Tired of the lines when you renew your driver's license? Friday brings new appointment system

If your driver's license expires at the end of the week, don't breeze into a suburban secretary of state's office expecting to renew it.

Sweeping changes begin Friday at most Illinois DMVs requiring appointments for driver's license, ID card and REAL ID services, plus driving tests.

“We think it's the largest change to the largest office in half a century.” Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias told the Daily Herald.

The intent is to cut the infamous waits at facilities.

During his 2022 election campaign and after, he heard “people were sick and tired of waiting in line. One of the issues I ran on was eliminating the time tax, the time people spend trying to access government services.

“We looked at what other states were doing, we looked at new technology, we talked about modernizing the office. The more we looked at it, we thought, ‘you schedule an appointment to get your hair cut, you schedule an appointment to go to the dentist.'”

It's common sense to mandate appointments for in-person, driver-related needs, Giannoulias said, adding he expects to speed up visits and “make our employees' lives easier.”

Customers with vehicle-related needs such as annual stickers, license plates and titles — that typically take less time to process — can still walk in.

The program is dubbed “Skip the Line,” but can the secretary of state, seven months into the job, guarantee faster service?

“We promise to do everything we can to ensure zero wait times,” Giannoulias said. “There will be a learning curve.” But “we are shifting schedules and hiring more part-time staffers to accommodate these added services.”

The updated policy extends to all Chicago and suburban DMVs with the exception of the Loop office, 160 N. LaSalle Drive, that is walk-in only.

Individuals can make an appointment online at or call (844) 817-4649.

“We are trying to make this as easy as possible,” Giannoulias said, adding he realizes some customers don't have access to computers or prefer talking to someone in person.

Slots will be available 15 days in advance with some also being released each morning.

“Already, people are making appointments,” he noted.

Another update is extended hours that are uniform across the state.

Instead of operating from Tuesday to Saturday, facilities will be open 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.

Giannoulias explained constituents told him “‘I took time off work,'” or “‘I took my lunch break and drove out to the facility and it was closed. Why is it closed on Monday?' And we had no answer.”

Sixteen DMVs will serve customers from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays. Those include two Chicago locations and Deerfield, Lombard, Midlothian, Naperville, Schaumburg and West Chicago (for commercial drivers).

Giannoulias also stressed that Illinoisans can avoid the DMV altogether by hopping online for transactions from vehicle stickers to driver's license renewals.

There's an unmistakably drab ambience to secretary of state offices. With less crowding expected inside, it's a good time for a makeover, Giannoulias said.

“Over the next few years, Illinoisans will see a lot more uniformity, a lot more cleanliness and a better environment to conduct business in. It's very doable. People should feel good about who they're interacting with and where they're conducting state business.”

Gridlock alert

Drivers on North Avenue and Lake Street near Elmhurst can expect overnight closures this week under the Tri-State Tollway as crews remove beams for an ongoing widening and rebuilding project.

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  A steady stream of people come and go from the Schaumburg secretary of state facility. As of Sept. 1, customers will need to make an appointment for many driver-related services. Brian Hill/
  People wait in line at the Schaumburg secretary of state facility. Starting Sept. 1, customers will need to make an appointment for many driver-related services including renewing their licenses. Brian Hill/
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