face that can only have been caused by immigration paperwork complications. Before anyone worries, it's not anything serious, nor anything that will jeopardise my staying here, but merely a hiccough in terms of getting the order of things right. This morning I went to the DMV to take my driving test. Because I had been working really hard for it, and winding myself up something silly, I figured it would be better to do sooner rather than later. However, after waiting in line for almost two hours (the computer system went down, as luck would have it), I was told that I wouldn't be allowed to take any part of the test until my green card came through. The I-94 (landing card, stapled into my passport along with my visa) has less than 20 days left on it, and so the DMV are unable to do anything until I have permanent residential status (i.e. a two year green card). The fact that my application for this is in process, and that I am totally within my rights to stay in the USA while this goes on - in fact, if I left, I would have trouble getting back in without an Advanced Parole document - does not alter the fact that my I-94 doesn't have enough time left on it to issue me a driver's license, were I to pass the tests.

Having studied the NC DMV handbook and signs documents at length, as well as doing practice test after practice test over the last 10 days on the I Drive Safely and Driver's Prep websites, this is obviously frustrating in terms of effort, and in terms of nerves built up at the thought of doing a driving test. Ben even got me an early birthday present of a Garmin (with lifetime maps! Very exciting if you've ever owned a sat' nav': the annual map updates can cost more than the unit itself if you're not careful), so I could explore with confidence. It is also annoying as it means I can't renew my NC ID card until the green card comes through, so it will have to have my maiden name on it until then.


As a more direct consequence of this, I am now in need of car insurance that is explicitly aware of and designed for international drivers with full foreign licenses, driving privately owned personal vehicles in the USA. This actually does exist, but it costs a lot.

For six months' insurance. Yowser. 

So, I can do it, and it may even be a little cheaper if we go with Ben's current insurer, as long as they are able to insure people on foreign licenses (some places simply won't do it). Otherwise, I will have to get my own insurance as, although driving is not an "essential" right now per se, it's crucial to my (personal) ability to make Charlotte my home, as well as being able to apply for more wide-ranging jobs. My EAD (Employment Authorisation Document) may well arrive significantly ahead of my green card, so being able to drive will be an asset on my résumé, as and when I have permission to work.

The other complications are that I can't update my new name (as mentioned above), and address on my ID card. You're supposed to do this within 60 days of a move, which may be possible should my green card process be super-fast, but otherwise, I will have to let it lapse. I do hope this won't cause an issue, as it's really nothing I can help, and I've done all I can to make the relevant authorities aware of the situation.

Anyway, it isn't something I can do anything about by worrying any more, and there's some relief in not having to fret about the test for a few months now. We just need to sort out the insurance later today, so I know I am legally allowed to drive, and then we carry on as normal. Which I did when I got home, with milk and Hobnobs. Pip pip!

You can take the biscuits out of the UK, and you can feed them to me.


  1. Sounds like a typical DMV experience. I'm sure you've had lots of people tell you they are a nightmare. I have my green card so no problems there but when I went to do the test they wouldn't accept any of my proof of residence paperwork (stuff from Social Security Administration and USCIS (both government agencies - and their leaflets say they ACCEPT government issued stuff....but anyway, I didn't argue that one, and even a bank statement!). So we went away and got a copy of our house tenancy agreement and an electric bill and went back. The first person I spoke to also said I couldn't get a full licence straight away (this is in West Virginia by the way) because they don't recognise UK licences (not on their "list") and I'd have to get a learners permit (obtainable by doing theory test only) which means I can drive with someone else over 21 with me and would have to drive on that for 30 days before being able to take the test/get a full licence. Anyway....upon returning with correct paperwork and being sent to the desk for processing driving tests they said I was told a load of rubbish at the first desk. It turns out I COULD get do the full test that day and they DO recognise my UK licence. Technically, they did process me for a learners permit and made the card. But I wouldn't have to wait 30 days. I could do the test straight away (I did and passed) and then got my full licence given to me. Because of my UK licence they gave me a very short driving test (a parallel park and a drive around the block). Sorted :)
    Oh, and the GPS is the BEST THING EVER!! I couldn't imagine getting around over here without it (yours even looks the same as mine). I spent a bit of time on various sites downloading custom POI files for places to eat, tourist attractions, etc. Plenty on it out of the box anyway though.

  2. It sounds like the same deal for me, once I get my green card - just have to wait on that, and make sure I have insurance on my UK license in the meantime. One thing I hate is how one person at the DMV not knowing the correct procedure for immigrants can screw up the whole process! It's like every person you ask tells you something different, regardless of what the US government website says.

    So happy to hear your test and general process went so well. You must feel so free! Plus the GPS - cannot wait to use mine! I could apply for a learner's permit, but as that gives me fewer privileges than driving on my UK license, there's no point (plus I am out of time of that score too now, anyway). To be fair to the DMV, I have been there once before and they were very efficient in processing my state ID card. I figured getting one (especially for only $10) would be a good idea, as it gets me on the system (even without driving privileges) and negates the need for me to carry my passport around with me all the time. But it is of course very frustrating to have to go through everything so slowly,

    Let me know how the GPS works out for tourism fun etc. Will keep you/the blog posted as and when I am allowed to apply for a license!


Thanks for taking the time to write! I try to reply to everyone, and I love to read your comments.