Many Americans have been under stay-at-home orders over the past few months. In an effort to slow down the spread of COVID-19, all non-essential activities had to be postponed indefinitely. This meant that many establishments had to close, businesses had to modify certain aspects of their operations, and government offices had to either shut down or limit their services.
But with several states having already reopened or in the process of reopening soon, will government offices like the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) be reopening, too? Can you finally schedule a DMV appointment? Which services can be availed during the pandemic? This guide can help you find the answers.
After two months of self-quarantine and social distancing, the entire country is finally in the process of reopening establishments and services to the public. However, things aren’t exactly back to normal, and it’s still unclear as to what’s open and what’s not.
For those who have been unable to apply for licenses and avail of other DMV services, one of the most pressing questions you probably have at this time is whether DMV offices have opened back up.
Most states across the country, such as California, Florida, Texas, Ohio, and Virginia, have reopened several branches and are now allowing in-person visits for certain services and transactions—with rules in place that would allow for social distancing and other safety measures. But there are still quite a few states that have held off on reopening their DMV offices.
Illinois, for example, has announced that they will begin reopening on June 1. Meanwhile, New York and New Jersey have both declared that their DMV offices and Motor Vehicle Commission agencies, respectively, will remain closed until further notice.
Most states have released dates on when their DMV services will resume and guidelines for new processes and protocols. Make sure to check your state’s official DMV website to find out the full details on which DMV branches near you will be reopening, what services will be resuming, and other important information.
Which DMV Services are Available at This Time?
The exact services and transactions that can be completed with in-person visits will vary from state to state. As previously mentioned, you’ll find all the information you’ll need on your state’s official DMV website.
It’s also important to note that most states strongly encourage customers to conduct their DMV business online whenever possible. California DMV, for instance, has set up a virtual office dedicated to processing services such as vehicle registration renewals, title transfers, driver’s license renewals, and more.
Can I Get a Driver’s License or State ID Card?
Yes, you can. Almost all states have moved some of their DMV operations online. This means that you can fill out your application for an original license/state ID card entirely through your state’s DMV website.
However, the rest of the process will still require you to visit your nearest DMV field office. Keep in mind that all in-person visits will likely be by appointment only.
In addition, for those without a Real ID yet, you have until October 1st, 2021 to acquire yours.
Can I Take My Driving Test?
In most states right now, no. New Hampshire and California, for instance, have suspended non-commercial driver’s license behind-the-wheel road tests despite reopening their DMV offices. In Virginia, knowledge testing for learner’s permits can be done starting May 18 onwards, but road tests for passenger vehicles and motorcycles are still not allowed.
But in other states like South Dakota and Wyoming, those who need to take non-commercial driver’s license tests can now do so by scheduling an appointment through their hotline or via email.
In states that still do not allow road tests at this time, student permits that are expiring have been extended up to six months, or 24 months from the date of the application.
Other places have implemented special rules to accommodate all would-be drivers. For instance, Georgia and Wisconsin have announced that road tests are now waived for teens with valid learner’s permits in order to address their mounting backlogs due to the COVID-19 lockdowns.
As always, check your state’s official website for more details.
Can I Renew My License?
Yes. All states recommend that their citizens renew their licenses and do other DMV transactions through their websites. Even in California, using online services is recommended, especially if the transaction is not an emergency.
Can I Get My Vehicle Registration Renewed?
Yes, you can. You can renew your registration from the comfort of your own home by visiting your state’s DMV website. You can also register your vehicle over the phone or via email in some states—Kansas even has a dedicated mobile app for its residents’ DMV needs.
You can check your state’s DMV website from time to time to get more updates on registration extensions and other vehicle concerns.
Can I Transfer My Vehicle Title?
Yes. Most DMV services can be processed online, which is what people are being encouraged to do. As with other transactions and procedures, make sure you have completed the required documents before you start to transfer your vehicle title so you won’t experience any problems.
What If I Need an In-Person Visit? How Do I Get One?
As stated above, most DMV transactions in certain states can be done online. Some, like Arizona, have announced that DMV office visits will be limited to people who need essential services that must be completed in-person.
Usually, appointments can be scheduled online. Visit your state’s official DMV website to see if you are eligible for an in-person visit.
Keep in mind that everyone entering a DMV office (or any other government office building, for that matter) will be required to wear a face covering or mask.
What About Emissions Tests and Safety Inspections?
Some states require emissions/smog tests and/or safety tests. Due to the pandemic, however, different states have announced that emissions and safety tests will be postponed as emissions testing locations remain closed.
Connecticut has extended emissions test deadlines by 90 days for March 10-June 8 deadlines. In California, smog tests must be done every other year, but the Bureau of Automotive Repair has been closed since March 20. However, the state has announced that smog check certificates can be claimed once it lifts stay-at-home orders.
In Rhode Island, Vermont, Pennsylvania, safety and emissions inspection deadlines have also been extended.
Once again, check your state’s official DMV website to find out whether you can get an emissions test at this time.