How to Renew Your Driver's License Early

by Tina Amo

Each state allows residents to renew their driver's licenses several months earlier than the expiration date. The process is similar to renewing at the normal time, though there are some differences for particular groups of people. Requirements and time frames for renewals vary by state, so contact your state's motor vehicle department for specific information.

Renewal Period

The renewal period for driver's licenses varies by state. It can range from three months to as much as a year before the expiration date, and up to two years after the expiration date. There are usually no restrictions on renewing early unless you are under the age of 21. In some states it's best to wait and renew on or after your birthday if you will be turning 21 during the renewal period. For example, Massachusetts issues "vertical" licenses for those under 21. These licenses state that the driver is under 21. If you renew earlier than your 21st birthday, you will receive a vertical license instead of the regular version.

Renewal Options

Many states offer multiple methods of renewing your license. These include renewing online, by telephone, by mail or in person. Others require that you complete the process in person, whether you are early, on time or late. Some states, including Texas, also require an in-person renewal if you renewed in a different way last time. This is necessary to update your vision test, signature, thumbprint and picture. In most states, non-citizens must renew in person at a motor services department branch to show proof of legal residence.

Requirements to Renew

If you choose to renew online or by phone, you must verify your identity with information such as your full name, driver's license number, date of birth and Social Security number. You might also need a printer for the online option to print a temporary license to use until the new one arrives, if this is a requirement in your state. In some states, you are only eligible for these renewal options if you don't need a vision test. In other states, like Maryland, you can renew this way even if you need a vision screening, but you have to submit an electronic report from an approved vision certification provider. When renewing by mail, include a completed license application form, a report of vision screening from an eye doctor and a check or money order for the fee. If you renew in person, take your current license, your renewal notice if you have received one, and your glasses or contacts for the vision test, if applicable. Non-citizens must bring documentation that proves their legal presence, such as a work permit or a federal I-94 travel document.

Out of-State Renewals

You can apply for an early renewal by mail if you are out of the state or country and will not return before your license expires. Write a letter to your state's motor services department to explain your situation and request a renewal. Include a completed license application, a vision screening report, a check or money order for the fee, your address both in the state and out of state and a self-addressed stamped envelope for your license.

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