Getting a Standard Michigan Driver’s License if You Are a Teenager

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There are many steps to getting a standard Michigan driver’s license if you are less than 18 years old. You need to go through the Graduated Driver Licensing system to apply for your license. You also need to prove your identity, citizenship, and that you completed your driver education class. Read this article to learn about the process of applying for a driver’s license and the documents you will need.

The Graduated Driver Licensing System

If you are less than 18 years old, you need to go through the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) system. It teaches you to drive by slowly increasing your driving privileges. The GDL consists of two driver education segments and three licensing levels. The Michigan Secretary of State (SOS) has an outline of the GDL and driver education process.  If you have a Level 2 or Level 3 license when you turn 18, the state will send you a standard license.  If you have a Level 1 license when you turn 18, you must start a new application for a driver's license.  To read more, go to the SOS page for New Drivers.

Finding a Driver Education Program

The Michigan Department of State certifies driver education providers and instructors to teach driver education in Michigan. Programs are provided by both public school districts and private driving schools. Enroll in an authorized driver education program to begin your GDL.

Driver Education Segment 1

Take Driver Education Segment 1 before you start supervised driving. You must be at least 14 years, 8 months old and have your parent or guardian’s permission before you can start Segment 1. It requires all of these:

  • 24 hours of classroom instruction

  • Six hours of behind-the-wheel instruction

  • Four hours of observation time in a training vehicle

You must finish both the classroom and driving instruction portions of the course to get your Segment 1 Certificate of Completion from your driver education school. You must also pass a written test. The Segment 1 Certificate of Completion is not a permit to drive. Do not treat it as a driver's license. After you finish Segment 1, you and your parent can apply for a Level 1 Driver's License at an SOS branch office.

Level 1 License

You must be at least 14 years, 9 months old to apply for the Level 1 License. There is no fee to get your Level 1 License. To get your Level 1 Driver’s License, you must pass a vision test. You must also take documents that prove your identity and citizenship. See "The Documents You Need" section below to learn more. Your Level 1 Driver’s License lets you drive only with your parents or a responsible adult, 21 years old or older, designated by your parent. All you need is your parent’s permission to drive with a designated adult.

Driver Education Segment 2

You can start Driver Education Segment 2 after you have had a valid Level 1 License for at least three straight months. During those three months, you must drive 30 hours, including at least two hours of night driving.

Segment 2 includes at least six hours of classroom instruction. You must log at least 50 hours of supervised driving, including 10 hours at night, to complete Segment 2. You will get a Certificate of Completion when you finish Segment 2. After you get your certificate and have been driving for at least six months, you can apply to take the driving skills test.

The Driving Skills Test

Independent third-party testing organizations approved by the SOS give the driving skills test. The fees for taking the test vary depending on the organization you choose. 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 is made up of two parts: a basic control skills test and an on-road driving test. The first part involves a series of off-street, closed-course exercises. Then you must pass a road skills test to get your Driving Skills Certificate. The road skills test includes urban, expressway, rural highway, and residential driving.

Level 2 Intermediate Driver’s License

After you pass the driving skills test, you can apply for your Level 2 Driver’s License. A Level 2 License costs $25. You must be at least 16 years old to apply for it. You must meet the same physical standards, including vision exam, as you did for your Level 1 License. You will also need to present the same identification documents. You cannot have any convictions or civil infractions, license suspensions, or at-fault crashes for the 90 days immediately before you apply for a Level 2 license. The parent, legal guardian, or responsible adult who drove with you must certify your 50 hours of behind-the-wheel driving experience, including at least 10 nighttime hours.

Once you get a Level 2 License, you typically cannot drive with more than one passenger who is under 21. There are exceptions to this rule. You can drive with more than one passenger under 21 in any of these situations:

  • The additional passengers are your immediate family members

  • You are driving somewhere for your job

  • You are going to an authorized activity (see the FAQs section of the SOS New Drivers page for more information)

  • Your parent, guardian, or a designated adult is with you

Level 3 Full License

After you have had your Level 2 license for at least six months, you may be eligible for your Level 3 full license. You must be at least 17 years old to get your Level 3 license. You must also have driven for 12 straight months without getting:

  • A moving violation

  • An accident

  • A license suspension or

  • A violation of the graduated license restrictions

If you are eligible for a Level 3 license, one will be created and mailed to you from Lansing using your picture on file from your Level 2 license. There is no fee for this license. Once you get your Level 3 license, there are no state-imposed license restrictions. 

The Documents You Need

You will need to take all of these documents with you to the SOS branch office when applying for your licenses at all levels:

  • A Social Security card or something from the Social Security Administration that has your Social Security number

  • A certified copy of your birth certificate with a raised seal, issued by a governmental unit in the U.S. or U.S. territory; or something that proves you are U.S. citizen

  • A government-issued Photo ID Card (if you do not have acceptable photo ID, a parent or guardian must present their driver's license or ID and sign for you)

  • High school records or transcripts to prove you live in Michigan. Residency documents in a family member's name may be used if the family relationship can be established by other forms of documented proof

If you are not a U.S. citizen but are authorized to be in the U.S., you will need all of these documents:

  • A Social Security card or something from the Social Security Administration (SSA) that has your Social Security number (SSN) or a letter from the SSA saying that you are ineligible for a SSN (this letter must be less than 30 days old)

  • Your foreign passport with English translations

  • A valid Permanent Resident Card/ Green Card (if you have one)

  • A valid, unexpired Employment Authorization (if you have one)

  • Your visa and other Department of Homeland Security documents with I-94 or Alien Registration Number (A#) if you are not a permanent resident

  • Michigan school records, school-issued ID, or pieces of mail with your name and your Michigan physical address on them

Depending on where are you in the GDL system, you must also take all of these:

  • Level 1 Learner's License

  • Segment 2 Certificate of Completion

  • Driving Skills Test Certificate

  • Parent, legal guardian or responsible adult to sign the application

All documents are subject to Department of State approval. In some cases, document approval may not occur the same day and require an additional visit.

Consequences for Violating GDL Restrictions

If you are ticketed and convicted of violating the restrictions of your GDL license, you will be referred for a driver assessment reexamination by the Michigan Department of State. Depending on the violation, your license may be suspended for up to a year. Any suspension may also delay your advancement through GDL system.