Ohio BMV offices reopen, with lines and confusion

Thousands need to renew expired driver's licenses
Ohio BMV line.jpg
Posted at 10:24 AM, May 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-26 20:58:36-04

After a two-month shutdown due to COVID-19, Ohio's Bureau of Motor Vehicle offices are open again as of May 26.

But don't expect to walk in to your local BMV and renew your license like it's 1999.

Due to weeks of pent-up demand, and thousands of Ohioans carrying expired driver's licenses, customers arriving at the downtown Cincinnati license bureau Tuesday morning were met with a long line down the sidewalk.

Drivers were stretched out at 6-foot social distance markers, and were no longer crammed inside at the counter.

Ohio BMV line.jpg
Long lines as Ohio BMV reopens

But you may not have to wait in line. Ohio's BMV and Lieutenant Governor John Husted are reminding drivers that many things can be done online, at OPlates, the state's online portal.

Among the services you can do online:

  • Vehicle registration
  • Renew tags
  • Check availability of specialty plates
  • Driving records
  • Change of address

How to renew or get a new license

If you need a license, you have no other option than appearing in person.

Licenses cannot be renewed online.

To limit long waits, the state has set up a virtual waiting room, where you put your name in online, and reserve a spot. Then you have a four-hour window to arrive at your local BMV and get in the physical line.

Some drivers tell us they thought they would be able to make an actual appointment online, but that only gives you a window for arriving.

You will still have to line up at the BMV (but your wait should be shorter than people who just show up unannounced).

As was the case before the shutdown, you will still have to bring multiple forms of ID to get a TSA-compliant license, to be able to fly on a commercial airline.

The good news is that the federal government has delayed the deadline by one year, so at least there will not be a summer rush this year for the new licenses.

In addition, you will still be allowed to drive on an expired license in Ohio for 90 days after the COVID emergency ends, or December 1, so there is no need to rush to the BMV this week.

However, there is one thing you still cannot do: take a test for a first-time license, which means Ohio 16-year-olds will still have to wait a while longer for their driving privileges.


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