Driver’s License and DMV
New York State Driver’s Licenses, Identification Cards
All the information on this page is based on living in New York.
You must have a valid driver's license to drive a car in the United States. A valid driver's license from another country is also valid in New York State (NYS). You do not need to apply for a NYS license unless you become a resident of NYS. Please see the section on "Drivers from Other Nations" on the NY DMV website.
According to NYS law, Section 250 (5) and the Definition of a Resident, "Students from other states or nations are normally not considered residents of NYS." This means that students do NOT need to get a NYS license in order to drive in NYS. Students who have been in the US for more than 5 years ARE considered residents.
However, students should have an International Driving Permit, in addition to their home country license, in order to drive. The International Driving Permit is not a license. The permit only verifies that you hold a valid driver's license in your home country. Your foreign driver's license, NOT the International Driving Permit, allows you to drive in NYS. You can ONLY obtain a Permit in your home country. You are not required to have an International Driving Permit, however it is strongly recommended, as it verifies, in several languages, that you have a valid foreign license. A police officer who cannot read the language on your foreign driver's license can read the Permit.
The OIS recommends that you always carry:
1. International driver's license (in English, if possible)
2. International Driving Permit
3. Copy of the Section 250(5) law that states you are NOT a resident (print this page).
4. The DMV page that states it is legal for non-residents to drive with your non-NY State license (print pages 6-7 from this document)
If you become a resident of NY State, you must have a NY State driver's license in order to drive.
If you do not have a driver's license from your home country, and you want to get a driver's license for the first time, you will need to follow NY State's rules for all new drivers.
Learner's Permits and Driver's Licenses
Identification: When you go to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) you will need to provide 6 points of Identification ( see "How to Prove 6 Points of Identification" below) in order to apply for a NY Driver's license.
How to Prove 6 Points of Identification
The following items can be used to accumulate 6 points of identification. Please note: you must show Proof of Date of Birth and if you do not qualify for a Social Security (SSA) number you must still provide the denial letter from SSA to show you do not qualify and include it in your application. The denial letter is not worth any points but it is required.
- Social Security Number (SSN) OR Social Security Denial Letter** = 2 Points
Worth 2 POINTS only if you have SSN. The DMV will ask you for a social security number. Most students in F1/J1 status will not be eligible to apply for a social security number. Please refer to the section on Social Security numbers to see if you qualify.&**
To address the DMV social security number requirement, go to the local Social Security Administration office and request a denial letter. The Social Security Administration will issue this letter immediately. You are required to take this denial letter to the DMV and submit it as part of your application for a driver's license.
- Proof of Date of Birth = 3 POINTS
This will include your Passport, Visa, I-94, and I-20 (or DS2019). A passport is a good source of identification because it provides proof of age, a photo ID, and a signature. All documents must be originals, no exceptions.
- U.S. Health insurance card = 1 POINT
- Utility bill (1 POINT)
- ONE of the following: Bank statement, Cancelled check, US credit card =1 POINT
- US College ID & Official Transcript = 2 POINTS
For new students you should wait one semester in order to have a transcript available.
* The DMV has a very useful tool to help you with getting the right documentation for your application.
You may obtain a NY Driver's license from the DMV by passing a written examination, obtaining a learner's permit, and then passing the road test. The written test is available in 25 languages. A driver's manual, used to study for the written exam, is available at the DMV. If you are unable to take a written examination, you have the right to request an oral exam. In addition, you must have your eyes screened for field vision and basic colors. Both tests are given on a walk-in basis at most full-service DMV offices. The addresses of two full service DMV offices are listed at the end of this section. Once you have passed the written test and eye exam, you will be issued a learner's permit. After you receive a learner's permit, you will be able to schedule a road test, which is a requirement for the NY driver's license.
The Road Test
To take the road test you must supply a car that has a valid NY inspection sticker. The vehicle's registration must be presented as well. Please note that the examiner must be able to reach the vehicle's emergency brake or footbrake.
To take the road test, you must be accompanied by a sponsor who is at least 18 years of age, has at least one year of driving experience, and possesses a valid license issued by his/her home state. You do not need a road test sponsor if you are licensed from a country that is listed in the 1949 Road Acts Convention. Upon passing the road test, you may exchange your Learner's Permit for a driver's license. Bring the stamped and signed learner's permit to any DMV full-service office to obtain your driver's license.
International License Conversions
Everyone must take a full examination - written and driving, including people converting licenses from other countries and many states. Call the DMV for more information.
New York Identification Cards
It is also possible to obtain an identification card (not valid for driving purposes) from the DMV. You must follow the same process and requirements as obtaining a Driver's License listed above. You will need to present your documents equaling 6 points, complete an application, and pay a fee. This is recognized as a valid form of photo identification.
Buying a Car
Owning a car in NY is expensive. Car-related expenses can far exceed the price you actually pay for the car. If you buy a car, you will have to purchase car insurance, register your car in NY, and have your car inspected. Before buying a used car, have a mechanic examine the car. Be sure the car you want to buy has a "title" (certificate of ownership). To legally transfer ownership of the car over to you, the previous owner must sign the title and give it to you.
NY law requires that all cars have insurance. Therefore, you will need to purchase car insurance. The price of car insurance is influenced by many factors including the age of your car, how many years you have been driving, your place of residence, and the type of coverage requested. The average annual cost of insuring a car in NY ranges from $800 to $1,500 per year or higher. To purchase insurance, present the title of the car and your driver's license to any insurance agency. There are many companies to choose from by doing a search online under "Insurance." Often, for a small additional fee, the insurance agent will register your car and get the license plates for you at the DMV.
Registering Your Vehicle
If you choose to register the car by yourself, you must do so by the end of the month in which you purchased car insurance. The DMV will require proof of car insurance, the bill of sale, proof of payment of sales tax and the certificate of ownership (the "title"). Registration cost a fee. You may also have to pay an additional fee for a New York title. You must also pay New York sales tax if you have not already paid it on either the price you paid for the car or the "NADA" trade-in value of your vehicle (whichever is greater).
Finally, you must have your car inspected within 10 days of registering it. Certain gas stations can inspect your car for the required safety features. The insurance agent can give you a list of garages which will inspect your car. Inspection costs about $19.
Remember, many car expenses will be annual expenses. Each year you will have to insure your car, have your car inspected, and possibly pay an "excise tax" on the value of your car. The town in which you keep your car will notify you of the amount of excise tax you owe each year.
Renting a Car
For occasional weekend excursions and trips outside the New York City area you may want to consider renting a car. Car rental agencies are listed online under "Automobile Renting and Leasing". You will need a driver's license and a major credit card. In addition, some companies require the driver to be over 25 years of age. Prices vary between companies. Some companies charge only a daily fee while others charge per day and for each mile driven.
Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Addresses in NY metro area
Downtown Manhattan DMV
11 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10013
(Bowling-Green Station, Subway #4 or 5, near Battery Park)
Harlem Division DMV
2110 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY, 10027
(Cross street is 126th street)
696 East Fordham Road (across the Bronx Zoo @ Crotona Ave.)
Bronx, NY 10458
1949 Road Acts Convention