Saturday, August 31, 2013

Early experiences of living in Somerville: the RMV

This is a helpful advice post for any Canadians moving to the US.

Andrew and I have been living in Somerville for a month and a half now (yeesh, has it really been that long already?) and it seemed time to take care of our drivers licenses and car registration. So, last Thursday we waded into bureaucratic hell for the day (so maybe just bureaucratic purgatory). I cried, twice. And at the of the day I still didn't have a license or a car registration.

So, what happened?

The RMV opened at 10:00 am. We'd been told it would be a good idea to show up early, at least half an hour, so we did. We biked over to the RMV as it seemed the a better plan over driving through rush hour, then trying to find parking/pay for it when we found it. The line up at 9:30 was already stretched along three quarters of the block--thankfully it was a nice day, so waiting outside wasn't too unpleasant. Neither of us remembered to bring a book, so it wasn't very interesting waiting.

Once the doors opened the line moved fairly quickly, with a front reception desk that directed people to where they needed to go (which was a good thing since there were at least 3 floors to the RMV we went to). Each person was handed a ticket with their number and the estimated wait time. I headed off to the licencing area, while Andrew tried to get our car registered.

When I got up to the desk I handed over my papers (driver's abstract, visa documents, drivers licence), then I was asked where my application form was. Application form? I didn't have one. So, the lady handed me a form and told me to come back when I'd filled it out. I did as quickly as possible, then re-approached her desk. She took everything again, then as she was going through things I pointed out that I didn't have a social (security number, they're big here in the US, they're needed for everything). Then I was told I had to get a social security denial form. Of course, this wasn't available at the RMV, so I'd have to go several subway stops away to the nearest office.

The lady polite enough, she even told me if I could get back by 2:00 pm (it was around 11:15 at this point), I could come back up to her desk without waiting. I mumbled out a thanks then left. By the time Andrew and I got down to our bikes I was blinking back tears.

We biked home (about a 30 minute ride), had some lunch, and decided it would be best if we did the social security stuff that day. There was one located in Cambridge, so we drove over there, managed to find some on street parking and a cafe where we could get change for the meter. The line up at the social security office wasn't too long, we probably made it to a desk in 15 minutes. The woman who helped us was very nice, then she noticed I'd handed over Andrew's passport instead of mine.

No problem, I had my visa info, did I have my driver's licence (photo ID)? Of course I did...I opened up my, I didn't have my driver's license, it was with all the other papers I'd taken to the RMV and was still tucked in my pannier. We couldn't proceed without at least my photo ID or my passport. By the time were back to the car I was in tears. I had a nice little breakdown in the car. The tears were mostly just stress-related, and I hadn't slept well the nicght before. Andrew drove us back home, I ran up stairs and grabbed the documents I'd forgotten, then we drove back to the office (it closed at 3:00 pm). This time we were successful in getting the forms we needed.

I went back to the RMV on Monday, I received my Mass driver's licence on Friday.

What you need to get your Canadian driver's license switched to an American one (you can also double check this online at: Mass DOT RMV):
1) You're out of state driver's license.
2) A document showing your birth date.
3) A document showing your signature.
4) A document proving your residence in your new state.
5) A driver's abstract no more than 30 days old.
6) A social security number, OR a denial notice.

An out of state driver's license can be used to prove your birth date or your signature, but NOT both.
All documents must be originals.

I handed over:
1) My Alberta driver's license.
2) My passport (with supporting visa documents to show I was legal to be here).
3) My cheque book (to show my residence in Somerville).
4) My Alberta's driver's abstract (which I had to get my friend Lisa [thanks Lisa!] to order since the one we got before we moved expired).
5) My denial notice for a social security number.

You also need to fill out an application form, which you can get when you get online, or at the RMV.


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