Yesterday I went to renew my New Jersey driving license. My license had expired in March but due to Covid-19 (or should we call it COVID-20??), the state of NJ automatically extended the license until the end of this month. I started to do some research on the renewal process considering the restrictions in place i.e. the MVC agency can only serve a limited number of people on a daily basis. There are a number of services that are available online. Try the online route first. Only come in person if it is absolutely needed. Unfortunately, my license didn’t qualify for online renewal and I needed to go in person to get it renewed. I also read other people’s experiences and most of them mentioned waiting for a long time. Some folks chose to arrive very early (3am was the earliest, I found), so that they could be the first ones in the agency. By and large, most folks mention that a lot of MVCs were reaching their daily limit by 10:30am. The way the current process is designed is like this and is applicable across all locations.
Stand in a line before agency opens (before 8am)
MVC staff member arrives around 7:30/8:00am and registers your phone in their system
System sends you a text message as a part of registration
MVC staff member will estimate time before you can be serviced (System is first in, first out)
You receive text message 15-20 mins before your number is supposed to come
Get another text message when it is your turn
Go inside MVC and finish task
Considering the restrictions in place and personal limitations, I wanted to go to a location where the probability of getting the number is high, even if I go late in the day. I researched all of the licensing locations before deciding that locations in South Jersey would be best considering my requirements. Since it was a cloudy and rainy day, I was hoping that there would be fewer people and left for an MVC agency at around 9:45am. I decided to try my luck at an MVC agency near my house, but by the time I got there, they had reached their capacity for the day. So I then decided to go to Tom’s River MVC location. It was about 90 mins away and the drive was good. I reached there at 11:45am and checked if they had reached capacity for the day. As I had estimated, they had not reached their daily capacity and I was registered. However, the process after registration remains the same as above. I had to wait until 3:30pm before receiving a text message from MVC that they would be ready for me in another 20 mins.
The process inside the MVC was smooth. The member at the front desk checked my 6 points of ID and I asked her if I can get a license with REAL ID instead of a standard license. She updated my form and checked on the REAL ID. After the documentation check, I waited for a few mins for my number to be called. Once they called my number, the lady again checked all my documentation, checked a few things in their system, took my new picture, and gave me the new license.
The MVC can make the current process a lot smoother by moving the appointment/ token system online. They don’t have to design something very complicated – just look to the Visa appointment system which is used by DHS. The entire system is online and it tells the applicant when they need to come for their biometrics (date and time) and then for their visa interview. During the visa interview, people are only allowed to stand in line 15 mins before their appointment time. Such a system would be really helpful for MVC. The only difference here is, they should also reserve a few slots every hour for senior/ elderly folks who do not/ may not have access to a computer or are not mobile savvy. These folks should be allowed to walk-in to the agency and should be able to get a time slot. I do find the whole process of standing outside the agency for a few hours just to get registered extremely frustrating. That is a lot of productive man-hours wasted and an online system can go a long way in resolving this. Considering everything, the entire process was very smooth. The folks were courteous and helpful and my experience with them was positive.