Nathan Grigg


I had the “pleasure” of visiting the DMV this week to apply for a driving permit for my oldest kid. By a miraculous sequence of events, we got the permit in a single visit, but it was a close call.

Because the permit will eventually turn into a driver’s license and therefore a REAL ID, the application required two different documents to provide proof of address. There is a long list of valid documents, such as utility bills and property tax bills, and furthermore the DMV recognizes that not everyone living at an address receives such bills:

What if I do not have one of the above residency documents?

You can use a relative’s (parent, child, spouse/domestic partner) residency document if you live at the same address and provide a document (such as a birth or marriage certifcate [sic]) that shows that relationship.

It all seems reasonable enough, but the rules are implemented like a poorly-written computer program.

The question is, can I use my driver’s license (together with a birth certificate) as proof of my teen’s residency? In theory, this should count as definitive proof of address, since they required me to show two address documents in order to receive the license in the first place. At the very least, it should count as one of the two factors, at least as valid as a SoCalGas bill that anyone with a basic PDF editor could easily doctor.

In practice, as you have probably guessed, it counts as nothing. Why? Because the main list of documents is written assuming that they are in the name of the applicant, and this “relative’s residency document” special case is tacked on at the end. And of course, it would be silly to say that you could use your current REAL ID as proof of address to get a REAL ID, so thus you cannot use a relative’s REAL ID as proof of address to get your REAL ID.

Being a paranoid person, I brought two documents in addition to my driver’s license, but even that was almost not enough. See, my address can be written as either 221B Baker St or 221 Baker St #B. The two bills that I brought didn’t match, which (1) was apparently a problem and (2) my driver’s license wasn’t going to get me out of it. The only thing that saved me (this is the miraculous part) was that one of the two bills had the address written both ways.

(For completeness, two other miracles. One, that my kid passed the ridiculous written exam on the first try. A test that did have a question about NEVs without explaining the acronym, and is known for questions like “In which of these locations is it illegal to park? (a) blocking an unmarked crosswalk (b) in a bicycle lane or (c) within three feet of a driveway.” The answer is (a). Nobody knows why. The second miracle is that my teen even got to take the test in the first place, because the DMV shut down the testing center at 4:30 on the dot, sending away everyone who was in line at the time. Credit for this miracle goes to the employee who processed our application, because she shut down her station and went over to the photo station to clear out the queue, getting us through and into the testing center with less than a minute to spare. At the time, we had no idea that we were up against a clock, but I’m pretty sure that she knew and intervened.)

Anyway, now it is time for 50 hours of supervised (by me) driving practice. Wish us luck!