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.
1. 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.
Once you have all the required documents from the Applicant Checklist, you may go to the SOS office.
2. 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. You will also pay the Drivers License Fee.
3. 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.
PLEASE NOTE: 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.
4. Take the Driving Skills Test
Your driving test must be conducted by an organization appearing on the following list: Michigan Department of State Driving Skills Testing, 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.
5. 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.
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 if you don't have a SSN. This is called the Form SSA L-676.
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.
- You can use a paid translation service. Find a translator on the Michigan Secretary of State Michigan Translators Resource List (PDF).
2. The translation of your driver’s license must include all information from the front and back of your original document.
3. Your translator must print and sign the translation.
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.
If you lose your driver's license, you must apply for a replacement at a Secretary of State branch office. You will be asked to provide the documents listed the Driver's License Application Process (above).
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 documents that show your proof of social security and proof of legal residence.
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 drive 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.
Documents Needed to Drive in Michigan with a Valid Driver's License Issued by another Treaty Country:
- 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
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. Individuals from non-Treaty Countries should follow the Application Process to get a Michigan Driver's License.