Driver’s license renewal debacle

| 12/04/2013

Updated with a happy ending — I have just heard the most absurd story about someone trying to renew their licence – from the horse’s mouth as it were so I know that this is true and not simply ‘marl road’. A friend’s licence expires on his birthday (as do most licences unless you’ve let it lapse for any reason). He is leaving the Island to go on holiday the day before his birthday and will be in another country on his birthday where he has a rental car booked.

Being a good responsible citizen and wishing to be as organized as possible, he went to the Vehicle Licensing department to renew his licence. Arriving at the desk, he was told that it is not possible to renew your licence before the date of expiry. Note his licence expires in only 1 week!

So … just a couple of pertinent points that come to mind upon hearing his story:1)  he will be in a foreign country on his birthday and unable to rent a vehicle because he will not have a valid drivers licence; and 2) were he to be in Cayman, he would technically be unable to drive to the department of vehicle licensing to renew his licence because once his licence expires, his insurance would not be valid

In addition, having asked to speak to the supervisor, he was told that although the supervisor was sympathetic, his hands were tied … the only solution being offered is to be fleeced of approximately $60 and purchasing an international driver's licence so that he will be covered whilst away. Especially in these difficult times, one can ill afford to pay additional (and one might consider unnecessary) expenses especially those that have not been budgeted for.

Interestingly, the Department of Vehicle Licensing has just introduced a per diem penalty fee for letting your licence lapse (I assume there is a grace period although I am not sure for how long) and as my friend is planning on being away from the Island for 6 weeks and in light of this new policy will now have to renew his licence when he returns. I wonder if the Department of Vehicle Licensing will then want to charge him a per diem penalty for letting his licence lapse …

A few questions that need to be answered:
• Who came up with this absurdly ridiculous change of procedure?
• How has it been allowed to be implemented into procedure (without some sensible input)?
• Does it not encourage people to be tardy in renewing their licences (therefore allowing more people to be driving uninsured on our roads)?
• Is it simply a way to raise more government revenue (i.e. by selling more international drivers licences and charging more ‘lapsed licence penalties’)?

So far, the best explanation (if you can call it that) is ‘we sympathise but our hands are tied’!  

Update Monday 15 April

Having written last week about a friend I had who had difficulty renewing his licence, I wanted to provide a positive update.

Firstly to the detractors who got lost on the fact that my friend can afford to 1) go on holiday and 2) rent a car but ʻneeded to get a lifeʼ because he could obviously afford the $60 for an international drivers licence, Iʼd just like to say, youʼre missing the point. Itʼs completely irrelevant whether you can afford the $60 or not; itʼs a point of principle that you shouldnʼt have to pay an additional $60 ʻjust because you can afford itʼ, and Iʼm sure those who have commented adversely wouldnʼt want to be fleeced for $60 either whether they can afford it or not!

I was interested by one commenter who mentioned a parent who was previously resident who gets a visitors licence each year with no issues. I have a family member (who is Caymanian but hasnʼt lived here in 21 years) who is told heʼs not entitled to a visitors licence and must pay for the 21 years heʼs let his licence lapse (despite holding a valid licence from another country) so it seems there are a few gray areas!

For those who thought I was blaming the civil servants, especially those in the Department of Vehicle Licensing, you are very much mistaken. This was not a personal attack on any individuals or even any government department; this was an attack on the legislation that allowed for this situation to arise and I can now confirm that my information is sadly correct — this was not simply a matter of encountering the wrong civil servant on the wrong day.

That said, I have a positive update: I can confirm my friend now has his renewed drivers licence. This came about from enquiring with the powers that be but also from a serendipitous meeting with a friendly policeman. Having recounted the story of the licence renewal debacle to a policeman he met the day after the debacle, the policeman agreed it was an awkward piece of legislation but heʼd see what he could do to help rectify the situation and took my friends telephone number.

Well, hats off to the civil service because a short while after, my friend received a phone call telling him that if he returned to the Department of Vehicle Licensing and spoke with the same supervisor; they were expecting his return and as long as he was happy to surrender his existing licence and realise that it would expire on the day he surrendered itand not on his birthday (thereby essentially paying for the 1 week left on his licence twice), all would be well and he would indeed be issued with a new licence.

So, although in my humble opinion there is still a fault in the law because there doesnʼt seem to be a way around either paying for a (very) short period of time twice OR waiting until your licence expires and driving illegally and without insurance to get the licence renewed, I am pleased to report that this situation has been resolved and happy to let others know that all is not lost. Not only did my friend meet an excellent policeman who was keen to help when he was informed of the situation, BUT he was also greeted by very helpful people back at the Department of Vehicle Licensing who are well aware that the system is not perfect but they are in fact willing to work with the public in any way that they can.

A happy ending on this occasion.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I had a license renewal 1 day after my birthday (which fell on a Sunday in February this year) and was charged a late fee.  A friend renewed his license 1 week early in March but was not given any pro rate.  And of course the renewal fees had gone up since last time either of us had to renew our licenses.  How do we manage with less income (3.2% for some) and work reduced to every other week for others – and higher expenses at every turn? No wonder Children are Hungry in Cayman Schools – expenses/rent/utilities vs. feeding the family !! 

  2. Anonymous says:

    Ms. Oakley, if the $60 is a "matter of principle" as you say it is (and by the way, I agree that it is), then you ought to have said so from the beginning – but that's not what you said in your original piece.  In your original piece you stated:  "…the only solution being offered is to be fleeced of approximately $60 and purchasing an international driver's licence so that he will be covered whilst away. Especially in these difficult times, one can ill afford to pay additional (and one might consider unnecessary) expenses especially thosethat have not been budgeted for."  Nothing about principle there – all you hinted at is that people and possibly your frienc can "ill afford to pay additional…"  In that case, my earlier point stands  Say what you mean and mean what you say.  Just sayin…

    • Anonymous says:

      An international license is useless without a current domestic license from the issuing authority.

      Read the post below with the regulations.


      Also to those who rent just fine in Florida without one, that’s great until you have an accident, especially if you use your own insurance as technically you are driving illegaly. It's just not enforced. Remeber Ivan and how the insurance companies were.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Ms. Oakley, I understand from the staff that they were only doing as was instructed.  It was their boss that told them last week that they could not renew a driver's licence before the expiry date any longer.  I can only assume that he realized that they had given them incorrect information and rescinded his instructions.  The clerks would not have taken this decision on their own without instructions from the Head of the Department. Call any of them to confirm if you wish.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Any Cayman resident driving in the US now would be well advised to carry both their Cayman Licence and International Driver’s Licence with them (a cheap investment). This combination will (a) usually bemuse the local police or state trooper/highway patrol and (b) ensure you are within the law in all States.

    Tim Ridley.

    • Anonymous says:

      It appears that if you mention anything about an International Driver's Licence, you will get trolled – especially if you say that it's a cheap investment… 

    • Anonymous says:

      Mr. Ridley, we rented a car in Florida last week with our Cayman licences. There was no issue whatsoever.

      • Anonymous says:

        Renting a vehicle is not an issue. The problem arises if you are pulled over by law enforcement or get in an accident. The position varies between States in the USA. The law in Florida has been that a Cayman (or other foreign licence) was sufficient (Florida being a tourist destination, this made obvious sense). In other States, both a valid foreign licence and an international driver's licence was and is required. Florida has recently amended its legislation to require an international driver's licence (why is a story for another day). However, my last information was that implementation has been deferred, because of the obvious impact on tourism and car rental businesses! Tim Ridley

  5. Oakley Sunglasses says:

    Hmmm, this isn’t adding up for me. I’ve renewed my DL 3 weeks from its expiration, which would have been in Feb. this year, on my birthday. No resistance or bad attitudes encountered. We’ll see what happens in 4 years and 10 months from now.

    It would be great if someone from the Department clarifies this policy and the author’s comments to avoid a herd mentality in replies.

  6. Anonymous says:

    My driving licence expires on May 20: that is a Monday and a public holiday. Therefore I will be applying for my renewal on or before May 17. If I get any aggro as detailed in Annie Oakley's viewpoint, I will report further. I don't expect it however. It would be totally ridiculous.

  7. Anonymous says:

    There's something awfully wrong with this story – in the seven plus years that I lived in the Cayman Islands, I don't ever recall having such issues with renewing my license; not to say though that they can't be complete morons and that your friend didn't run into one of them…  I would have your friend go to a different licensing office and try again.

  8. Anonymous says:

    When you get a drivers license and pay for 3 years you do not really ever get the exact 3 years as the license expires on your birthday. This is unless you get your first license on your birthday. I renewed my last license 6 months before it expired since I was at licensing doing something else and thought why not. Surely the staff just didn’t know the procedure to renew a driving license? She probably got confused and thought it was the same a renewing a car inspection? But this happening at the department is not surprising as I have had stranger things happen to me.

  9. Kato says:

    The people at licensing department are baphoons especially the guys that completes the inspections. They never heard of the word discretion before. I went there last week and my tint was short by 2%. The guy said he couldn’t do anything because the law is the law. I tried to explain that I had put the legal tint on however with the factory tint It was coming up short. With disgust I gave up and an to remove the tint. After couple hours I came back and I noticed the guy coming off a motor cycle which his helmet was tinted with the reflective kind of tint so I beg to ask the question is he legal considering you can’t see who is on the bike? Our laws are so draconian. I agree tint shouldn’t be 2% but in this climate the could be a bit lenient.

    • Anonymous says:

      So, now you're complaining that they are upholding the law?  0/10, please try again.

  10. Anonymous says:

    CIG showing it's competence again! Any comment Mr. Dep Gov? You are in charge eh? Probably take several meetings with CO's and Attorney Gen and…maybe a consultant from overseas too? What a waste of time and money policies/decisions like these cost us all!

  11. Anonymous says:

    A former resident cannot be required to pay for a full renewal because they would not satisfy the residency requirements to hold a renewed licence and in many cases cannot hold a renewed full licence without invaldiating their foreign livences.

  12. unsure says:

    Hey folks,

    This story doesn't sound right.  The last time I renewed my license I was at the department to insure a vehicle.  The very friendly and helpful woman at the counter looked at my licence and said, it expires in less than a week.  Why not renew it now and save yourself a trip.

    I really don't know whom your friend got advice from, but there are now several people on here with a completely different experience.  

    Some piece of information is missing.  It's always easiest to blame the civil servants.  I must tell you that some of the most helpful, courteous and sensible people I have dealt with in the civil service is at the Department of Vehicle and Licensing.  I actually once wrote up a commendation note for a member of staff who impressed me with not only how she treated me but how she treated other staff. 

    If your friend's story is right, I think they got a rotten apple.  Don't condemn the entire barrell.

    • Anonymous says:

      I was there last week and could not renew my license either – 2 weeks ahead of expiry – totally ridiculous law and someone should answer toit !

  13. Anonymous says:

    Your friend is going overseas for six weeks but cannot afford an extra $60?  Not saying that he ought to pay that $60, but let's not exaggerate – if he cannot afford an extra $60, he might want to stay at home.  Just sayin'…

  14. Anonymous says:

    My parents are former residents and visit every year. My dad always gets a visitors licence with no problem.

  15. SKEPTICAL says:

    I didn’t get as far as the counter last week when I went to renew my DL ten days before my birthday – the security guard said the camera for Licence pictures wasn’t working and they didn’t know when it would be back in service. I leave for a month at the beginning of next week, and on the face of it will be facing a penalty when I get back for allowing my DL to expire”, when I had no option – can’t win can we.

    • Anonymous says:

      If your appearance hasn't changed they will usually let you use the previous photo on their records, at least they did for me. I would just call them and ask.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Hahaha. Welcome to Gowerment service.

    • Anonymous says:

      Simple solution: convienently lose/throw it away!    

    • Anonymous says:

      From what has been said below with the examples of people saying that they have renewed their drivers liscense before time and I know that I have as well, this seems to be not a policy but an officer who does not know the job.

      Afterall does that also mean I have to wait until my vehicle liscense expiries before renewing as well?

  17. Anonymous says:

    This is indeed an absurd and ill-thought policy, and a recent change at that, as I am pretty sure last time I renewed, it was before my old licence had expired.  This makes no sense at all.  I am well travelled and have never before heard of any other country which does not enable folk to renew prior to expiry.

    • Anonymous says:

      It doesn't make sense!

      I understand that this has been rescinded.  What were they thinking about????  I also understand that instead of renewing it from the expiry date of theold licence it commences on the date the driver's license is renewed.  This is not highway robbery???

  18. Frank says:

    Welcome to the Cayman Islands government. I would have cut my drivers license up, walked back inside and request a new once since i have lost it. Actually no, i would have called his/her supervisor and report their extreme lack of job knowledge but the above is a good alternative.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Never heard of anything like this.  You should be able to renew a week before it expires.  This is CRAZY!

  20. Anonymous says:

    This is absurd.


    Mine expries this year on a Sunday.


    I'm supposed to drive illegally until the licensing department opens on Monday?!



  21. Anonymous says:

    How absolutely ridiculous.  Common sense has clearly gone out the window around here.  Who the hell comes up with this sh*t?  What does it matter if you renew your license early.  The old one will expire on your birthday and the new one will kick in and take effect.  Government get their money a week or so earlier and everyone is happy.  What is the problem here?  What am I missing?

  22. Anonymous says:

    Try misplacing your license. Think they'll just print you another one? No way. First you have to go to the police station, line up and file a report saying that you lost your licence (and pay $$).  Then you wait 2 weeks.  Then you go to the police records office where the queue is usually out the door, line up for a couple of hours, pay more $$ and order a copy of the report you filed. Then you come back some time later, line up for another couple of hours with your receipt and pick up the copy you ordered of the report you made saying you lost your licence. Now you can go to the DVLA, take a ticket, wait another couple of hours, then pay some more $$ and get a receipt. Then you take that receipt to another counter and then, and only then, they'll press the "print" button and another copy of your licence pops out. There is no logical explanation for any of it, just mindless bureacracy.

    After going through that once I've put my licence in a safe place and carry a photocopy.

  23. Anonymous says:

    What's the fee for replacing a lost drivers license??  🙂

  24. SSM345 says:


    I have been in the exact same situation before and i got around it by "losing" my license, paying $10 for a report of lost license and then applying for a new one. The report takes a day much like police clearance.

    Hope this helps.

  25. Anonymous says:

    My license exires in July, I have always renewed it in June without a problem.  The reason I do this is because around the first of the month the Dept gets busy.  I have never had a problem doing this in advance. If this is a new Law the Public should be aware of it (which I do not think it is).




  26. Anonymous says:

    If your friend is travelling to the US and depending on which state he visits, international driver's licenses aren't valid. According to a relative of mine that is a state trooper (won't name the state), due to a variety of license fraud and immigration issues, most officers will not accept international driver's licenses as a valid and the driver may face other problems in the US if he/she tries to use one. Food for thought. In my view, these problems with renewal, etc are ALWAYS deliberate revenue generators. They've got you bent over and you've got no choice. Good luck with that!

    • SSM345 says:

      I also discovered that the international licenses are not covered by insurance when renting a car in the US……

      • Anonymous says:

        Your Cayman license is not. Your international license is.

        • Anonymous says:

          Bullshit, we rent a car several times a year in the States and only have our Cayman driving licences and we certainly are covered for insurance. Please don't talk garbage. 

          • Anonymous says:

            I would suggest you research it a little more and rely less on what a junior car rental clerk let’s you do. Florida law requires non residents holding foreign drivers permits to also have in their possession an international drivers license. The police generally do not enforce it, but insurers tend to focus on such detail a little closer.

  27. Anonymous says:

    The same thing happened to me regarding a car insurance renewal.


    I went to my insurance company a week or so before the renewal date. I was told to come back on the renewal date. I think the clerk was just incompetant and lazy. This was obviously not company policy.


    I renewed with another company a few hours later. Too bad we cannot go to another government for reasonable service.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Just as absurd as me being told that I cannot give VL my insurance papers for my insurance which starts a day after I renew my licence. In the system that the police have access to, I was then listed as uninsured several months later because the insurance information they entered expired the day after I relicenced my car. The staff at VL told me they couldn't enter the new information, they could only enter the current information which expired the next day! 

  29. Anonymous says:

    If they can afford to go abroad and rent a car they can afford the $60 fee.  Stop being cheap and get a life.

    • Anonymous says:

      What an ahold comment to make. It’s not about being cheap. It’s the principle of the situation and you really have no business telling people how to spend their money. If you want to waste yours on unnecessary things, that’s your choice!

  30. Anonymous says:

    That is so odd because I renewed my Cayman license 1 month to the day of its expiration date because I had the day off and knew it would take too long on my birthday.  Of course, what happened is that I was "shorted" a month and my license now expires on the first of the monthe BEFORE my next birthday (59 months instead of 60).I suppose no one in DMV ever looked at the month, but just the day when I went there.  (Still, not having to spend more than a lunch hour and having to explain it to my employer and/or make up the time when I renewed it this year?  Well worth being shorted the month)!

    • Anonymous says:

      Renewed mine too ahead of time just a couple of months ago.

      • Anonymous says:

        Me too – I was able to renew in advance last week –  this story does not add up. The staff were helpful. 

  31. Anonymous says:

    An international driving license is useless with a vaild domestic one.

    Convention 1968 (Amendment 2011)

    The main regulations about driving licenses are in Annex 6 (domestic driving permit) and Annex 7 (international driving permit). The currently active version of those is in force in each Contracting Party since no later than 29 March 2011 (Article 43).

    Article 41 of the Convention describes requirements to driver's licenses. Key of those are:

    • every driver of a motor vehicle must hold a driver's license;
    • driver's licenses can be issued only after passing theoretical and practical exams, which are regulated by each country;
    • Contracting Parties shall recognize as valid for driving in their territories:

      • domestic driver's license conforming to the provisions of Annex 6 to the Convention;
      • international driver's license conforming to the provisions of Annex 7 to the Convention, on condition that it is presented with the corresponding domestic driver's license;
    • driver's licenses issued by a Contracting Party shall be recognized in the territory of another Contracting Party until this territory becomes the place of normal residence of their holder;
    • all of the above does not apply to learner-driver licenses;
    • the period of validity of an international license shall be either no more than three years after the date of issue or until the date of expiry of the domestic driver's license, whichever is earlier;
    • Contracting Parties may refuse to recognize the validity of driver's licenses for persons under eighteen or, for categories C, D, CE and DE, under twenty one;
    • an international driver's license shall only be issued by the Contracting Party in whose territory the holder has his normal residence and which issued the domestic driver's license or which recognized the driver's license issued by another Contracting Party; it shall not be valid for use in that territory.
  32. Anonymous says:

    CIG uber-fiasco as usual.  The island is governed by morons.  Why would a person only be able to renew their licence on one specific date and only that date?  What a moronic policy.  I hear the sounds of hillbillies plucking banjoes in the background, and no doubt their fingers are getting tired around here.

  33. GR says:

    I've also heard of situations of former residents returning for a vacation and going to DVDL to obtain a temporary licence only to be told it can't be issued as they hold a full licence.  In order to get a licence they have to pay for all the lapsed years on their licence plus the current fees!

    • Anonymous says:

      They may be former residents but hold the immigration status of permanent residents or Caymanians. You cannot have it both ways.

  34. Anonymous says:

    Nobody in the civil service has "thier hands tied". No one has ever been suspended or fired from these cushy jobs for life so I do not know why they can not make a decision for once that might actually benifit someone. Nothing willl ever happen to them. 

    • Anonymous says:

      "No one has ever been suspended or fired from these cushy jobs for life….." This is simply untrue. At least five civil servants have been dismissed ("fired") in the last four years and several others have been suspended. You should stick to the facts or not make wild claims when you do not know what you are talking about.. But you are correct when you imply that there is nothing to stop them from making a decision that benefits people. But most civil servants slavishly follow what they believe to be rules even when these rules are either stupid and counterproductive or (as often is the case) they actually do not exist except in their minds..

  35. Rebel says:

    And that is the reason why I affirm that we have rediculous laws here that ought to be broken!  I feel no remorse if they are broken because for too long these laws are about looking out for either big people or government interest. They are not laws for the people!

  36. Rick says:

    How is it legal to charge a per diem fee for a lapsed DL? What isthe justification for this?

    • Anonymous says:

      Ummm, because it is in the regulations, and is how we get revenue. I would much rather that than income tax. Anyway, why should those who have had no licence not have to pay more than those who have kept theirs up to date?

    • Anonymous says:

      The current govt needs all the income they can get so that they can piss it away on travel or give it to their supporters.