Real ID requirements will be in place on October 1st, 2021. If you intend to get a REAL ID, you will likely need to visit a DMV in person.

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Important Notice About Real ID Implementation

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All drivers licensed in the United States will be required to complete a drivers license renewal every set number of years, decided by the specific state which issued the license. Eligibility criteria and application procedures for a DMV license renewal vary significantly from state to state, so it is important for drivers to familiarize themselves with the specific policies of their state of residence before attempting to submit a renewal request. Not all drivers will be found eligible for a renewal and may have to complete the license application process from the beginning.

Some states allow residents to renew a drivers license online, while others prefer applications submitted in-person, by mail or by phone. Most states now issue licenses that are REAL ID compliant, meaning they can be used as valid ID at federally-protected areas now and in the future when new restrictions kick in across the country. Oftentimes, states offer special license extensions and renewal application procedures for residents temporarily outside of the state or away on active duty military work. Keep reading to find out how license renewal procedures work across the U.S.

Eligibility for Drivers License Renewal

Every state’s central drivers license office, usually a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), sets the eligibility requirements that drivers resident in the state must meet. For this reason, it is important to know where to renew a drivers license in the driver’s local area. However, some basic eligibility requirements must now be met by all drivers across the country who hope to receive a REAL ID-compliant license. States can choose how and when to gather the necessary information about applicants to be compliant. Drivers anywhere in the U.S. will have to provide proof of the following eligibility criteria to be eligible for a REAL ID drivers license renewal:

  1. Identity and birth date, such as a valid U.S. passport or certified copy of a birth certificate.
  2. Social Security Number (SSN), such as a SSN card, 1099 form or pay stub.
  3. Residency in the state of license issuance, such as bank statement or insurance policy.
  4. Proof of lawful presence in the U.S., such as a passport or permanent resident card.

Instances When You Cannot Renew Your Drivers License

Throughout the United States, drivers with an expired drivers license of more than a specific period of time are ineligible for license renewal and will usually have to apply for a license from the beginning as if a first-time driver. Drivers that have let their licenses remain expired for more than eight years in Wisconsin, for example, are no longer eligible for renewal. Driving on an expired drivers license is illegal in every state of the country.

How early can you renew your drivers license

Most states give drivers a generous amount of time before a license expires to complete the renewal process. Drivers in Virginia, for instance can submit a renewal request as soon as one year before their license is set to expire.

DMV License Renewal Options

There are several different ways that drivers can submit driver license renewal requests to their state government, depending on their local policies. Most states allow drivers to choose from a handful of submission methods depending on their eligibility criteria. Applications are generally accepted online, in person, by mail or by phone.

How to Renew Your Drivers License Online

To know how to renew a drivers license online in a specific state, the applicant must look at his or her state’s specific web service options. In states that do welcome online drivers license renewal form submission, some drivers may need an access code provided on a mailed renewal notice or be asked to meet additional eligibility requirements. In some states like South Dakota, an additional application processing fee is added to the base cost of submitting the renewal request when applying online.

In many cases, drivers cannot renew their drivers license online if they are not American citizens, if they need a new license photo or vision exam, if they renewed their license online previously and for some other conditions. Specific eligibility details should be requested from the driver’s state DMV office.

How to Renew Your Driving License by Mail

Many states welcome DMV license renewal applications to be submitted by mail. In most cases, the application cost does not change when submitting by mail or another format. Applicants who are eligible to submit by mail may have to include photocopies of supporting material in addition to the application form. In states like Vermont, drivers must submit the application by mail or in-person and are only eligible for mail submission if they have recently taken a license photo.

How to Renew Your Drivers License in Person

Most if not all states across the United States accept drivers license renewal applications submitted in person at an official DMV licensing location. The time frame in which drivers are permitted to apply for a renewal does not generally change by submission method. Drivers who are ineligible for online, mail or phone submissions are usually required to submit the renewal application in person.

How to Renew Your Drivers License by Phone

Some states allow drivers to request a DMV license renewal with the necessary information over the phone. In these cases, the drivers generally have to meet specific eligibility requirements in order to qualify. What you need to renew your drivers license over the phone is often the same basic material you would need to apply online. In Texas, the DMV encourages renewal requests to be made by phone for some of the fastest processing times.

Military and Out of State Renewal

Most states have special drivers license renewal requirements for residents who are temporarily out-of-state or who are active members of the military or their family members. Many states automatically extend the validity of an expired drivers license of an eligible military service for years until the resident returns to his or her home base. Sometimes, drivers who are out of state must follow the typical renewal guidelines and simply submit a request online, by phone or by mail. Interested drivers should look into the policies of their local DMV for more specific details on renewal.

REAL ID Drivers License Renewal

There is an additional driving license renewal fee in some states for the issuance of licenses that are REAL ID-compliant. The federal government passed the REAL ID Act systemizing the qualifications and procedures necessary to receive an ID that can be accepted as valid ID at federally-restricted areas, like airports. Now, many states use their DMV license renewal process to transition their residents from a basic license to a REAL ID-compliant license that can be used as a valid ID across the country in the future.

Drivers License Renewal Fees

The driving license renewal fee that must accompany a renewal application is determined by state DMVs. As such, the cost for a renewal varies significantly from state to state as does the length of validity of the document. In Utah, for example, a typical renewal application costs $26 and has a validity of five years. In Washington state, however, renewal applicants can expect to pay $54 for a license that lasts six years.

Last updated on Thursday, February 27 2020.