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Bureaucracy

Licensed and Registered

If you want to get a new driver's license, register your car, get a copy of your title, or anything else to do with your car and your driving privileges in Maryland, you go to the MVA.

One place.

Now I'm not saying this is a laugh-a-minute, certainly not. It's a chore at best and a miserable experience at worst, but it's all done at one place.

This is not the case in Pennsylvania, oh no.

Here's the deal.

When you move to Pennsylvania, you have:

  • 60 days to change your driver's license, and
  • 20 days to change your car registration, tags, and title.

Cool. But.

You have to have a Pennsylvania driver's license to get your new registration, tags, and title.

Okay, so get the license first! That's not so bad.

But.

To get your license, you have to prove that:

  • You are allowed to be in the USA, and
  • You reside in Pennsylvania.

This means that you have to hand over your Social Security card and one other form of ID, such as a valid passport, birth certificate, that sort of thing. For proof of residence, you have to show utility bills with your new address on them. If your name is not on the utility bills, but you reside with the person whose name is on the bills, you have to bring that person with you, plus one other proof of residence that has your name and new address on it, like proof of insurance, a magazine, or something like that.

To get your new registration, you have to bring:

  • Your Pennsylvania driver's license,
  • Your car title,
  • Proof of Pennsylvania insurance,
  • A tracing of the car's VIN number or a verification of VIN form, which you get from a car dealer.

Oh, and all the people whose names are on the title have to go and present their driver's licenses.

So! When you get it all sorted out, you realize that you have to do things in this order:

  1. Switch your insurance over.
  2. Get your Pennsylvania driver's license.
  3. Get your new tags, registration, and title.

Okay, got all that?

The insurance part is easy; just call your insurance company and they'll get it done. Ours even sent us a link so that we could print proof of insurance and the insurance cards.

Now you've got all of this stuff together -- and the forms and the fees, don't forget the forms and the fees -- where do you go? To the MVA? My Pennsylvania friends know the answer to this question.

No, you do not.

First, you go to the PennDOT license and photo bureau to get your license. And let me tell you, the Norristown branch is right out of 1968. It is small, and grungy, and weird. I'd show you pictures, but you are NOT allowed to have or use a camera, cell phone, or any other electronic device. (I think it's because they're embarrassed at how shabby the joint is.)

And they do NOT take cash or credit/debit cards; they only take checks and money orders. All righty, then. Fill out your form DL142-S/99bottlesofbeer.10x. Take a number (a paper number). Sit down. Amuse yourself by watching all the people who do not have the right paperwork try to get the clerk to let them slide. (It doesn't work.)

Finally, your number is called. Hand over all the papers, take the vision test, sign here, take this card and go to the next building over, do not take a number, just sit and wait for your name to be called, get your picture taken, get your temporary license. Your offical, actual license will arrive in the mail in a few days.

(By the way, even though Joe and I are together, we must do this separately. That's not a problem; the problem is that we only have one check, and you CANNOT put two fees on one check. So Joe got his, and I'll get mine later.)

Now you can get your registration and title. At a completely different place that is not even associated with PennDOT. It's a completely separate tag and title joint. And - the one in Norristown is in a little Cape Cod house! So you go there, and if you're very lucky there is no one in front of you, and you hand over all the paperwork and pay the fees.

But not by check. No checks accepted.

Cash or debit card, and credit cards too, but you have to a fee to use a credit card.

But they hand you your license plate and registration right then and there, and send the title to the lienholder. All is well.

And then you go to the Norristown Diner and have lunch.

 

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