Common Problems Getting Michigan ID Cards

Topic Menu

Getting a standard Michigan ID card can sometimes be difficult. Maybe you don’t have the right documents, or you can’t pay the fee. Read this article to learn more about the two most common problems getting your Michigan ID card and some solutions.

I Can’t Pay the Fee

When you go to your local Secretary of State (SOS) office to get your Michigan ID card, you will be expected to pay a $10 fee. You do not have to pay this fee if you are legally blind or 65 years old or older.

Good Cause Waiver

If you can’t afford to pay $10, you may qualify for a fee waiver for “good cause.” Anyone who can show they get assistance from one of the following programs has good cause:

  • Family Independence Program (FIP)
  • State Disability Assistance (SDA)
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)  

The SOS requires proof from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) or the Social Security Administration (SSA) that shows you get assistance. 

If you do not receive these kinds of benefits but still cannot pay the fee, you can still ask the SOS for a good cause waiver. The local office will send your request to Lansing for approval. It may take a week or two to get a decision. You will have to bring proof of your income and expenses to show that you cannot afford the fee.

If you receive Food Assistance benefits (food stamps), you may be able to use the document from the MDHHS that shows the amount of benefits you are receiving now. That document shows how much total income MDHHS decided you have. You can find this document on MI Bridges.

I Don’t Have the Right Documents

To get a Michigan ID Card you need to prove these four factors:

  • Your identity

  • That you are a U.S. citizen or that you are an immigrant in status

  • That you live in Michigan

  • That you have a social security number or that you are ineligible for one

You do this with documents that support each factor. The most common documents used include:

  • U.S. issued passports

  • Driver’s licenses/IDs from Michigan or other states

  • U.S. birth certificates

  • Social security cards

  • Multiple utility bills

You may not have all these documents. You may have been born at home, which means you do not have a birth certificate. Or you may be living with a friend and do not have any bills in your name. If you do not have all these documents, you might still be able to get a Michigan ID card.

Things like yearbooks, medical records, and tax forms might be acceptable alternatives. To see a list of documents the SOS will accept, visit the SOS Document List.  For more information, visit this page about License and ID document requirements.  


If you don't have the exact kinds of proof that are listed as preferred documents, you can ask your local office to request an exception from the Central Office in Lansing. Take any documents you have with you when you ask for an exception, including your Record of Effort. It will likely take the Central Office one or two weeks to make a decision.

The Record of Effort

If you are requesting an exception because you do not have all the documents you need, you will need to show that you tried to get them. This Record of Effort can be used to show the SOS office what you have done to try to get the documents you need. It can also be used to show that someone else has tried to help you get the documents. This is very important in case you have a problem getting all the documents that you need.

The Record of Effort will also help you keep track of what you have done to get your documents. The Record is divided into the four types of documents that the SOS needs. You should write down the documents you have for each thing you need to prove. Look to see if you have enough documents to satisfy the SOS for that type of proof. If you have to call or write another agency to get the documents, write down on the form the date that you called or wrote. Also write down the name of the agency or person you contacted. You should keep a copy of the letters that you send to ask for your documents and any responses you receive when you ask for an exception.

What if I am Homeless?

If you are homeless, you may have trouble proving you live in Michigan. If you are staying in a shelter, you may be able to use a letter from the shelter. It must be a shelter that the SOS knows. Contact your local SOS office to find out if your shelter qualifies.

If your shelter qualifies, the letter must be on the shelter’s letterhead. The letter should be typed. It should be dated no more than 30 days before the date you request an ID. The letter should include the shelter’s phone number, your name, the shelter’s physical address (no PO Boxes), and the signature and title of the person from the shelter who wrote the letter. The letter should say that you are living at that shelter.

If you are staying with a friend who is not a relative, it may be harder to prove you are a Michigan resident. The SOS does not usually accept proof from a friend that the friend pays bills at a particular address. However, if you have no other proof, you may want to ask if the local office will request an “exception” for you from the Central Office in Lansing. You may want to show any mail, medical records, or government proof that you live with your friend. You could also show a statement from your friend that says you live there.