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Last Sunday’s column noted the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles had extended the expiration dates of driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations for 90 days or until Aug. 31, whichever came first.

That’s because the DMV’s now engaged in a rolling reopening process. All 75 of its offices shut down from mid-March to May 18. Since then, less than half have reopened. And those accept only customers who’ve made appointments in advance.

At the same time, I was hearing from many readers who found it impossible to make an appointment online or to reach anyone at the agency by telephone because its phone lines were swamped. The column ended with the observation that the DMV might need to extend expirations for even longer.

Last week, the agency did just that — for 180 days or until Oct. 31, whichever comes first. But read on carefully because there are some caveats.

“The governor further extended expiration dates in an effort to accommodate customers with expiring credentials,” spokeswoman Brandy Brubaker said.

But the extensions apply only in cases of licenses and registrations that expire July 31 or earlier. There’s currently no extension for expiration dates of Aug. 1 or later.

Here’s what that means for you:

  • If your license or registration expired between March 15 and April 30, it’ll be good up until 180 days past the stated expiration date. You need to renew before then.
  • Credentials that expired May 1 or later are extended until Oct. 31. They must be renewed by then.
  • Licenses or registrations that expire Aug. 1 or later must be renewed on time. There is no extension.

“What happens to someone whose license expired Aug. 1 and they can’t get an appointment until Aug. 3?” I asked Brubaker. She said they should keep checking for earlier appointments online.

As of June 20, the agency was scheduling appointments only 32 days in advance; however, as of last week, the DMV was making appointments up to 90 days in advance, Brubaker said.

One of those who had been having trouble making an appointment was Sharon King of Blacksburg. Through June 19, King had tried without success 20 times. Last Sunday, King tried again and was able to secure an appointment in July.

Similarly, Beverly Bromfield of Roanoke, who had called the DMV 300 times in recent weeks without being able to get an appointment, easily obtained one for July 21 last week.

“Thanks so much for your help,” she wrote in an email.

Fred Sachs of Roanoke says he discovered a nifty hack that helped him get an earlier appointment.

“I needed to renew my license but couldn’t wait until much later in the year. So I called the DMV in Richmond and was advised that the category [of service] you signed up for won’t matter when you get to the DMV. They’ll let you do what you need to do.

“So I found a category with a time slot available in 45 minutes. It went perfectly smoothly!” Sachs wrote in an email.

I asked Brubaker about that trick and she doesn’t advise it. That’s because some services are allotted but a few minutes, and others can take much longer.

“That’s going to depend on the discretion of the office,” Brubaker said. “I wouldn’t recommend customers do that.”

Dan Culkin, who lives in the Hollins area, was highly complimentary about his appointment.

On May 19, he scheduled a June 4 visit to renew his license at the Roanoke County DMV and upgrade it to a REAL ID. But he had to reschedule for 9 a.m. June 15 when a conflict arose for the earlier date.

That day, Culkin showed up a few minutes early, with a face mask as instructed.

“They ushered me in at about 8:58. Took a seat directly in front of the window that would be serving me while a person sanitized/wiped the counter, vision check machine, credit card reader and even the pen that was at that window after the prior customer left,” he wrote.

“At 9:00 sharp the customer service person attending to me motioned me forward, took my application for the new license which I had filled in online and printed, scanned the documents needed for the REAL ID and then tested my eyes.”

The upshot, Culkin noted, was, “I did this whole transaction and was sitting back in my car to leave at 9:07! My past interactions with in-person visits to the DMV have always shown me it could be considered a ‘day killer.’

“This most recent visit has me wondering why, oh God why, have they not always done appointments?!?”

He wasn’t the only one. In an email, Lisa Bass told me she had much the same experience with her June 20 license-renewal/REAL ID appointment at the DMV in Christiansburg.

“I was greeted by DMV personnel outside under a canopy to verify my appointment. I was provided with a clipboard, pen and application. As soon as I walked inside, I was greeted by another DMV staff member who escorted me to Kiosk #9. Within 10 minutes, my transaction was completed.”

She added: “This was the easiest and quickest visit to a DMV in my life.”

Dan Casey knows a little bit about a lot of things but not a heck of a lot about most things. That doesn't keep him from writing about them, however. So keep him honest!

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