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Licenses and passports

On our trip to the States, we had to take care of renewing two sets of important documents.

One was our New Jersey driving licenses, which, as luck would have it, expired on July 31st.

Having had determined with my accountant – thanks, Mom! – that possession of a valid driver license did not negatively affect our non-resident tax status in NJ, I was certainly keen to renew them. First, as you may know if you read my posts regularly, Natasha is still a driving test away from obtaining her UK license, while I plan to start the process with my own UK license only tomorrow morning. Second, we are increasingly likely to return home for good in the next few years – there is little point in letting the licenses lapse and then have to go through obtaining them from scratch.

The Department of Motor Vehicles was kind enough to send us simple renewal applications to our NJ mailing address, so on the very first day back home, we went to a local DMV office, armed with all necessary documentation.

And an unexpected thing happened. We had it done within literally five minutes or so.

Nobody cared that our licenses expired a few days ago (I fretted about that bit a little). We walked into the office, and the receptionist directed us to a desk, occupied by a visibly bored woman. She brightened at the prospect of doing something for a change, looked over our applications and papers, marked some sort of approval, and sent us two desks down to another bored clerk, who repeated the same procedure. We were then sent to the issuing station, got our pictures taken and paid the fees. After sitting down in a waiting area for what seemed like no more than 90 seconds, we were called back and issued brand new licenses. Voilá!

I still can’t believe how easy that was. We certainly lucked into a no-waiting-lines period in the middle of a workday, but nonetheless, the ease with which we waltzed through the process was amazing.

One question that bothers me a bit is why does my license now expires in 2011, while Natasha has hers through 2013? Any ideas?

Another documents to renew were children’s passports, expiring in December of this year.

It is incredibly difficult to obtain an appointment for the passport renewal at the American Embassy in London, so we long planned of doing the renewal thing during the month that the girls are going to spend in the States. On that same first full day back, we visited a passport applications office.

Everyone probably knows by now that ever since passports became mandatory for travelling to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, the process of obtaining a new passport takes much longer than before, due to considerable increase of Americans who suddenly realize that they need one. We were fully prepared to pay for the most expedite service available, but also steeled ourselves for waiting in a long line at the passport office.

But at the Old Bridge Township, we were greeted by a jovial fellow who was idly playing cards with a friend. Recognizing that we had business to conduct, the guy shooed his playing partner away, and immediately attended to us. The procedure was considerably longer than at the DMV, with checking papers and transferring some of our information onto “for official use only” sections of the applications, but it was painlessly completed within twenty minutes or so.

We did pay for the 5-7 business days expedite service, but were informed that this service now guarantees 4-weeks turnaround. Good enough for us.

The new passports have not arrived yet, obviously, and I may be jinxing the process by being delighted with the ease of it, but the fact remains: I was ready to allocate a full day to standing in long lines and possibly going through explanations of why this is this and that is that; but the two procedures took just an hour combined, including travel. I don’t recall ever being so gratified by government functions.

You could guess how morose my home-alone mood is, if I keep finding delight in that…