I Just Moved to Michigan. How Do I Transfer My Driver's License and Vehicle Registration?
The Great Lakes State is appealing to individuals who are looking for a career in higher education, agriculture, or the automotive industries. Michigan borders five Great Lakes, which is perfect for a day trip for couples and families. Thousands of people move to Michigan each year to take advantage of different opportunities and get a fresh start in this Midwestern state.
When you make Michigan your new home, you will be required to transfer your out-of-state driver’s license and out-of-state vehicle registration upon establishing residency in the state. Here’s your guide to transferring your out-of-state documents.
When Do You Need to Transfer Your Out-of-State Driver’s License to Michigan?
Once you establish residency in Michigan, you are considered a new resident of the state. The state of Michigan requires you to transfer your driver’s license and obtain current state vehicle registration.
How to Transfer an Out-of-State Driver’s License to Michigan
There are different steps that are required to successfully transfer your out-of-state driver’s license to the state of Michigan. Here they are:
Visit Your Local Michigan Secretary of State Office
You must visit your local Michigan Secretary of State office (SOS) to complete an out-of-state driver’s license transfer. You will not be required to schedule an appointment. However, it’s in your best interest to arrive at the office as early as possible to avoid standing in a long line.
Pass the Vision Screening
The state of Michigan tests you on your vision to ensure you can safely operate a motor vehicle. You will need to have a score of 20/40 or better to pass the MI vision test. If you don’t pass the vision screening, you will be required to drive with corrective lenses or retake the exam for a better score.
Have Your Picture Taken
You will need to take a picture for your new MI driver’s license and internal files with the Michigan office. Although there is no dress code, you will need to dress presentable because this picture will last for years.
Provide the Proper Documentation
At the time you transfer your out-of-state driver’s license, you must present and submit certain documents. All documents must be original documents and not photocopied documents. You must present your:
Out-of-state driver’s license (providing your identity and birth date)
Social security card
Proof of legal status or citizenship
Proof of your physical MI address
Proof of a valid MI liability insurance coverage
Receive Your Temporary MI Driver’s License
The state of Michigan does not require a written or road test when you’re transferring your out-of-state driver’s license. Once the Michigan Secretary of State (MI SOS) approves your documents, you will receive a temporary, paper Michigan driver’s license. Your permanent MI driver’s license will be mailed to the address you provided on the application in two weeks.
What If You’re From a Different Country?
If you’re from a country other than the United States, but hold an international driver’s license, you can drive in the state of Michigan. However, if you plan on moving to Michigan, there are laws that you need to consider and follow.
Residents moving to the state of Michigan from treaty countries, such as Germany, Canada, or South Korea, are able to convert their driver’s license to the state of Michigan without taking an MI written or road test.
Converting your license is similar to the process of transferring an out-of-state driver’s license to the state of Michigan listed above. If you’re moving to Michigan from a non-treaty country, you will be required to apply for a new Michigan driver’s license.
Michigan Written Knowledge Exam
The Michigan written knowledge exam consists of 50 questions. This test is designed to assess your understanding of the core traffic laws and road signs around the state of Michigan. In order to pass the MI written knowledge exam, you must score at least 80% on the exam, which is answering at least 40 questions correctly.
Michigan Road Test
The Michigan road test is designed to test your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle in the state. You must perform key maneuvers, such as maintaining a safe following distance, turning, u-turns, and more. You must take the MI road test in a vehicle that is in good operating condition.
What Happens If You Don’t Transfer Your Driver’s License in Time?
You need to schedule an appointment to transfer your out-of-state driver’s license to the state of Michigan as soon as possible. Since it will take two weeks for you to receive your permanent MI driver’s license, it would be best if you scheduled an appointment at your local MI SOS office to transfer your driver’s license as soon as possible to avoid possible penalties, such as fees and citations.
Hooray! You now know the steps you need to take to transfer your out-of-state driver’s license to the state of Michigan. Now let’s discuss the steps that are required to transfer your out-of-state vehicle’s registration.
Registering Your Out-of-State Vehicle Registration In Michigan
In order to register your vehicle with the Michigan Secretary of State (MI SOS), you must provide your vehicle’s title, driver’s license, proof of a valid MI insurance policy, and payment for the registration fee(s).
If you purchased a vehicle from a dealership, the dealer usually handles the vehicle registration paperwork on your behalf. You can obtain a temporary MI vehicle registration permit if you plan to drive your vehicle for a short time.
As a new resident of Michigan, and you purchased a new car, you are required to register your vehicle(s) with Michigan’s Secretary of State. If you have already registered your vehicle, you must renew your registration.
Be advised that there are separate vehicle registration requirements for other vehicle types, such as custom-built cars and ATVs.
New Residents of Michigan
Once you establish residency in Michigan, you are required to immediately register your vehicle with the MI SOS.
Vehicle registration and vehicle titling are completed simultaneously in Michigan. To obtain a Michigan vehicle registration certificate, you must visit your local MI SOS office with:
Proof of a valid Michigan no-fault auto insurance policy (your former out-of-state vehicle insurance coverage can’t be used)
Current out-of-state vehicle title (all vehicle owners are required to be present) If a vehicle owner that is listed on the vehicle’s title is unable to appear, they are required to complete an Appointment of Agent/Power of Attorney (Form TR-128). They must also provide a photocopy of their driver’s license or ID card.
Out-of-state vehicle registration, only if your vehicle’s title is being held by a lien holder (this certificate can be current or recently expired)
A completed Application for Michigan Vehicle Title (TR-11L)
Proof of identification (out-of-state driver’s license, photo ID card, birth certificate)
Payment for all applicable MI vehicle registration and titling fees
Keep in mind that your Michigan vehicle registration expires on your birthday.
Registering a Vehicle in Michigan
The process for registering a vehicle in Michigan differs based on whether your vehicle was purchased from a dealer, purchased from an individual (private sale), or transferred/gifted to you from a family member.
Vehicles Purchased From a Dealership
If you purchase a vehicle from a dealership, the dealer will take care of the vehicle titling and vehicle registration documents on your behalf. Make sure you have copies of these vehicle documents until your vehicle’s title, registration certificate, and Michigan license plate all arrive in the mail. These copies will serve as temporary proof of ownership.
Vehicles Purchased From a Private Party
If you purchased a vehicle from an individual, the responsibility of submitting the required paperwork falls on you. It’s a good idea for you and the vehicle’s seller to visit an MI SOS office together to complete this process.
You have 15 days from the date of purchasing the vehicle to title and register your vehicle. You are allowed to drive your vehicle without plates for the first 3 days in order to get your vehicle registered with the state of Michigan. Your assigned vehicle title will serve as proof if you are stopped by an authority.
To register your vehicle in the state of Michigan with your local SOS office, you need to visit the office with:
The signed-over vehicle title (all vehicle owners are required to appear in person. If an owner is not able to appear, they are required to provide an Appointment of Agent/Power of Attorney (Form TR-128) with a photocopy of their identification.
The vehicle title should include the following documents and information:
The buyer’s and seller’s signatures
The signature of the lien holder (if applicable)
The vehicle’s identification number (VIN)
Proof of identification (driver’s license, U.S. passport, photo ID card)
Proof of a valid MI no-fault auto insurance policy
Payment for all applicable MI taxes and fees
Vehicles Gifted/Transferred From a Family Member
The process for registering a vehicle when the vehicle is purchased or transferred between family members is the same steps that are required when you purchase a vehicle in a private sale from an individual, which are listed above. You are exempt from paying vehicle use tax on the vehicle if you are purchasing or receiving the vehicle from any of the following immediate family members:
Parents (including adoptive or step-parents)
Siblings (including half-siblings and step-siblings)
Children (including adopted children)
Grandparents and grandchildren
Legal guardians or wards
You are not required to provide proof of relationship to your local MI SOS office in order to qualify for the CA vehicle tax exemption. However, you may be contacted by the Department of Treasury and asked to provide proof of relationship.
Be advised that all “step” relationships are no longer valid in the event of a divorce.
Transferring Your Michigan Vehicle Registration
You can transfer your existing vehicle’s license plate to a newly-purchased vehicle, assuming the MI SOS has it in its files under your name.
In order to complete the MI vehicle registration transfer, you can visit your local MI SOS office with:
Your current MI vehicle registration certificate (if the MI SOS can verify your vehicle license plate number in their database, you will be fine)
The title of the new vehicle (if the vehicle title is being processed, the MI SOS will accept a copy of the title application)
Proof of a valid MI no-fault vehicle insurance policy (this is only required if you changed auto insurance carriers since your last vehicle registration renewal)
Payment for the MI vehicle title transfer fee of $10
Be advised that you will also apply for a new MI vehicle title at this time, and additional fees will apply.
Temporary Michigan Registration Permits
If you don’t intend on driving your vehicle for an extended period (for example, if you’re in the military and often out of the country) the state of Michigan offers temporary MI vehicle registration permits. You can obtain a permit for 30 days or 60 days.
The Michigan vehicle permit will cost a certain portion of what your full vehicle registration fee would be:
30-day permit: either a portion of the annual MI vehicle registration rate, or $20, whichever is greater.
60-day permit: Either a portion of the annual registration fee or $40, whichever is greater
Be advised that both Michigan vehicle permits come with a $10 service fee.
You can apply for a temporary MI vehicle permit at any MI SOS office with:
Proof of a valid MI no-fault auto insurance policy
The vehicle’s MI title
Payment for the temporary MI permit fee of $10
Michigan Vehicle Registration for Non-Residents
If you are an out-of-state student that is attending college in the state of Michigan, in most situations, you will not be required to register your vehicle with the MI SOS. However, if you get hired for a part-time or full-time job, your exemption is no longer valid, and you will be required to obtain MI license plates for your vehicles.
If you are a non-resident of Michigan who is living or working in the state, you are required to register your vehicle with the MI SOS if you establish residency in any of the following ways:
Register to vote in Michigan
File a Michigan income tax statement
Open a business in Michigan
Obtain a Michigan’s driver’s license
Pay in-state college tuition
Michigan Vehicle Registration Fees
Your MI vehicle registration fees are calculated based on your vehicle’s age:
Vehicles model year 1984 and newer: these fees are based on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). The state of Michigan provides a year-by-year chart of MSRPs for all model vehicles.
Vehicles model year 1983 and older: these fees are based on the vehicle’s weight. Check Michigan’s vehicle weight chart.
Be advised, that other base fees may apply:
MI vehicle title fees: $15
Vehicle registration late fee: $10
Vehicle title late fee: $15
Vehicle registration transfer fee: $10
Use tax: 6%
License plate fee: $5 (standard plate)
Michigan SOS Locations
There are multiple Michigan Secretary of State locations where you can transfer your out-of-state driver’s license and out-of-state vehicle registration.
Michigan Secretary of State - Livonia Office
17176 Farmington Rd
Livonia, MI 48152
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday (9 AM to 5 PM)
Wednesday (9 AM - 7 PM)
Saturday (9 AM to 12 PM)
Michigan Secretary of State - Lansing Office
7064 Crowner Dr.
Lansing, MI 48918
Monday - Friday (8:30 AM to 5 PM)
Saturday and Sunday (Closed)
Michigan Secretary of State - Muskegon Office
1485 E Apple Ave
Muskegon, MI 49442
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday (9 AM to 5 PM)
Wednesday (9 AM to 7 PM)
Saturday and Sunday (Closed)
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