Legal, Highly-Skilled Immigrants Disappointed with Michigan's Decision to Deny Driver's License to Them

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Instead of encouraging legal highly-skilled immigrants that can boost Michigan's economy, the state sends a signal that they are not welcome in the state.

Michigan Secretary of State, Ms. Terri Lynn Land, the head of Department of Motor Vehicles in the state, has issued a new rule denying driver's license to immigrants on a temporary visa status. This means that legal highly skilled immigrants whose green card applications are pending due to massive backlogs and who are expected to drive Michigan's economy won't be allowed to drive on Michigan's driver's license. The new rule is based on the interpretation of state law by State Attorney General Mike Cox that driver's licenses can be issued only to 'legal and permanent' residents.

Immigration Voice has been monitoring the situation arising out of this new rule. Decision to deny licenses to legal immigrants and temporary visa holders is unprecedented. It will create extreme hardships to members of our community in commuting to their work, in a state that lacks a proper public transport system.

While questions are being raised on the decision of the state in interpreting a 'legal resident' in conflict with that of the Federal government, Immigration Voice has learned that efforts are being made to pass a legislation to remedy the impasse created. Immigration Voice, after careful analysis of the Michigan senate bill 962 (section 310 F), believes that the bill, as proposed, will create more problems than it's attempting to fix.

  •     Highly skilled-immigrants who have applied for Green Card will be issued temporary operator licenses which will be valid for only one year.
  •     Due to massive backlogs in employment immigration, most of these immigrants will be required to renew their licenses annually for the next 6-12 years. The bill requires verification of status for each renewal.
  •     It will create hardship for this community, and additional workload for the departmental staff in renewing licenses every year. It also requires that the department train its workers in the immigration law so that applications aren't rejected due to misinterpretation of the complex US immigration law.
  •     Legal immigrants may face issues in obtaining mortgages, educational loans or otherwise face issues in providing proof of identification, due to the temporary nature of these licenses. Many banks and financial institutions do not accept passports issued by a foreign government as the primary proof of identification.

Vivek Prabhu, Michigan Chapter Head of Immigration Voice said "state of Michigan should provide driver's licenses to legal immigrants and the international students without further delay. Any new law that creates additional restrictions on immigrants, who contribute a lot to the state economy, will make these immigrants feel unwelcome in the state. Michigan has already lost 30,000 residents to recession. It can ill-afford to lose thousands of workers and students, which will be disastrous to its economy and the universities".

Immigration Voice urges Michigan lawmakers to work with us in passing a sensible legislation that does not create undue hardship to the immigrants and overburdens the department with additional workload. As an organization representing thousands of legal immigrant workers and students, it also urges Michigan Attorney General and Secretary of State to talk to it on issues affecting the legal immigrant community.

Immigration Voice is a non-profit grassroots organization working to solve the issues faced by highly-skilled immigrants waiting to adjust status to permanent residents of the United States.

Immigration Voice
P O Box 1372
Arcadia, CA 91077-1372
Telephone: (202) 386-6250
Fax : (202) 403-3853
Website :


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Ashish Sharma
Immigration Voice
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