Can I Still Renew My License or Registration at the DMV During Coronavirus Shutdowns?

Changes the Department of Motor Vehicles has made in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Anyone who drivers or owns a vehicle has to deal with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) from time to time. (In some states, licensing and registration is one of the responsibilities of a larger administrative agency like the “Department of Transportation” or “Department of Public Safety.”) But crowded DMV office would pose obvious public health risks given the current situation with the highly contagious coronavirus.

Fortunately, most people who have business that needs to be dealt with at the DMV won’t be left high and dry. The DMV in some states has taken administrative actions that make it unnecessary to renew recently expired or soon to expire licenses and registration. And DMVs in most states offer online and mail-in options for many services.

Automatic Extensions for Licenses and Registration

In most situations, drivers can renew their license or registration online or by mail. However, some states have simplified things by automatically extending the expiration dates of licenses and registrations for a certain period of time or until further notice.

Presumably, law enforcement will be on the same page as the DMV. In other words, police will be made aware of and make adjustments to enforcement practices that are consistent with any actions taken by the DMV that might impact licensing and registration. It seems reasonable that law enforcement would use some discretion and leniency with drivers who have valid reasons for not being able to renew their license or registration.

In-Person Appointments

The Department of Motor Vehicles is probably best known for long lines. But given that COVID-19 is highly contagious, DMVs across the country have temporarily put a halt to drop-in services that result in these lines.

Some DMVs are still allowing in-person visits but by appointment only. By scheduling appointments, DMV offices can control how many people are coming to the offices at any given time.

But what about people who need to take a written or driving test? Most DMV offices have put all testing on hold for the time being. (Though some DMV offices are still conducting testing related to commercial driver’s license (CDL) applications.) So, for those who were hoping to obtain a driver’s license or learner’s permit sometime in the near future, it’ll probably have to wait.

DMV Online and Other Service Options

Even prior to the coronavirus pandemic, most DMV transactions could be completed online or through cellphone apps. And many DMVs are now expanding the number of services that are available for online users.

For people who don’t have access to or aren’t comfortable using the Internet, the mail is still an option for many DMV transactions. Some DMV offices also have customer call centers for getting questions answered and completing a variety of transactions.

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