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Long Wait Times Putting the Brakes on California Driver's License Applications

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Despite some improvements, long lines remain for the influx of applicants as a result of California's REAL ID driver's license process.

Recent updates from local Destination Services Consultants have indicated delays as long as three months for obtaining an appointment with the Department of Motor Vehicles, a process that was once only three weeks. For walk-in applicants, long lines – sometimes out to the street – are unbearable, which has prompted some folks in the Golden State to go to extremes to reach the head of the line sooner.

When almost at the point of being called forward by the DMV clerk, some individuals waiting in line have attempted to sell their tickets to people at the back of the line. This practice is both illegal and ineffective.

While Dwellworks consultants wait in line as a resource, and accompany transferees through the appointment, the transferees then advocate for themselves, removing the perception of “line skipping” or other inappropriate advocacy from the DMV application process. Our consultants are a familiar presence and their support role is recognized as an accepted practice.

In multiple California locations, consultants have established good working relationships with the local DMV offices. Though having an appointment or arriving early are the primary ways to avoid the long wait, treating the DMV clerks with kindness also helps to get things done, according to our local consultants.

Long lines at California DMV offices are a common occurrence

“I have had clerks spend extra time trying to scan a passport simply because my transferee and I smiled and were nice to them,” said Heidi Pizzo, a San Jose area DSC. “Filling out a customer satisfaction survey about the clerk also goes a long way. I ask the transferee if they’ve had a really good experience, and if so, I’ll get the clerk's name and fill out in front of them. Personalization is huge in building these relationships!”

A recent process improvement has been the state’s online application form, which allows applicants to fill out the form prior to going to the DMV office, saving a lot of time for transferees and our consultants. Applicants are also able to fill out the form in different languages when done online. After completing the online form, applicants receive a code that should be printed out and brought with them for the appointment.

Additionally, the DMV will now send out text message alerts a few minutes before an individual’s number is called, so if waiting outside instead of standing in the DMV office, individuals won’t miss their appointment time.

Here are some other California DMV helpful hints from our local DSCs:

  • Pick your spots: Certain days are better or worse than others (Ex. Wednesday and Friday are typically bad.) If a holiday or special event is coming up, the DMV tends to be less busy around those dates.
  • Arrive early and pack a snack: If attempting a walk-in, get there early and be ready to wait awhile. Some get in line two hours before opening and the experience, unfortunately, can last as long as a full day in some cases.
  • Online form: Completing the registration beforehand online saves time from having to step in and out of line to fill it out.
  • Be sure to have your paperwork! Make absolutely sure to bring all the necessary documents with you, otherwise your long wait could all be for naught.

Dwellworks continues to monitor California DMV policies and will share further updates as appropriate and useful.


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