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Getting a Standard Michigan Driver’s License


    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 you:

    • Have an expired foreign driver’s license

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

    • 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 take the knowledge test at any 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 has 10 road sign recognition questions and either 40 multiple choice questions or 30 true or false questions. It 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, your local SOS office can give you a list of available spoken language interpreters. Contact your local office before you go to get a list of interpreters. Printed translations of the knowledge tests are also available in many languages. Ask your local office if it has the test in the language you need. If you are hearing-impaired, you can request a sign language interpreter in advance, or you may use an interpreter you know. 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 $25.00.

    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 the where you take it. Use the Testing Locator by County to find a testing location near you and to learn about the fees.

    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.

    The SOS has published a Study Guide for the driving skills test. You can get it at any branch office and on its website. 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 obtain your driver's license.

    The Documents You Need

    You will need documents to prove four 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 and

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

    • U.S. military ID cards and

    • U.S. court orders for a name changes

    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 or

    • 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. Some other acceptable documents are:

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

    • A Certificate of Naturalization and

    • A U.S. Census Record (this document requires verification, which may take more than one day)

    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

    • Various visas and

    • 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, 1099, or completed U.S. 1040 tax return form

    • A pay stub with your name and SSN on it or

    • A U.S. military ID card containing your photo and SSN

    If you are not eligible to get a SSN because you are a noncitizen, you must ask the SSA for a letter of ineligibility. Your letter must be less than 30 days old.

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

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