Crowds expected for rollout of Nevada driving cards Thursday

CARSON CITY — Nevada residents who want to apply for a driver authorization card beginning today should be prepared — with documents they need to present to the DMV and to wait in line.

With as many as 60,000 residents eligible for the card to allow non-U.S. citizens to drive legally in Nevada, workers at the Department of Motor Vehicles could be overwhelmed at its several Las Vegas area locations.

DMV Director Troy Dillard said his agency is ready for a wave of applications.

“The Legislature estimated as many as 60,000 people will apply for the new card,” he said. “We don’t know how much of a crowd we will get starting on Thursday, but we expect there will be a healthy amount of interest in obtaining the new card.”

The agency’s preparations for the new card have included 18 new hires, computer system modifications, staff training, registration of approved translators, and sponsoring or taking part in a series of public workshops in Las Vegas and Reno.

“We have made a concerted effort to interact with community groups in both Las Vegas and Reno to get the word out about the DAC,” Dillard said. “It has been a high-profile issue since the passage of Senate Bill 303, and we understand its significance.”

The agency tends to see bigger crowds after a holiday under normal circumstances. That will be the case today following the New Year’s Day holiday on Wednesday.

Officials urge those who don’t have pressing business with the agency to try a different day when wait times are shorter.

Add in the new driver authorization cards and other new programs to the routine DMV business and there could be long lines.

The first order of business for those looking to apply for the new card should be to check the Nevada DMV website. Its main page shows the wait times at the various offices.

The wait times at all the offices were less than 30 minutes earlier this week in the early morning hours but later exceeded an hour or more at several locations.

Those seeking the card will need to provide proof of identity and residency in Nevada. The DMV website provides a list of documents that can satisfy these requirements. Documents in another language must be translated, and the agency provides a list of approved translators who can perform such work.

The cost of the card, which is good for only one year, is $22.25 plus an additional $25 if the written or skills test is required.

Applicants who are not licensed in the United States must pass DMV vision tests as well as written and driving skills tests. The cards are available to teen drivers ages 16 to 17, as well as those age 18 and older. Younger drivers will have to follow the same rules for driver training as required for those seeking regular permits and licenses.

The written test, taken on a computer screen, is available in English and Spanish. Many examiners who administer the skills test are bilingual in Spanish, but there is no guarantee an applicant will get one of these examiners.

DMV spokesman Kevin Malone said the examiners are accustomed to dealing with people from all over the world and in all languages and will use hand signals for those who are not fluent in English.

Those who are successful will get a temporary document at a DMV office with a permanent card coming later in the mail.

The card cannot be used to apply for any state programs, and it will be up to merchants whether they will accept the card for identification purposes.

DMV officials also advise those with the cards to check with neighboring states to determine if the cards will be accepted for driving purposes.

Those with suspended or revoked driving privileges in other states will not be able to apply for the card.

Most Nevada lawmakers and Gov. Brian Sandoval backed the authorization card for safety reasons, modeling it after a similar program adopted in Utah.

Individuals receiving the cards will have to obtain insurance if they own a vehicle.

“This is not about politics,” Sandoval said when he signed the bill into law in May. “This is about making roads safer. This is good for everybody.”

New English and Spanish language driver handbooks are also online. The Spanish version was translated at no cost by the Nevada Interpreters and Translators Association.

Of the 18 additional people funded by the Legislature to help process the requests, 14 will be in Las Vegas, with four others in Reno.

Nevada’s law clearly states that the information provided by residents to the DMV to obtain a card will not be turned over to U.S. immigration authorities.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Follow him on Twitter @seanw801.