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Driving in New York State

According to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) “you can drive in New York State with a valid driver license from another state or country.”  While you aren’t required by the DMV to have an International Driving Permit, 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.

You are eligible to apply for a NYS driver's license if you have a valid Form I-20, DS-2019 or H-1B approval notice (I-797).  Your eligibility to apply for a New York State license is tied to your program dates – your authorized status in the U.S. must have a total duration of at least one year, AND you must have at least 6 months remaining before the current expiration date (listed on your Form DS-2019).

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 the New York State DMV’s Get a driver license webpage for requirements.

Note: 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.


How do I apply for a NYS driver's license?

  1. Study the New York State “Driver's Manual” (“Rules of the Road” book).  When you drive in NYS, you are expected to know, and abide by, these rules.  You can get a manual at the Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) office or you can download it from the DMV website.
  2. NYS License Application: Go to the DMV, fill out the application and pay the fee for the Driver's License. You must bring proof of your name AND proof of your date of birth to complete this application. (Please see the requirements below.) 
  3. Written Test & Eye Exam: The written test is based on the information in the Driver’s Manual.  If you wear glasses or contact lenses, please wear them for the eye exam.
  4. Driver’s Education: Complete a 5-hour Pre-licensing Course or a high school or college Driver Education Course.  The course is offered at high schools, colleges and commercial driving schools, and at a few other DMV-approved sites, such as BOCES
  5. Schedule the Road Test: After you have completed steps #1-4, and once you’re ready to be tested, you may make an appointment for a road test.


Proving your Identity at the DMV:
You must show a combination of the following forms of identification, which add up to 6 points, at the DMV to prove your name and identify.

# of Points
Identification Type
3 points
Passport, U.S. Visa, valid Form I-20 or DS-2019 and valid I-94/Admission Stamp
2 points
U.S. Social Security Card
2 points
Stony Brook ID Card + Enrollment Verification/Transcript issued by the Registrar
2 points
Driver's License issued by another U.S. state (not expired for more than 12 months)
1 point
Valid U.S. Credit Card
1 point
Cash Card (ATM) with your pre-printed name & signature
1 point
Health Insurance Card
1 point
Utility Bill indicating your full name and valid local U.S. address
1 point
Bank Statement (in your name from a U.S. bank)
1 point
Pay Stub (must indicate your full name)


Staying Safe on the Road!

  • Driving while intoxicated (“DWI”) is a very serious crime in New York State.
  • In New York State, you must have a “hands-free device” to use your cell phone in the car.
  • You must always wear your seat belt — it's the Law!
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