Local driver license lines may get relief
Huntsville office to start processing applications for foreign nationals
By M.J. Ellington
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MONTGOMERY — Long lines at the Decatur driver license examination office could get shorter as soon as January.
The state Department of Public Safety's Huntsville license exam office will begin processing applications for foreign nationals soon after the first of the year, relieving some pressure on the Decatur office, now the only site north of Birmingham processing international applications.
"The Decatur office is serving more customers than it has capacity to serve," said public safety's new driver license division director F.A. "Bubba" Bingham. "This seemed like a way to serve our customers better and also relieve pressure on people working at the examination sites."
Bingham said many of the foreign nationals who now get licenses in Decatur drive from the Huntsville area.
"This will be better for them and better for Decatur," he said.
Decatur will still process foreign national applications, as will other centers in Birmingham, Dothan, Montgomery,, Mobile and Tuscaloosa. Bingham said the department also plans to expand foreign national exam sites to Jacksonville and Opelika.
Bingham said public safety already has ordered equipment needed to scan driver identification papers for the Huntsville office. The department also has officers in the Huntsville area with immigration and naturalization ICE training they need to work with international applicant paperwork.
Both Bingham and new Public Safety Director Chris Murphy say they want to change the process, which often results in long lines and multiple trips before drivers obtain a license or renewal papers.
The new license division director said he talked to a woman last week in Birmingham who had to drive from Jacksonville with a foreign national from her area seeking licenses.
"She must have had to get up at 4 o'clock in the morning to get there in time," he said.
Bingham said some license program changes, including increased operating hours of examination sites and possible overtime for employees, will take approval of the Legislature and the governor.
An express lane for drivers who need simple changes will begin soon after the first of the year. He also wants the state to consider letting drivers make appointments and ways to make the process easier for the elderly and people who cannot stand for long periods.
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