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MVD staffers save the day for huddled masses seeking Real IDs

REAL ID FOR FIRST-TIME DRIVERS: Earlier this month I joined the huddled masses at a Motor Vehicle Division office in search of a Real ID driver’s license for my son.

We never expected to be locked inside after hours, and what we had sweated over the most wasn’t even asked for. Let me back up and explain:

We walked into the MVD office that’s run by the city of Rio Rancho at 2:22 p.m. on a Thursday and took No. 169. The office is open until 4 p.m., and with around 30 folks in front of us we figured we had plenty of time.

Over the next 98 minutes we wondered what would happen if our number wasn’t called by closing time. We found out at the stroke of 4 p.m., when the staff locked the doors with us and at least 30 other drivers inside.

Now the manager was the epitome of patience and grace – she immediately stepped up and explained her team would take care of everyone in the building, and then she ran down the Real ID rules (displayed on large poster boards by the door) so if anyone was missing a document they’d know to leave and come back again another day.

My son and I had everything and then some – his Social Security card to prove his identity number and his original birth certificate to prove his identity. And while we had tracked down the two proofs of residency the state MVD website says are required (his latest report card with his full address and a savings account statement), the clerk didn’t want those – instead she asked for my driver’s license and had me fill out a short Affidavit of Residency for him.

Because he’s under 18 and a first-time driver, we also handed over the form showing he had completed driver’s ed and had taken the written test there.

Then he took the eye test, got his photo taken, signed up to be an organ donor, and I forked over the $10 learner’s permit fee plus Rio Rancho’s $10 surcharge. Once our number was called it took less than 15 minutes to get his temporary Real ID learner’s permit and walk out the side door. (The permanent permit should be coming in the mail any day.)

Our clerk told us the staff is routinely there until after 6 p.m. to take care of the customers in line before 4 p.m. and balance the cash drawers. We go back in six months to get my son’s provisional license, and while we now know to block off two hours, we also know the staff is putting in that much time past closing and that if we’re in line, we’ll be taken care of.

PASSING ALONG INFO ON PASSPORT APPS: Because we had all my son’s official documents out, we decided to also get him a new passport. (If you are under the age of 16 you can’t renew and must go through the application process again.)

We gathered up his birth certificate as well as a copy of it, my and my husband’s driver’s licenses and copies of those, the DS-11 passport application we got online, one check for a passport photo ($15) and application fee ($25), and another check for a federal passport fee ($80) and passport card ($15).

And we went to one of the best-kept local secrets in passport applications: the University of New Mexico Bookstore. UNM’s Global Education Office has a cubicle inside the bookstore that takes appointments from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and walk-ins from 2 to 4:40 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 11 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Saturdays. (Call 697-0110 or email to schedule an appointment).

The three of us showed up around noon on a Saturday (both parents need to be present or you need an extra form of consent from the non-present parent with the rest of your documents). There was one family being helped when we arrived. We were in and out in a matter of minutes, with a tracking number and a 20-percent-off coupon for bookstore merchandise. My son’s birth certificate will be returned to us by mail, and his passport and passport card should arrive in a few weeks in a separate mailing.

We’ve all heard and/or shared horror stories of trying to get ID documents in order post 9-11, and we’re all in the same boat trying to get them. I hope my family’s experience helps folks out, and please keep sharing yours with me and Journal readers.

Editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the Metro area on Mondays. Reach her at 823-3858;; or P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, N.M. 87103.