Effective Wednesday, January 1, 2013, anyone registering a motor vehicle in Massachusetts will have to produce documentation showing “proof of legal residence.” This requirement is in response to legislation which was passed as part of a state budget amendment in July to prevent unlicensed drivers and illegal immigrants from registering motor vehicles.
Other parts of the budget amendment include increased penalties for driving without a license, knowingly employing someone who is unlicensed, knowingly allowing an unlicensed driver to operate your motor vehicle, and manufacturing a false ID.
The new law does not require the Registry of Motor Vehicles to verify the immigration status of someone registering a vehicle. It simply requires the person to present documentation of his or her legal residence.
The law rightfully gives the Registrar of Motor Vehicles the authority to exempt disabled persons, senior citizens, out-of-state students, and military personnel from the proof of residency requirement.
Acceptable proof of residency includes a driver’s license, a Registry identification card, Social Security number, or other suitable proof including current utility bills. Some have criticized the Registry’s policy to accept current utility bills. However, this criticism overlooks the fact that the Registry has always accepted current utility bills as proof of residence, even from those who are applying for a driver’s license. You can see this listed as an acceptable way to prove residence in driver’s license manuals.
Some commentators are implying that there was some conspiracy between the Registry and Governor’s Office to create a gaping “loophole” by accepting utility bills as proof of residency. This is simply not true, as the Registry has always accepted these documents as proof of residency when issuing a driver’s license, which is a much more secure document than a vehicle registration. There was no circumvention of the law. The Registry simply allows applicants for Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Registrations to prove their legal residences using the same item of proof which is and has always been accepted from Massachusetts Driver’s License Applicants. Further, proving residency with a current utility bill is an accepted practice for obtaining resident discounts and other such benefits. Many utility companies verify the information provided through credit and other computerized checks. Furthermore, gas, electric, telephone, and cable companies obviously know the physical address were services are being provided.
Accepting utility bills as proof of residency is commonplace and Massachusetts is not alone in relying on these documents. The vast majority of other states such as Washington D.C., New York, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, Kansas, and Wisconsin, to name a few states, all accept utility bills as proof of residency. If the Legislature did not want the Registrar to accept these documents in support of Massachusetts vehicle registration applications, it should have said so.The media should not criticize the Registrar for following an accepted industry standard.
If you need more information regarding the new Massachusetts registration requirements, you can visit the RMV website.