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The wait for a driver's license in Texas has changed because of COVID-19

Right now, Texans are allowed to drive with out-of-date licenses as DPS completely changes how it does business during the pandemic.

DALLAS — If you need to get a first-time driver's license or ID card, or renew one, be warned: You might be in for a wait. Not the kind of wait we have grudgingly become accustomed to in Texas, where you languish for hours in the DPS licensing center until your number is finally called. 

Texas added $212 million dollars to the DPS budget to hire more employees to speed up that process. But then the pandemic closed DPS offices from early March through late May. During just that shutdown period, the licenses of 700,000 Texans expired. DPS operations are back open again. But to safely distance, they are now appointment only.

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The (new) wait

Here’s where the wait comes in. 

Some offices are reportedly already booking into next year. That is causing frustration for some who will be delayed in getting a new ID. 

DPS says:

“We understand the frustrations of customers who are having to wait to secure an appointment, and we appreciate their patience as we work to keep them and our staff members as safe as possible while navigating this unprecedented global pandemic."

There are same-day appointments available

DPS has set aside some appointments at each of its locations for people who come in to get one of the slots. Here’s the process according to the agency: 

“All DL offices do have a limited number of same-day appointments available. These appointments fill up quickly and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Customers who book these appointments at the office can then leave until their designated appointment time. Appointment availability can change on a daily basis, so customers should check back often to see if a better day and time has opened up. We also encourage customers to check appointment availability at multiple offices in their area as some may have openings for the same day.”

Many who have made appointments aren’t showing up for them

A lot of people are standing up the licensing office. Just between May 26th and August 7th alone, people missed 190,869 appointments. Those were slots that could have gone to someone who might have actually shown up as scheduled. That no-show rate for appointments was 28%.

DPS says that does create an opportunity for people who go to a license office in person:

"Most DL offices are using a standby queue to help offset the gap created when a customer does not come for their appointment or if a customer is taken care of in less time than their full appointment window. This works much like an airline standby list — while at the kiosk, the customer is informed that there are no appointments available for that day, but a standby slot is available if they are willing to wait. While there is no guarantee of how long the wait will be, each office sets a maximum number of standby slots, ensuring that if a customer is in the standby queue, they will be seen that day.”

Saturday appointments available for limited time at many offices

Texans needing to renew or replace licenses or ID cards can schedule a Saturday appointment at many locations

Saturday availability goes through December 19th, except for November 28th due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Those offices will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

What to do if you are driving with an expired license

DPS points out that most people can renew up to two years before their card expires. But if your card has already gone past its permitted lifespan, there was an extension that was granted early in the pandemic. DPS says, “If your Texas ID, DL, commercial driver license or election identification certificate card expires on or after March 13, 2020, it falls under the period covered by the State of Disaster Declaration related to COVID-19 and will remain valid for 60 days after which time DPS issues a public notice that the extension period for the disaster declaration has been lifted. At this time, this 60-day notice has not been issued, and Texans still have time to conduct their renewal transactions.”

The agency says local law enforcement across the state is aware of all of this. But anyone who still feels uneasy can download this notice called the Verification of Driver License Expiration Extension to carry with them. Here’s more info about DPS operations during the pandemic.