Michigan Welcomes International Travelers to State

Release Date: 
Thursday, August 3, 2017
LANSING, Mich. – A new law, now in effect, will make it easier for international travelers to explore Michigan and travel throughout the state by streamlining the rules for nonresidents driving in Michigan. Governor Rick Snyder will share this announcement with tourism officials on Friday as part of his seventh investment mission to China.
Public Act 138 of 2016, which took effect this spring, removes provisions in the Michigan Vehicle Code that prevented travelers from certain countries, including China, from operating a motor vehicle in Michigan as a nonresident. Previously, state law did not permit travelers from nations not party to international driving treaties to drive in Michigan.
“International travelers who come to Michigan are looking to experience the diversity of destinations our state offers – from urban centers like Detroit to the natural beauty of the Upper Peninsula,” said Dave Lorenz, Vice President of Travel Michigan, part of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “That usually requires that travelers drive in order to see it all, making this legislation a critical piece of our international attraction efforts.”
Under the new law, any nonresident driver who holds a driver’s license issued by a country other than the United States may operate a motor vehicle in the state, provided they are noncommercial drivers. Individuals must have their valid license in their possession while operating a vehicle, and if no English translation appears on the license they must also possess one of the following:
  • A valid international driving permit.
  • A document containing a photo and an English translation that substantially corresponds to an international driving permit if the license was issued by a country that does not issue international driving permits. 
Michigan’s international leisure travel marketing efforts are focused on the UK, Germany and China – which combined make up 36 percent of all international travel to Michigan, according to the most recent survey results from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Survey of International Air Travelers (SIAT). Under the previous law, Chinese tourists were not eligible to operate a motor vehicle in the state – a significant deterrent to attracting leisure travelers from this critical market.
Even with this disadvantage, Michigan saw +79 percent growth in Chinese travelers to Michigan between 2014 and 2015, highlighting the impact this market has for Michigan’s tourism industry. Chinese visitors with valid licenses in China will now be able to travel freely in Michigan without having to rely solely on motorcoach, group travel experiences or public transportation options. This will expand the time they spend, distances they travel and money they spend here in the state and make Michigan more competitive with neighboring Great Lakes states that did allow for driving reciprocity.
“As the state that put the world on wheels, it only makes sense to invite international visitors to take a great American roadtrip right here in Pure Michigan – this legislation helps us do just that,” Lorenz said.
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community and talent development with the focus on growing Michigan’s economy.  For more information on the MEDC and our initiatives, visit www.MichiganBusiness.org.  For Pure Michigan® tourism information, your trip begins at www.michigan.org. Visit Pure Michigan Talent Connect at www.mitalent.org for more information on Michigan’s online marketplace for connecting job seekers and employers.  Join the conversation on: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.
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Contact: Michelle Grinnell, 517-241-0251, [email protected]