Driving in New York State
Who can drive here?
To drive a car or motorcycle in New York State, you must
- be at least 16 years old 1 and
- have a valid New York State driver license or learner permit, or
- a valid driver license or permit issued by another state or country
If you have a New York State learner permit or one issued in another state, you must follow New York State permit restrictions.
If you are under age 18, you must obey New York's Graduated License Law.
Residents of New York
If you become a New York State resident, you must get a New York State 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 New York driver license (see Exchange an out-of-state license), or see other information about moving to New York.
If your license was issued outside the U.S. or Canada, you must apply for a new original New York State driver license at a DMV office (see Get a driver license).
Definition of "Resident"
Section 250 (5) of the NY State 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 New York State 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 New York State 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 New York 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 New York. 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.
Out-of-state and foreign driver licenses
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 New York State driver license unless you become a New York State resident.
If you have a driver license from another country you do not need to have an International Driving Permit, but it is helpful. The permit verifies in several languages that you have a valid driver license. Police officers who can’t read the language on your foreign driver license will be able to read the permit. Contact the authorities in your home country to get an International Driving Permit.
Visitors from other countries
If you have a driver license from any nation except Canada, you should only apply for a New York State 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 New York State driver license, you must pass a written test, complete a 5-hour pre-licensing course and pass a road test. See Get a driver license.
When you pass your road test, you must give 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.
Students from other states or from other nations who attend school in New York State are normally not considered New York State residents.
Out-of-state learner permits
You may drive in New York State with a learner permit issued in another state if
- you are age 16 or older
- your out-of-state learner permit is valid outside the issuing state
- you obey all restrictions of the state that issued the learner permit and
- the general restrictions for learner permit holders in New York State
- if you are under age 18, the additional restrictions explained in the Graduated Driver License (GDL) Law and drivers under age 18
You cannot exchange out-of-state permit for a New York State permit. You must apply for a New York permit at a DMV office if your out-of-state learner permit does not allow you to drive in New York State.
- 1. Even if you have a learner permit or a driver license from another state, you are not exempt from this rule.