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Driving in Michigan

Information about and steps to take to apply for and maintain a driver's license in Michigan. 


Michigan Driver's License

Who Can Apply?

Eligible to Apply

International students and scholars and their dependent family members who will be in Michigan for more than four months are considered Michigan residents and must apply for a Michigan Driver's License if they intend to drive.

All Michigan residents must obtain a Michigan Driver's License as soon as possible after arrival in order to legally drive. As a Michigan resident, there is no grace period during which you may drive using your home country driver's license.

 

Application Process

The Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) has the latest Michigan Driver Handbook, forms and instructions on how to apply for a Michigan Driver License.  

Once you have all the required documents from the Applicant Checklist, you may go to the SOS office.  The East Lansing office is located at 3315 E. Michigan Ave, Lansing, MI 48912

A virtual appointment system is available to either make an appointment or reserve a spot in line before you arrive.  Visit the SOS appointment system here:  http://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,4670,7-127-1640_3408_9135-315692--,00.html

Wait 10 days after you enter the United States. You may want to apply for a driver's license right away, but be patient. The 10 day wait allows time for all the government databases to update with your arrival information. If you apply too early, your application will be delayed or denied.  If you are a continuing student or scholar, please remember to wait 10 days from your most recent entry to the U.S.

Michigan Secretary of State Driver's License Required Documents Checklist may include:

  • Proof of a Social Security Number or verification of ineligibility for a Social Security Number
    • Presenting verification of ineligibility for a Social Security Number will cause an additional identity verification process which may take several days to complete.
  • F-1 and F-2 Students and Dependents: I-20
  • J-1 and J-2 Students, Scholars, and Dependents: DS-2019
  • Unexpired Passport
  • Unexpired or Expired U.S. Visa.
    • Presenting an expired U.S. visa will cause an additional identity verification process which may take several days to complete.
  • I-94 Form
    • Get and print your I-94 form online
    • If you entered the U.S. more than one year before applying an additional identity verification process will be done which may take several days to complete.
  • Two documents proving residency in the State of Michigan
    • Acceptable documents include: an apartment lease or housing rental agreement; statement, letter, or blank check from bank or credit union; credit card statement; utility bill; insurance policy document; payment (salary) advice/statement; vehicle title and registration.
    • A letter from a Designated School Official (DSO) at OISS that confirms enrollment and your current address can also be accepted as one of the residency documents.
    • Family member documents may be used if the relationship can be substantiated. For example, if the apartment lease is in the wife's name only, the husband may use her lease document if he can prove that he is married to her by providing a copy of a marriage certificate in English or translated into English. 
  • Optional: Valid Driver's License issued by another U.S. state or another country. If presenting a non-U.S. driver's license, it must be translated into English.

Take a Written Test, Vision Exam, and Pay the License Application Fee

On the same day you present your identification documents at a Secretary of State Branch Office, you will take written tests of your knowledge of Michigan driving laws and road signs. You will also take a vision exam. The vision exam is a simple test to ensure that your visual abilities are adequate for driving.

To prepare for the written test, review the "What Every Driver Must Know" handbook

At this time you will also pay the Driver's License Fee.

After you pass the written test and the vision exam, you will get a Temporary Instruction Permit.

Practice Driving on Your Temporary Instruction Permit for at least 30 Days

After you pass the written test and vision exam you will get a Temporary Instruction Permit. You are required to wait 30 days after getting the Temporary Instruction Permit before you may take the Driving Skills Test.

During that 30 days you are only allowed to drive if you have a licensed driver, who is above the age of 18, in the car with you. You can either practice driving with a licensed driver who is above the age of 18 or you can pay for driving instruction through a private company. 

If you provide your home country's license with a certified English translation (see below), you can waive the 30-day waiting period and will be allowed to take the driving skills test immediately after passing the tests in Step Two.

Take the Driving Skills Test

After you pass the written test and vision exam you will get a Temporary Instruction Permit. You are required to wait 30 days after getting the Temporary Instruction Permit before you may take the Driving Skills Test.

During that 30 days you are only allowed to drive with a licensed driver, who is above the age of 18, in the car with you.

However, if you provide your home country's license with a certified English translation (see below), you can waive the 30-day waiting period and will be allowed to take the driving skills test immediately after passing the tests in Step Two.

You can prepare for your driving skills test by reviewing the "Driving Skills Test Study Guide".

Your driving test must be conducted by an organization appearing on the following list: Michigan Department of State Driving Skills Testing, Ingham County. Some of the listed organizations will allow you to rent a car to use for your driving skills test other organizations require that you provide your own fully insured car or borrow a fully insured car from a friend. 

Return to the Branch Office to Finalize Your License Application

Once you pass your driving skills test, take your proof of legal presence documents (the same documents you provided in step one above), Temporary Instruction Permit, and Skills Test Certificate back to the branch office. You will receive a temporary valid driver's license to use until your actual license arrives in the mail.

Do I Need a Social Security Number to Apply?

No. You do not need to have a Social Security Number (SSN) to apply. However, you must have a letter of ineligibility issued to you by the Social Security Administration. This is called the Form SSA L-676.

Information about obtaining a Social Security Number or a Letter of Social Security Number Ineligibility can be found on the Social Security Administration website at http://socialsecurity.gov. You may also call the local Social Security Administration Office

 

English Translation of Driver's License

A translation of your home country driver's license is not required to get a driver's license in the State of Michigan. But, it will speed up the application process. A translated driver's license can be used as evidence of driving experience and will waive the 30-day practice period before taking the driving skills test. Without a translation, you must wait at least 30 days from the day you pass the written test until the day you are allowed to take the driving skills test. If you have an English translation of your home country driver's license, you will not have to wait and can take the driving skills test immediately after passing the written test.

Translated driver's licenses or International Driving Permits are not accepted for identification purposes.

Process to Translate Your Non-U.S. Driver's License

1. Find a translator.

  • You cannot do your own translation.
  • If you are using the Drivers License Translation Template (PDF) your translator must be a graduate student or a faculty member at MSU who can speak both languages. 
  • If you cannot find an MSU faculty member or graduate student who can translate your driver's license, you can use a paid translation service instead of the OISS Driver's License Translation Template. Find a translator on the Michigan Secretary of State Michigan Translators Resource List (PDF).

2. Your translator must type the translation into the following template: Drivers License Translation Template (PDF)

3. Your translator must print and sign the translation.

4. Bring the translation to OISS. OISS will verify your immigration and enrollment status and your translator's position at MSU and sign the translation.

International Driving Permit

An International Driving Permit issued by your home country, by itself, does not give you permission to drive in Michigan. If you will live in Michigan for more than four months, then you are a Michigan resident and you must apply for a Michigan Driver's License. 

Replacing a Lost Driver’s License

If you lose your driver's license, you must apply for a replacement at a branch office. You will be asked to provide the documents listed the Driver's License Application Process (above). 

Fee for replacement 

Renewing your Driver’s License

Approximately 45 days prior to the expiration of your license, a renewal notice will be mailed to the address on your license. If the renewal notice says that you are eligible to renew your license by mail, you may do so if you wish, but you are not required to do so.

If you wish to renew by mail, simply follow the instructions on the notice.

If you do not wish to renew by mail, if your notice says that you are not eligible to renew by mail, or if you do not receive a notice, then you should renew your license in person at the local branch office.

When you apply for your renewal, you will pay the renewal fee, be asked a few general health questions, and be given a vision screening test. You may also be asked to provide the following documents:

Proof of Social Security (one of the following):

  • Social Security card
  • Social Security Number Verification letter (NUMI)
  • Pay stub showing SSN
  • W-2 form showing SSN
  • If no SSN, letter of ineligibility (Form SSA L-676)

Proof of legal presence (all of the following):

  • Valid Passport
  • Valid or Expired Visa stamp
  • I-94 form
  • I-20 or DS-2019

 

Driving in Michigan with a Non-U.S. Driver's License

Who is Eligible?

Eligible 

Short-term students, scholars and visitors who will be in Michigan for less than four months may be eligible to drive in Michigan with a driver's license issued by another country.

To find out if you are eligible to arrive with your non-U.S. driver's license see the full list of treaty and non-treaty countries on the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center Foreign Driver's Licenses in Michigan website.

If your license was not issued by one of the countries on the list of treaty or non-treaty countries, you are not eligible to drive in Michigan with a non-U.S. driver's license. 

Documents Needed to Drive in Michigan with a Valid Driver's License Issued by Another Country:

Treaty Countries

  • Valid Driver's License issued by a treaty country
  • English translation of your driver's license if your driver's license is not in English 

Non-Treaty Countries

  • Valid passport
  • Valid visa
  • Valid I-94 
  • Valid Driver's License issued by a non-treaty country
  • English translation of your driver's license if your driver's license is not in English 

Not Eligible

International students and scholars and their dependent family members who will be in Michigan for more than four months are considered Michigan residents and must apply for a Michigan Driver's License if they intend to drive. All Michigan residents must obtain a Michigan Driver's License as soon as possible after arrival in order to legally drive. There is no grace period during which you may use your home country license to drive. Jump to Michigan Driver's License. 

 


 

Owning or Leasing a Vehicle in Michigan

Buying or Leasing a Vehicle

Learn more about buying a vehicle from a dealership or an individual or leasing a vehicle from an dealership

Beware of leasing vehicles from individuals or unauthorized dealerships. There are may things that could go wrong including:

  • Driving without insurance
  • Driving without registration
  • Driving without a title
  • Driving with expired plates

It is best to lease vehicles from authorized dealerships to ensure that you are following all Michigan driving laws. 

Vehicle Insurance Required

Owners of vehicles are required to purchase insurance and keep valid proof of insurance in the vehicle at all times. Some insurance companies will mail you updated insurance cards automatically while other companies require you to download your insurance certification yourself from the company's website. 

If you are stopped by a law enforcement officer while driving the vehicle and you cannot show valid proof of insurance the court may order the Secretary of State to suspend your driver license. 

Learn more about car insurance in Michigan.

Vehicle Registration Required

Michigan residents must immediately title and register their vehicles at a Secretary of State office. Titles are required for all motor vehicles and for all trailers 2,500 pounds and over. A "resident" is a person who resides in Michigan and establishes that he or she is legally present in the United States.

Proof of registration must be stored inside the vehicle at all times.   

Learn more about vehicle registration

Car Seats for Children Under Age 8 Required

Children must be properly buckled in a car seat or booster seat until they are 8 years old or 4-feet-9-inches tall. Children must ride in a seat until they reach the age requirement or the height requirement, whichever comes first.

Learn more about Michigan's Child Passenger Safety Law and car seat requirements

Learn more about child passenger safety