Lost Your Important Identification Documents? It’ll Cost You

My husband’s driver’s license expired last month, and we weren’t on top of it. Yesterday, we began gathering up the documentation needed to satisfy a new law that went into effect this year in Utah, where we live. Now, everyone getting a driver’s license — even if it is a renewal license — is required to show proof of lawful resident status in the United States. For U.S. citizens, this means an original birth certificate, or official copy, or an unexpired passport. A look at my husband’s passport showed that it was expired. (And reminded me that mine is expired too; clearly we don’t leave the country enough.)

Flies Cabinet

Photo by mrmanc via Flickr

The expired passport triggered a search for his official birth certificate copy. I’m embarrassed to say that we couldn’t find it. Anywhere. Mine didn’t turn up, either. As a result of this situation, we are going to be paying for replacement identification. We have two options in this situation:

  1. Get a new birth certificate copy: It will cost $30 for my husband to get a new official birth certificate copy. And, because he was born in the state of New York, his mom will have to get it — and send it to us. If we use overnight mail, it will cost another $30.80. We can save more, of course, by getting guaranteed two-day delivery ($18.30) or by waiting for priority mail ($4.90).
  2. Renew the passport: It is easier to renew a passport than it is to renew a driver’s license in the state of Utah. If we get one of the cool new passport cards, total fees run $55. (It costs $135 for a passport book.) To have the passport card expedited, it would cost $60. But, the only thing my husband would need to renew his passport is to send in his expired one, since 15 years hasn’t passed since expiration, and he was older than 16 when he got it.

We’re currently going with the birth certificate method, since it will be here faster even than an expedited passport card, which can take two to three weeks to arrive. In the meantime, I have to drive my husband around, since we don’t want to risk the costs that come with him getting nailed for driving on an expired license. But even that requires a cost — gas and the value of my time.

Avoiding this Problem in the Future

Of course, if I knew where my husband’s birth certificate was, this wouldn’t be an issue. He’d have his shiny new driver’s license in hand right now. Our big problem is that we don’t have our birth certificates in a centralized place with our insurance policies and our marriage license (I do know where these things are). Another issue of concern is that these important identifying and financial documents are not in a fire safe. They are in a metal file cabinet — I still don’t know why our birth certificates aren’t; my son’s is — but not one that could withstand fire. It would probably let in leaks during a flood.

For around $100, we could have a decent, small fire safe large enough for important financial and identification documents. This incident was a real wake-up call for me. What would the financial toll be if insurance documents and other documents were destroyed in a some kind of catastrophe? Much larger than the $100 it would cost to get a safe. And I’d know exactly where everything important is stored.

About the Author

By , on Nov 15, 2010
Miranda Marquit
Miranda is a professional personal finance journalist. She is a contributor for several personal finance web sites. Her work has been mentioned in and linked to from, USA Today, The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. She also has her own personal finance blog: Planting Money Seeds.

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Leave Your Comment (3 Comments)

  1. Kapil Om says:

    Losing papers are more than that! This exact discussion is going on at our page on facebook where we are sharing our paper stories: https://www.facebook.com/kleetoindia?v=app_4949752878&ref=ts We are launching a service in India to prevent permanent loss of paper docs since they are particularly vulnerable to fire, theft, termites etc. We will store the papers, scan them and index them. Please head over to the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/kleetoindia to have a look and tell us what you think.

  2. Ryan says:

    I recently had to pay a $25 fee for a late driver’s license renewal. Luckily, I had the ID necessary to get it renewed without jumping through hoops. At least they didn’t require me to take another written/driving exam!

  3. Paul Michael says:

    Very interesting, we should be very careful about our papers and our Ids because if we don`t we have to pay, too much in my opinion, to have some new ones.Not to say anything more about the time lost during the process of getting new Ids or the other problems that could show up

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