Moving to a new state can be an exciting adventure. As with most moves, it requires a bit of paperwork and a few extra errands. I should know – I just completed a move 2,000 miles across the country, from Massachusetts to Texas! And high on my moving checklist was figuring out how to update my driver’s license. Not only is this helpful for things such as HR at the new workplace, but states legally mandate that you update your driver’s license within a certain period of time after a move.
I have compiled some tips below to help you navigate the red tape of getting a new driver’s license, and some nuggets of wisdom I learned throughout the process.
Getting Started: Find Your DMV
The first step in figuring out how and where to update your driver’s license is to identify the government entity that handles driver’s licenses in your state. Often times, its called the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Their website will have a complete list of the documentation required to update your driver’s license, as well as the legally mandated timeframe. For some states, this means immediately. The sooner you can check this off your list, the better.
Here’s a great list of where to find your local DMV:
What to Bring to the DMV
Once you know how soon you’ll need to update your driver’s license and where to do it, it’s time to search in your moving boxes for personal documentation. This will prove your identity and your new residency in the area. Before heading to the license office, check your state’s specific list of verification requirements. In general, we’ve found that you will need the following key pieces of documentation:
- Your current driver’s license from your old state. Make sure it’s not expired, or else your process changes from “switching your license from out of state” to “getting a new license” which will require a driver’s test in your new state. (More on that below)
- Additional verification of your identity, including social security card or passport. Your state’s website will include a full list of required documents.
- Proof of residence at your new address. Some states require two forms, such as a utilities or a cable bill.
- Payment. Be sure to check online to find the appropriate form of payment your state requires – cash, check or credit card.
For all these documents, bring original copies rather than scans or photocopies. And don’t expect to be able to show an online bill from your phone as proof – you must bring hard copies.
Make sure you don’t have any big events coming up (like a flight) in the weeks after heading to get your license. When I went to change mine, I received a paper printout version of my new license signed by the DMV worker. They told me they would mail the hard copy within a few weeks. I’m not sure if I could have flown without the hard copy, and when I went to grab drinks with my friends, I brought my passport as identification to be safe.
What To Expect When You’re There
- Wait Times – While the DMV is notorious for excruciating wait times, many states now have a digital waitlist service, where you can “get in line” online the day you plan to go and then you show up within a designated timeframe. Wait times in the summer months are longest, so keep that in mind if you’re completing a move during that timeframe.
- Vision Test – You’ll need to pass a vision test to make sure your eyes are reliable on the road. If you wear prescription glasses or contacts, the DMV will make a note on your new license, making it against the law to drive without your glasses or contacts. I don’t wear either, so when I took my vision test in Texas, I peered into a small machine on a desk at the DMV and read a row of letters out loud to the agent to prove my vision was good enough for the road.
- Payment – Accepted payment methods vary by state, so check online for specific requirements. I brought a checkbook, credit card, debit card, and cash just to be safe. It may have been a little overkill, but I did not want to have waited all that time in line only to have a technicality boot me to the back of the line. In the end, writing a check was the easiest payment method for me, and Texas did not accept cash.
Other Things to Remember When Driving in a New State
You might have to take a driving test
Drivers under 18 may need to take a driver’s test in their new state or provide proof of completed driving classes – even if their license hasn’t yet expired. If your license from your old state has expired, you won’t be able to transfer your license to your new state. Instead, you will need to follow the steps to get a new license in that state, which will include a driver’s test (yes, like the one you took when you were 16).
You’ll need to update your car insurance
You will also need to update your auto insurance when moving. Every state requires drivers to carry a minimum level of liability insurance coverage. Those requirements vary state to state, and your insurance coverage rates vary from zip code to zip code.
While you’re considering changes to your policy, compare quotes with new companies in your area to see if you should stick with your same insurance company. You make the switch to someone who can better serve your coverage needs, budget, and service-level preference.
You must report an address change to your insurance company or else you could risk being dropped or having a claim denied, cautions The Zebra’s own licensed insurance agent Neil Richardson. This is because the insurance company wants to make sure they are rating your policy on the correct zip code and account for any other people who may live at the new location, such as a new spouse.
What Happens If You Don’t Update Your Driver’s License?
In general, you need to update your driver’s license for official and legal records (potentially with your job’s HR department), updating your car insurance, and to comply with state regulations. So while you may get away with keeping your old license for a while, there are eventual consequences.
Contrary to most pop culture references, the DMV visit is not the worse experience in the world, especially if you’re prepared. So grab a book and get it done now so that you can focus on more exciting things, like discovering the best taco place in your neighborhood or where to get the best thrift finds to decorate your new place. And welcome home!