Driving in New York State
To drive a car or motorcycle in New York State, you must
- be at least 16 years old 1
- have a
- valid NYS driver license or learner permit, or
- a driver license or permit that is valid for driving in NYS issued by another state or country
- if you are under age 18, obey the restrictions that apply to drivers under age 18. See the Graduated Driver License (GDL) Law and the restrictions on drivers under age 18.
There are several types of licenses in NYS.
Can I drive In New York State with an out-of-state or foreign driver license?
You can drive in New York State with a valid driver license from another state or country. You don’t need to apply for a NYS driver license unless you become a New York State resident.
If you have a driver license from another country you do not need an International Driving Permit, but the permit verifies in several languages that you have a valid driver license. This is helpful to police officers who can’t read the language on your foreign driver license. Contact the authorities in your home country to get an International Driving Permit. 2
What if I become a resident of New York State?
If you become a New York State resident, you must get a NYS driver license within 30 days. If you have a valid driver license issued by another U.S. state or territory, federal district or Canadian province, you may be eligible to exchange it for a NYS driver license (see Exchange an out-of-state license).
If your license was issued outside the U.S. or Canada, you must apply for a new original NYS driver license at a DMV office (see Get a driver license).
Definition of "Resident"
Section 250 (5) of the NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law says:
As used in this section, the term "resident" shall mean domiciliary, that is, one who lives in this state with the intention of making it a fixed and permanent abode. It shall be presumptive evidence that a person who maintains a place of abode in this state for a period of at least ninety days is a resident of this state.
To live in a house, a home, an apartment, a room or other similar place in NYS for 90 days is considered "presumptive evidence" that you are a resident of New York State. A police officer can use this as evidence to issue a traffic ticket if you drive in New York State without a NYS driver license or vehicle registration.
A judge considers the law and the evidence of your intent and decides if you are a resident of New York State. If you pay taxes or your children attend school in another state, a judge considers these facts to decide if your intent is to make NYS a "fixed and permanent" residence. According to this law, students from other states or from other nations who attend school in New York State are usually not considered residents of NYS. DMV does not decide if you are a resident of New York State, if you must get a NYS driver license, or if you must register your vehicle in New York State.
If I am a student studying in NYS do I need a NYS driver license?
Students from other states or from other nations who attend school in New York State are normally not considered NYS residents.
If I am visiting NYS from another country do I need a NYS driver license?
If you have a driver license from any nation except Canada, you should only apply for a NYS driver license if you become a resident of New York State or if you do not have a driver license from your home country.
To get a NYS driver license, you must pass a written test, complete a 5-hour pre-licensing course and pass a road test to qualify for a NYS driver license. See Get a driver license for requirements.
When you pass your road test, you will be required to surrender your foreign driver license to the DMV road test examiner. The local DMV office will destroy your foreign driver license after 60 days. If you plan to return to your home country and will need your foreign driver license, ask the road test examiner how to make sure that your foreign driver license is not destroyed.