Virginians who renew driver's licenses will soon begin returning home with temporary papers and receiving their new licenses in the mail so their identities can be verified.
The change, slated to take effect by fall 2006, is aimed at thwarting people who use false names and addresses to obtain more than one license or ID card. It also will let the Department of Motor Vehicles implement the technical means to manage increasing amounts of digitized information used by law enforcement agencies.
The DMV has been tightening its security requirements since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Seven of the 19 hijackers had valid Virginia identification cards obtained through loopholes the DMV has been working to close.
The agency also has moved to online verification of Social Security numbers.
In January 2004, it imposed higher standards for proof of citizenship by license applicants. Rules passed by Congress last month will take that a step further by requiring anyone renewing a driver's license to provide proof of legal residency, often with a birth certificate.
The DMV doesn't now compare new license pictures because it lacks the technology, spokeswoman Pam Goheen said, but last month the DMV asked companies to develop a digital system that would do so. Vendor proposals are due by June 28, and the system is to be installed by next fall. The DMV didn't say how much it is expected to cost.
"The system will be able to confirm that the individual's photo is not connected to any other Virginia driver's license or photo identification card," Goheen said. "It will scan the entire system for matches."
The system will use facial recognition software that maps key features of an individual's face -- such as the shape of the ears or the distance between the eyes -- to compare traits. Smiles, hairstyles and clothing are ignored. Results suggesting that a person has applied for multiple licenses will be reviewed.
Driver's license pictures are good for no more than 10 years. After that, a new picture is required, to reflect changes in a person's appearance.
Many steps in the new system are expected to be the same as in the current system, except that picture taking and paperwork will be in reverse order, Goheen said.
Internet customers are accustomed to this process. Renewing online allows people to print documents that serve as temporary permits until licenses are mailed to their homes.