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More Oahu motorists can renew licenses via mail

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Video courtesy Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell held a press conference Wednesday to address the high demand for appointments to renew expiring driver licenses and replace lost or stolen state identification cards.

More Oahu motorists will be able to renew their driver licenses by mail under policy changes announced by the city today.

Certain categories of folks seeking replacement driver licenses or state identification cards may also be eligible to do so by mail, Customer Services Director Sheri Kajiwara said.

The goal of the changes is part of an effort to ease the backlog in appointments at driver licensing centers. More than 78,000 in-person driver licensing appointments have had to be canceled due to pandemic-related issues that closed driver licensing centers and satellite city halls, Kajiwara said.

The state Department of Transportation has allowed those with expiring licenses to continue driving through Nov. 30 but has not indicated if they intend to extend that exemption.

And while the city has extended the hours for driver licensing centers, the licenses of about 10,000 additional Oahu motorists come up for renewal each month.

Customer Services officials hope to free up more of the 1,600 daily appointment slots as a result of the changes.

“We’re looking at over 25,000 people being able to take care of their transactions by mail,” Kajiwara said. “That’s going to open up a lot of appointments for those that require a face-to-face transaction.”

Under the changes, four- and two-year driver licenses, as well as learner permits, can be renewed by mail provided they have already submitted federally-mandated REAL ID verification documents. They should have done so since the new policies requiring the documents were put in place in 2014, before those motorists last obtained approvals.

The one new requirement for those otherwise eligible for mail renewal is that, in lieu of an in-person eye examination, they must have vision clearance from an opthamologist, optometrist or other eye care professional.

Dr. Linda Arakaki, a member of the Hawaii Optometric Association, said those who’ve visited their eye doctors in the last six months can request a completed driver’s vision certificate.

Most motorists now seeking a renewal of eight-year licenses, which account for the largest share of licensed motorists on the island, are not eligible for mail renewal because they have yet to be subjected to the stricter verification process so the agency likely won’t have the required documents online.

Other transactions that now can be done by mail: replacement for a lost, stolen or damaged identification card provided no changes are made and an applicant’s lawful status in the U.S. is not temporary; and converting a provisional driver license to a standard one. Those seeking duplicate standard and commercial driver licenses already may do so by mail.

Duplicate ID cards ranks among the biggest transactions handled by the Driver Licensing branches because they’re required for everything from cashing checks to applying for jobs or housing, Kajiwara said.

Most of those who want to renew or get issued a new ID card still need to do so in person. The exception is those who already have their required documents filed with the city. “If you have your documents, you can certainly do it by mail,” Kajiwara said.

For mail-in instructions, application forms and payment information, go to honolulu.gov/csd.

Kajiwara reiterated an earlier call for those who are intending to cancel their appointments with Driver Licensing to cancel, a practice that could save her staff valuable time to deal with others.

Correction: The changes made by the Department of Customer Services allows four- and two-year driver licenses, as well as learner permits, to be renewed by mail, not online as stated in a previous version of this story. Additionally, more of the 1,600 appointment slots available each day are expected to free up, not more than 1,600 new appointment slots daily.
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