Applying for Unemployment

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Information You Need Before You Apply

When you apply for unemployment, you will need all of the following:

  • Your social security number

  • A mailing address, including zip code and county

  • Your driver's license or state ID number

  • The names and addresses of all your employers during the past 18 months

  • The dates of employment and wages paid by each employer during the past 18 months

  • If you are not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, your alien registration number and the expiration date of your work authorization

  • Your personal identification number (PIN) from any past unemployment claims

Choose How to Get Your Benefits

You can choose to have your benefits paid in one of two ways. You can have them put on a debit card from the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA), or you can have your benefits directly deposited into your bank or credit union account. If you choose direct deposit, you will need the routing transit number and your account number.

You can change how you get your benefits paid by calling 1-866-500-0017.

Add Up Your Wages

You will have to give your gross wages from each employer by calendar quarter for the past 18 months. Start with the most recent quarter. Calendar quarters are:

  • January 1 – March 31

  • April 1 – June 30

  • July 1 – September 30

  • October 1 – December 31

It is best to give the most accurate numbers possible. But if you don’t know your exact wages, you can estimate.

When to Apply

An unemployment claim begins the week you file it. Apply for the benefits as soon as you qualify and want to start getting them.

A claim is established for 52 weeks from the week you file it. The benefit year starts the Sunday of the week you file. It ends the Saturday one year later.

You can only get 20 weeks of unemployment benefits in a benefit year. The 20 weeks do not have to be consecutive. There can be weeks you do not claim benefits in between the ones that you do. For example,  if you get 12 weeks of unemployment, work for 20 weeks, and then need unemployment again, you will only have eight weeks of benefits left for this benefit year. You will not be able to get more benefits until 52 weeks after you filed the original claim.

How to Apply

The UIA encourages people to apply online, but you can also apply by phone or in person. 

Apply Online

You can apply online anytime. It usually takes about 45 minutes to apply online. You can file online if all of the following apply:

  • You worked for at least one but not more than 19 Michigan employers in the last 18 months;

  • You only worked under one social security number in the last 18 months;

  • You have not filed an unemployment claim with any other state in the past 12 months; and

  • You know your employer’s mailing address.

To file online go to the Michigan Web Account Manager (MiWAM). You will have to create a login name and password. Then you will be asked a series of questions. Yellow answer fields indicate required answers. For more information on how to use MiWAM, read the MiWAM Toolkit

Be sure to save or print a copy of your application so you have proof of when you filed.

If you're having issues applying online, call 1-866-500-0017.

Classifying Your Separation

When you apply, you will be asked the reason for your separation; this is the reason you are no longer working for that employer. There are several options. Generally, separations are in one of three categories:

  • Fired

  • Laid off 

  • Quit

The UIA will compare your response to this question to your employer’s response when determining your eligibility for benefits.


If you were fired, the UIA will consider the reason you were fired when determining your eligibility. Give the reason your employer gave you for firing you, even if you disagree with it. You will have a chance to explain if you disagree with the reason for your firing. Giving a reason that is different than your employer’s may lead to a finding of fraud, which may bring penalties. It is important to tell the truth, even if it’s not pleasant.

If you were fired for misconduct in connection with work, you will be disqualified from benefits. Misconduct is a deliberate violation of workplace standards. It is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Circumstances that can lead to disqualification for misconduct include:

  • Intoxication or drug use at work

  • Excessive attendance violations

  • Falsifying company documents 

  • Failing or refusing to take a drug test

  • Stealing or willfully destroying property at work

  • Taking part in an illegal strike

  • Other conduct that is intentionally detrimental conduct towards the employer

Circumstances that might not be considered misconduct:

  • Your employer said you were not doing your job right;
  • You showed bad judgment or negligence (unless it is constant or your job has great responsibility over life or property);
  • You broke a rule because you thought it was in your employer’s best interest;
  • You caused harm to your employer without realizing your action would be against the employer’s interests;
  • An illness or injury prevents full performance of your job;
  • You were following a supervisor’s orders;
  • You made bad decisions in the course of your job;
  • You missed work for reasons beyond your control; or
  • You refuse to work on a day designated as Sabbath by your religion.

If you were fired for poor performance, you may still be eligible for benefits. Generally, being fired for not being good enough at your job does not disqualify you.

Laid Off

You were laid off if you were terminated due to a reduction in the workforce, plant shutdown, or the company closed and you were not fired and did not quit.


If you quit, the Agency will look at why you quit in determining your eligibility. Give the reason you gave your employer for quitting. Giving a reason different than the response your employer gives may lead to a finding of fraud, which may bring penalties.

Generally, if you voluntarily quit your job, you are disqualified from unemployment. There are some exceptions. If you quit a job for another permanent, full-time job, you are not disqualified. If you were forced to quit for reasons beyond your control, you might not be disqualified. If you quit for good cause attributable to the employer, you are not disqualified.

“Good cause attributable to your employer” means you quit because of something your employer did. For the UIA to accept that you quit for this reason, you have to be able to prove you let your employer know about a legitimate problem. You also have to prove the problem was not fixed after a reasonable time. Some examples of good reasons to quit may be:

  • You experienced harassment or discrimination in the workplace and your employer failed to fix the problem;
  • Your employer asked you to do something illegal or unethical;
  • You were told you will be laid off soon or forced to retire;
  • Your income was reduced or not paid;
  • There was a significant change in working conditions or terms of employment;
  • You are not being paid enough to make a living;
  • Your work conditions put you at serious health risk;
  • You left to accept a full-time job; or
  • There were unreasonable schedule changes.

Register for Work

After you apply for unemployment, you must register for work with Pure Michigan Talent Connect. You can register online or by going to a Michigan Works! location. Michigan Works! is a statewide network of more than 100 offices that helps people find jobs. You can find one on the Michigan Works! website or by calling 1-800-285-WORKS (9675). 

After you register with Pure Michigan Talent Connect, you need to have your profile verified by a Michigan Works! Service Center. This can be done in person or virtually. You must register at least one day before you request your first unemployment payment. If you fail to meet with Michigan Works! Service Center staff, it could prevent you from receiving your unemployment benefits. 

You will need:

  • A photo ID that is accepted by the state, such as driver’s license, state ID, or permanent resident card

  • An official document that shows both your social security number and your name, such as your social security card or a tax or employment document

  • A printed resume

If you don’t have a resume when you register, you will need to bring one to the service center later.

Reopening a Claim

You need to reopen your claim if you stopped getting benefits for a reason other than starting to work again. If you want to reopen your unemployment claim, follow the same steps as if you are applying for a new one.

File a new claim if you were working but got laid off again.

Checking on Your Application

You can check the status of your claim online or by calling 1-866-500-0017 8:00 am – 4:30 pm on weekdays.

After You Apply

After you apply for unemployment, the UIA will decide if you are eligible and if you qualify for benefits. The UIA will mail you a determination. It will tell you how much your weekly payments could be and how many weeks you could get benefits. You will get a separate notice if there is an eligibility problem with your claim.

It should take about five days after filing a claim to get your determination. It might take longer if the UIA has any questions about your claim. If the UIA has questions, you may receive a questionnaire that you will need to complete and send back to the UIA within 10 days of the date on the questionnaire. If you do not send it back within 10 days, you may be denied benefits.

If you are eligible for benefits you will get the Unemployment Benefit Booklet a couple days after you get your determination. It has detailed information about your rights and responsibilities when you’re getting unemployment. It also tells you how to get your benefit payment. It is very important to read the booklet carefully. To learn about your responsibilities while you’re getting unemployment, read Getting Unemployment Benefits: Your Rights & Responsibilities.

If You Disagree with a Determination 

If you disagree with a determination, you can protest and ask the UIA to look at your claim again. For example, you might want to protest if the determination says you didn’t meet the wage requirements. Or you might want to protest if you think you deserve more benefits than it says. 

The UIA must get your written protest within 30 days of when the determination was issued. If the UIA doesn’t receive your protest within 30 days, you must show good cause why it was late. Good cause can be very hard to prove. If you can’t show good cause the determination will become final.

You can make your written protest by mail or online. To submit online, use your Michigan Web Account Manager. Visit the UIA’s website for instructions. To mail your protest, send it to:

Unemployment Insurance Agency
P.O. Box 169
Grand Rapids, MI 49501-0169

You may want to speak with a lawyer before sending your protest to the UIA. Read the section below for more information on finding legal help.

Do You Need Legal Advice about your Unemployment Benefits?

If you have low income, you may qualify for free legal services. Whether you have low income or not, you can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers in your area.