Getting a Standard Michigan Driver’s License

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If you want to drive on public roads in Michigan, you must have a valid driver’s license. Read this article to learn about the process and the documents you will need to renew, replace, or get your Michigan driver’s license for the first time.

The Process

The process of getting your driver’s license varies depending on your age. It is also different your first time getting a driver’s license. You must pass the knowledge test and the driving skills test if any of these are true:

  • You have an expired foreign driver’s license;

  • You have a driver’s license from another state that expired more than four years ago; or

  • You are getting a driver’s license for the first time.

The Knowledge Test

The knowledge test measures how well you know Michigan traffic laws and safe driving practices. If you are 18 years old or older, you can make an appointment to take the knowledge test at a Secretary of State (SOS) branch office. If you are younger than 18 years old, read Getting a Standard Michigan Driver’s License if You Are a Teenager to learn about tests you need to take.

The knowledge test is graded immediately after you turn it in. Your results will be given to you then. The booklet What Every Driver Must Know has all the information you need to pass this test. You can review the booklet online and print it out, or you can pick it up at any SOS branch office. There is no fee to take this test.

If you have a hard time speaking or reading English, you can request a list of available spoken language interpreters.  Printed translations of the knowledge tests are also available in many languages. Visit the SOS Language Services page for more information. If you are hearing-impaired, you can request a sign language interpreter in advance, or you may use an interpreter you know. For more information, and to request an interpreter, visit the SOS Accessibility and Accommodations page.  There are no fees for interpreters or translated materials the SOS provides.

Temporary Instruction Permit

After you pass the knowledge test, you will qualify for a Temporary Instruction Permit (TIP). A TIP lets you practice driving for up to 180 days with a licensed adult who is 21 years old or older. It costs $25.

Before you get a TIP, you must pass a vision test and show certain documents. Read "The Documents You Need" section below to learn more. Your TIP is issued right after you pass your vision test and the SOS employee helping you verifies your documents.

You must practice driving with a licensed adult for at least 30 days before you can take the driving skills test. The driving skills test may be waived if you have a driver's license issued by another state.

The Driving Skills Test

Driving skills tests are given by independent third-party testing organizations approved by the SOS. The fees for taking the driving skills test vary depending on where you take it. To find a testing location near you and to learn about the fees, visit the SOS online services page, find the Business Services section, and click on "Driver Education and Testing Businesses."  Then click "Search Driver Testing Business Locations."

The driving skills test has two parts — a basic control skills test and an on-road driving test. The first part is a series of off-street, closed-course exercises. Then you must pass a road skills test. The road skills test includes urban, expressway, rural highway, and residential driving. After you pass both, you get a driving skills certificate.

All drivers who are getting their licenses for the first time, have expired foreign driver’s licenses or driver’s licenses from another state that expired more than four years ago, must take the driving skills test. The driving skills test may be waived if your driver's license from another state is current or expired less than four years ago.

The SOS has published a Study Guide for the driving skills test. Review it before taking the driving skills test. Once you pass the driving skills test, you can get a Michigan driver's license.

After successfully completing your driving skills test, take your skills test certificate, TIP, and appropriate identification documents to a SOS office to get your driver's license.

The Documents You Need

You will need documents to prove all four of these factors before you can get your standard driver’s license:

  • Your identity

  • That you are a U.S. citizen or that you have legal immigration status

  • That you live in Michigan

  • That you have a Social Security Number or that you are ineligible for one

You prove the four factors with different documents. The SOS only accepts original documents. Faxed and photocopied documents are not accepted. Some documents may prove multiple factors. All documents must be approved by SOS managers. Certain documents may take more than one day to be approved.

Proving Your Identity

You may need to present more than one document to prove your identity. Some acceptable documents include:

  • Out of state driver’s licenses or ID cards (less than one year expired)

  • Expired Michigan driver’s license

  • Marriage licenses or divorce decrees

  • Michigan adoption records

  • U.S. military ID cards 

  • U.S. court orders for a name change

  • U.S. school records, such as school ID cards with photos and names, diplomas, transcripts, or yearbooks

You can request copies of court documents, such as a marriage license, divorce decree, or name change, from the county clerk’s office where the legal action occurred.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, you must submit two of the following documents to prove identity:

  • Your foreign passport

  • Your Employment Authorization Card

  • Your Refugee Travel Document 

  • Your immigrant visa

If you were recently released from prison, you can use your Michigan Department of Corrections prisoner ID card to prove your identity. But, it will require verification that may take more than one day.

Proving Your Legal Presence

You must prove you are either a U.S. citizen or you are authorized to be in this country. You can prove you are a U.S. citizen with a U.S. passport or birth certificate. These are other acceptable documents:

  • A Consular Report of Birth Abroad issued by the U.S. State Department

  • A Certificate of Naturalization

  • A valid, unexpired U.S. passport or passport card

If you are not a U.S. citizen, you must use your immigration documents to show you are authorized to be in Michigan. Examples of these documents are:

  • A valid Permanent Resident Card (Green Card)

  • A valid, unexpired Employment Authorization

  • Certain visas

  • Other Department of Homeland Security documents with I-94 or Alien Registration Number (A#)

Proving You Live in Michigan

You must prove you are a Michigan resident. This can be done using two documents that list your name and physical address in Michigan. Post Office Box (PO Box) addresses are not accepted. Examples of acceptable documents are:

  • Most types of bills (utilities, like gas and electric, credit card, mortgage, etc.) that were issued within the last 90 days

  • Account statements from your bank

  • A Michigan school report card or transcript

  • Pay stubs issued with the name and address of your employer

Other documents listing your name and Michigan address may be acceptable, with a SOS branch manager’s approval.

If you do not have a permanent Michigan address because you are homeless, you still might be able to prove you are a Michigan resident. If you are staying with a family member, you can use a document that has that family member’s name if you can prove your relationship. Read Common Problems with Getting a Michigan ID Card to learn more about this.

Your Social Security Number

Finally, you need to prove you have a Social Security number (SSN) or you are ineligible for one. Take your Social Security Card or another document from the Social Security Administration (SSA) that has your name and SSN on it with you to the SOS office.

If you don’t have either of those documents, you can take:

  • Your W-2 or 1099 completed tax return form

  • A pay stub with your name and SSN on it

  • A letter of ineligibility from the Social Security Administration that is not more than 30 days old (this must be presented with USCIS documents that show non-work authorized status)

If you do not have SSN because of your religion, you must contact the SSA so they can give you the document you need to get your driver’s license.

To view all the documents the SOS will accept, see the SOS Document List.