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

November 25, 2008 By: erik Category: Musings, USA 6,095 views

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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!

  • yes erik… lie! According all sorts of official bodies in oz i am “overseas at the moment” if anyone ever tries to get in touch with me… My drivers license I was luckily able to renew by mail this time, but you never, ever tell them you live in another country because that sends public servants into a little tail spin as they try to fathom such a strange notion.. the motor registry department in my state clearly states that you can’t renew your license if you are living outside of the state, but i’ll be damned if i’ll go through the whole thing testing thing again should i ever decide to move home! I’ve done it twice, in australia and then in spain, and i’m not doing it again!

  • I spent four years working for a company which was not registered in Belgium, even though they had a permanent office there, so I had to tell various authorities that I was employed in th UK and that I just visited Brussels regularly for work.

  • The same shirt? Really? Eight years later?

  • What can I say? It’s my favorite shirt! And my previous license was really only 5 years ago. My bad. But the shirt is probably 10 years old. Looks brand new.

  • I can just imagine Marga’s face. 😀

    You should check out this video, I think you’ll get a kick out of it. Is it that easy in NC (assuming you don’t say you live in Spain)? And do people ever think you live in South America? When I was going to move here, people used to ask my mom how she could let me go to South America, it being such a dangerous place and all.

  • Theresa, I don’t know how easy it is to get a new picture taken for your license in NC. My renewal set me back $32. I think it would have been less if I hadn’t let it expire.

    I’ve never had anyone ask me about living in South America. The DMV guy was the first I’ve seen to be unsure about the language spoken in Spain. In retrospect, I should have said, “No, they speak Mexican.” He’d probably have accepted that information without blinking.

  • I think you’ll get a kick out of it. Is it that easy in NC (assuming you don’t say you live in Spain)? And do people ever think you live in South America?

  • Lou K

    oh my….you are absolutely right…Lie is the answer thank you for this priceless info guys!
    Expat in Spain

  • Missionaryontherun

    I just read this too late! Sitting at the DMV awaiting approval wishing I had lied! We live in Mexico. :).

  • CJ

    What address did you put down for your last resident address? Im trying to renew a Washington License while living in London since we will only be here for another 1.5 yrs and mine will expire while Im living abroad. Thanks for your advise.

    • I used my folks’ address. I don’t think they ask you for proof or anything. You can give them any address, probably.