Some people applying for a new driver's license in Minnesota are experiencing monthslong delays.
Department of Public Safety spokesman Bruce Gordon said fall is one of the busiest times of the year for new drivers to take their road tests as they apply for their first license.
Gordon said new applications must undergo an additional review by the department — one not required for renewals or duplicates if a license is lost or destroyed. "This can take between several weeks to several months," he said.
To meet the demand, the department's Driver and Vehicle Services (DVS) division has beefed up mandatory overtime for some employees and added more staff to handle the influx of applications. In September, DVS also increased the time before a temporary driver's license or ID card expires from 60 days to 120 days.
New driver Priscilla Thomas said the state told her it's a six-month wait for road tests at the Eagan exam station.
"The customer service rep said the only place that had appointments available in the next three months was Grand Marais! Just a five-hour drive away," she said via e-mail.
Thomas, of Eagan, works full time and has a 3-year-old child in day care, "so arriving at 4 a.m. and lining up outside the DMV all day" trying to squeeze in an appointment for a road test is not an option.
DVS says smaller road-testing stations like Hastings, Stillwater and Andover may have more availability than larger ones in Eagan, Arden Hills and Plymouth. Openings in the metro area fill up fast.
Minneapolis driving instructor Ali Ahmed said most of his students wait three to four months for their road test.
"For students, it's very frustrating," he said. "They can't drive, and they need to get to school, their job, college."
If students need to travel to outstate Minnesota for a test, "they need to have their Mom or a friend take time off from work to take them there," Ahmed said.
Gordon said the issue doesn't affect those renewing their driver's license because they don't require the same type of enhanced review. Renewals and requests for duplicate licenses, which account for about 60 percent of all applications, are typically received within two weeks, he said.
However, several metro-area residents who have renewed their license said they have experienced delays getting a permanent one. In some cases, their temporary license expired in the interim.
Emma Strub of northeast Minneapolis said she applied to renew her license in mid-August but has yet to receive a permanent one. She said she repeatedly tried calling the DVS information line but couldn't get through.
"I did not expect to be waiting now 10 weeks for something that should have taken six to eight [weeks] max," Strub said via Twitter.
Gordon said the delays are not related to the state's Oct. 1 rollout of Real ID, a fortified form of identification required by the federal government following 9/11. Although Minnesota is one of the last states to switch to Real ID, people will be able to use their standard driver's licenses and ID cards for boarding domestic airline flights until Oct. 1, 2020.
Nor are the delays related to the rollout of the new Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS) system for vehicle registrations and titles, he said.