American in Spain

How Not To Renew Your Driver License In Your Home Country If You Are An Expat

November 25, 2008

When I was stateside in February, I went to the Department of Motor Vehicles to check about what I should do about my soon-to-expire driver license. For some reason, all driver licenses in the US (or just North Carolina?) expire on your birthday. I explained that I was living in Spain, and that my license would expire in October when I was not here, but that I would be in the US again in November. They told me that I couldn't renew my license until a few months (3?) before it expired, but that I could A) make the renewal payment over the internet and promise to take the visual test upon arriving in the US in November, or B) just renew it when I got to the DMV office again in November. I chose the latter.

So I get to the DMV office and there is no one there, but they still give me a number and forward me immediately to a certain agent with my newly printed number displayed above his desk. It's an asian gentleman named, unfortunately, Hang. He looked at my expired license and asked if I still lived at that address in Raleigh, to which I stupidly replied.... Erik: "No, actually I'm living in Spain." Hang: "So you're not living in North Carolina?" Erik: "No. Spain. In Europe." Hang: "You're in the [military] service?" Erik: "No, I just live there." Hang [looking belligerent]: "We can't issued drivers licenses to people that are not residents of North Carolina. We get people coming down from New York City who lose their ID, and come in here wanting us to issue them a new one. We can't do that." Erik: "Well, the truth is that I work in North Carolina, pay NC taxes, and visit often." Hang: "You work in NC? How?" Erik: "The internet." Hang: "What do they speak in Spain? Spanish?" Erik: "Yes." Hang: "I bet it's a different accent than around here, though, huh..." Erik: "Yep." Hang: "Hmm... Well, your situation is certainly unique. Let me talk to my supervisor."

About this time, I glance at Marga and she's got her, "Good God, my husband is an idiot!" look on her face. (She gets a lot of practice with that look.) I begin contemplating where the next town's DMV office is so we can go there to renew my license with an easy falsehood.

Finally, Hang returns and has concluded that my situation is enough like a military employee (working for the US, living abroad, and needing to renew paperwork locally) that I should be treated as such. He gives me my eye test and issues me my new license. By complete chance, I happened to be wearing the same t-shirt as I had been in my previous drivers license photo eight years ago. I love that shirt. And all is well. Just barely.

So, to all other expats that are renewing their documents in their home countries: LIE!