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Important updates from Michigan’s Secretary of State Office – Driver’s license and other services

Sept 5, 2020, MI

Several questions related to driver’s license matters were answered at the virtual town hall meeting on September 4th.  The meeting participants included several ethnic community leaders. Questions also addressed driver’s license matters related to foreign-born individuals with various visa statuses.

See below answers for questions raised at the meeting:

Question: Appointments at local Secretary of State branches to apply for a license, transfer a title, or register a car are now scheduling three months into the future.  Unless someone has a Driver's License that expires or has already expired, on or before September 30th, "same-day” appointments are very difficult to obtain. Often newly-arrived international students need these services in order to get settled in the United States and take care of themselves and their families.  How can your office support these new arrivals with access to timely in-person appointments for necessary services for Driver's Licenses and State IDs? 

Answer: That would be an original driver/pid transaction which is one of the appointments that can be scheduled for ”next day” as well as future appointments.  Thousands of appointments open up every morning at 8 for the next day.  

Next-day appointments are offered between 9-11 a.m. and 3-4 p.m. Morning appointments become available the previous day at 8 a.m. and afternoon appointments become available the previous day at noon.

Question: Why does it take 3 months to secure an appointment?  My enhanced driver’s license expired on July 8, and my appointment is for September 16.  I could have renewed it in the mail for a regular license, but I always had an enhanced license.  The information on-line about how to renew my license was unclear, so I stopped by my local SOS office just to ask if I could renew it by mail or if I had to make an appointment because it was an enhanced license and they wouldn’t even let me in to ask the question.  [Although this question is fairly specific, it speaks to a broader issue of communication and information that is available.]

Answer: Customers with driver’s licenses or state ID cards that expire between Jan. 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2020, and require a branch visit, can schedule a special appointment between 4 and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, from Aug. 24 through Sept. 30, 2020. We’ve added these literally hundreds of thousands of appointment slots to ensure customers are able to get into the branch to complete their renewals by the deadline.

Customers may make an appointment up to six months in advance or may make a next-day appointment at Next-day appointments are offered between 9-11 a.m. and 3-4 p.m. Morning appointments become available the previous day at 8 a.m. and afternoon appointments become available the previous day at noon. The 8 a.m. and noon release times for next-day appointments is a recent update, which has made it easier for customers to find appointments. We offer thousands of next-day appointment each day.

To protect public health and slow the spread of the coronavirus, upon reopening, all Secretary of State branch visits will be by appointment only.

Most renewal services that customers come into the branch office for can be done online 

Question:  Is the SOS considering extending the 9/30/2020 deadline for DLs that have expired?  People are having a hard time (even with expanded hours) finding an appointment before 9/30.

Answer: No extension has been agreed on, nor has there been a legislative push to extending at this point. The existing extensions are in state statute, and as such Secretary Benson does not have the ability to extend.  Secretary Benson and her staff are focusing on getting as many people renewed as possible between now and the extension expiration.

Question: What on-going training is provided to SoS staff around serving foreign-born individuals with various visa statuses and their qualifications for driver’s licenses?

Answer: All staff receive training in the processing of documentation for original issuance of driver licenses as well as renewal transactions.  Branches are provided training as new material or processes are developed.  Visa status and the documentation that is provided for verification are often very technical and specific, and not all staff are used to seeing these documents even they though they are trained.  We have branch managers and a special area that handles these special visa classes.   A training guide was recently updated in the Learning Center, titled “ID Documents for SAVE.”  It provides updated instructions to branch staff about using SAVE. 

Question: Can the SoS provide guidance to the branch staff about describing to an applicant what the SAVE verification process is; approximately how long it takes; and why it’s needed before a license is issued?  Oftentimes, applicants who require the SAVE verification leave a branch office thinking that their application was denied.

Answer: The Department does provide background information on what SAVE (Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements) is to staff.  Part of the difficulty in explaining it is If the system is operating smoothly and the customer’s information is current in the system, it takes seconds to validate.  If the customer’s information is not updated properly by DHS, it can take a day or two or up to several weeks (for a level three verification).  This validation is solely the responsibility of the federal government - the Department of Homeland Security.  In order to issue a license or personal ID card, the MI Department of State must validate federal documentation against this system as required under law.  Although we tell customers that we have to wait for verification from SAVE/DHS, they interpret that to mean a denial because a level three verification can take weeks if the documents are not getting processed by DHS timely.
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