New York State (NYS) Driver's License

You may prefer to get a New York State license, even if you already have a valid driver’s license from your home country, because some police officers and insurance companies will not recognize an international license. Please be aware that when you obtain the NYS license, you will be asked to surrender your foreign license to the DMV. If it will be difficult or problematic to replace your home license, you may want to apply for a NYS Non-Driver Photo ID card.


Eligibility

For F-1 and J-1 visa holders, you are eligible to apply for a NYS license if both of the following conditions are met:

  1. Your I-20 or DS-2019 is issued for a total duration of at least one year.
  2. There are at least 6 months remaining before the current completion date.

The application process can quite timely as you must first obtain a Learner's Permit, which involves a written test and eye exam, followed by the completion of an authorized driver safety course and then a road test. If you already have a license from another U.S. state, these requirements may be waived. For more details and links to required forms, please visit the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles online.


Application Process

  1. Study the NYS Driver's Manual to prepare for your test. You can access the manual online or request a copy from the DMV.
  2. Submit the necessary application forms and fee to the local DMV office as well as proof of identity. Your proof of identity must have a total value of at least six points. Common forms of identification include:
    • U.S. Social Security Card or a letter of ineligibility from the Social Security Administration issued less than 30 days before. (2 points)
    • Passport in English with Visa & I-94 card, plus your I-20 or DS-2019 (3 points) ** New International Students must wait for SEVIS Registration, in order to apply for a Driver's License**
    • Driver’s License from another U.S. state or Canada (2 points)
    • University ID and transcript (2 points)
    • Utility bill with your name and address (1 point)
    • U.S. health insurance or prescription card (1 point)
    • Valid major U.S. credit card (1 point)
    • Bank statement or ATM card, preprinted with your name (1 point)
  3. Pass the written test and eye exam to receive your NYS Learner's Permit. The written test is based on the safety information and traffic laws in the Driver’s Manual.
  4. Complete a mandatory 5-hour Pre-Licensing course from which you will receive a certificate of completion, which is required in order to schedule your road test. You can find approved courses in the phone book under 'Driver Instruction'.
  5. Practice for your road test. You may drive with your Learner's Permit as long as you have a licensed driver 21 years or older to supervise you. DMV recommends that new drivers have at least 50 hours of driving (15 hours at night) before taking their road test.
  6. Schedule your road test, by phone or online, using the certificate of completion for your pre-licensing course. You must bring a vehicle to complete the road test and have proper documentation to show that it is registered and passed inspection.
  7. Once you successfully pass the road test, you will receive a temporary license to keep with your permit. The official Driver’s License will be mailed within a few weeks.


If you have further questions regarding NYS Driver’s Licenses please visit the DMV’s website at: www.dmv.ny.gov or call 1-718-477-4820.