"It's a moment in time and in history," Jean told The Associated Press as he went to hand in his candidacy papers at the election office in the capital, Port-au-Prince. "It's very emotional."
"The United States has Barack Obama and Haiti has Wyclef Jean," he shouted to cheering supporters, many wearing the free white T-shirts distributed by his backers with the campaign slogan "Face to Face".
The winner of the November 28 election will preside over the billions of dollars in international aid being channelled to Haiti to rebuild after the January 12 earthquake.
Jean has never held elected office but is widely admired in Haiti and credited with never having forgotten his Haitian roots.
The former Fugees star, best known for his work with Colombian pop star Shakira and their 2006 mega-hit "Hips Don't Lie", was born in Haiti but grew up in New York and later New Jersey.
"Regardless of what path I take next, one thing is certain: My focus on helping Haiti turn a new corner will only grow stronger"
Wyclef Jean, Haiti-born hiphop star
Jean has played a prominent role since the earthquake in raising funds for Haiti through his charity, the Yele Foundation, but stepped down as its leader earlier on Thursday following allegations of financial improprieties.
"I am not stepping down in my commitment to Haiti," Jean said in a statement.
"On the contrary, regardless of what path I take next, one thing is certain: My focus on helping Haiti turn a new corner will only grow stronger."
The January 12 quake killed an estimated 300,000 people, destroyed thousands of buildings, including most government ministries, and left some 1.5 million homeless survivors still living under tarpaulins and in makeshift tent cities.
Among the most formidable rivals Jean could face if his candidacy is approved is Jacques-Edouard Alexis, Haiti's ousted ex-prime minister, who secured the backing of outgoing leader Rene Preval's powerful Unity party this week.
Preval, who is legally barred from seeking re-election, has faced widespread criticism for failing to aid victims of the quake and to launch a credible start to the huge task of rebuilding the country.
Though Jean has not lived in Haiti within the past five years, he is popular among young people and will probably attract a lot of interest, Kim Ives, a journalist for the newspaper Haiti Liberte, told Al Jazeera.
That makes the eight-member Provisional Electoral Council, which will vet his candidacy, more likely to approve him, Ives said.
But Jean still faces serious obstacles with the general population, he said, including the fiscal irregularities in his charity and his support for the 2004 coup d'etat that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
"The vast majority, the masses in Haiti, are going to have real doubts about him and some of his affiliations," Ives said.