DMV eliminates walk-ins during coronavirus crisis, plans to open 'virtual office' for drivers

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- So: you need to register your car or get your RealID... but standing in a crowded DMV line is no way to stop a pandemic. Now you can still get your DMV business done -- but with a lot of restrictions.

First, you should know all DMV offices are still open during the shelter-in-place orders. However, beginning Thursday, there are no more walk-ins. You must have an appointment. All behind-the-wheel driving tests are canceled. And the DMV is limiting how many people can be inside at once.

On a normal day at the DMV, you might expect to see long lines.

But today, in the midst of the novel coronavirus crisis, it was strangely deserted, with the front doors locked, and customers steered to a small side entrance.

Only those with appointments are allowed to go in; and they had to wait their turn outside, to avoid crowding inside.

"I had to come out of hibernation or they'd get me for not having my driver's license," said Elijah Haynesworth as he waited in line.

The waiting room was oddly empty; some chairs turned backward so patrons couldn't sit close together, keeping a six-foot social distance.

A security guard warns these patrons not to sit so close.

But the most unusual thing? It didn't take a whole morning to get business done.

Ashraf Sewailam said he got his RealID card and renewed his car registration in just 20 minutes. "Oh my god, so much quicker! I was walking out of there beaming because everybody was so nice and it took really almost no time," he said.

Besides requiring appointments, the DMV is taking steps to limit in-person visits.

For one, it's asking law enforcement agencies to forgive motorists with expired licenses and registrations who could not renew due to the pandemic.

That's mainly to help the elderly and chronically ill who are shut in.

Also, the DMV will be opening a "virtual office" next Monday. There, motorists will be able to upload and electronically sign documents to avoid in-person visits.

Many transactions still require a visit, like turning in your RealID paperwork, getting a photo taken or taking a written test. But remember you can't just walk in any longer -- it's all about social distancing.

Go here for the latest news, information and videos about the novel coronavirus.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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