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Some Md. drivers will face longer wait for permits, licences

Monday - 12/23/2013, 4:23pm  ET

WASHINGTON - A whole new world was about to open up to those drivers who remember the thrill of getting their licenses. Even walking out of the Department of Motor Vehicles with a learner's permit in-hand was a big deal, even a rite of passage. Well, that's about to change for Maryland's novice drivers.

Starting next month, learner's permits won't be handed out at the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration's satellite offices. Instead, new drivers will have to wait for their learner's permits to arrive in the mail. And they won't be the only ones waiting by the mailbox for certain MVA documents.

The same will be true for anyone applying for a state ID and for those immigrants without documentation who are now able to get driver's licenses in the state of Maryland.

All of those documents will arrive by mail under a new, more secure system.

"Twenty-nine other states are doing it this way, it's the way of the future," says Phillip Dacey, Director of External Affairs at the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration.

Dacey explains it increases security because there will be fewer opportunities for fraudsters who work to create realistic looking fakes.

"By centralizing the process, we are able to secure the materials," he says. So they don't fall into the hands of counterfeiters who, Dacey says, "are always out there working."

The new process also allows the MVA to do a more thorough check on the addresses and ID's of those applying for the new licenses and state ID cards. But that should not be taken to mean that illegal immigrants, who are now able to get driver's licenses legally under Maryland law, should fear that screening will make them more vulnerable to federal prosecution, Dacey says.

"We do not share our information outside the scope of law enforcement. At this time we're not actively sharing that information with immigration officials and we have no plans to," he says.

The change that allows undocumented workers to obtain driver's licenses was the subject of heated debate in Annapolis, but Dacey repeats, the checks into the ID's of applicants won't be shared with the immigration officials.

Noting the eagerness of new drivers to get that learner's permit in-hand as soon as possible, there will be an option to get next day delivery for an added $15 fee, Dacey says.

The changes in distribution for learner's permits, state ID's and drivers licenses go into effect Jan. 2, 2014.

WTOP's Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @KateRyanWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

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