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Can I Drive with a Foreign License in New York?

May 8, 2023 |
Can I Drive with a Foreign License in New York?

With millions of visitors each year, New York City is one of the busiest cities in the world. Interested in driving in the Big Apple with your foreign license? 

New York State Department of Motor Vehicles allows visitors to drive using their home country's license. You do not need to apply for a New York State driver’s license unless you become a New York State resident. Under state law, a resident is one who lives in this state with the intention of making it a fixed and permanent abode or maintains a place of abode in this state for a period of at least 90 days.

When is it Acceptable to Drive with a Foreign Driver’s License in New York?

Visiting drivers may legally drive in New York State with a license from another state or country. Unlike many states, New York State does not require foreign visitors to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP), but it is recommended for those whose foreign licenses are not in English.

Before arriving in New York, you should obtain an IDP if your driver's license is not written in English. Besides your name, photograph, and other important information about your driving privileges, the IDP also serves as a translation of your foreign driver's license and confirms in several languages that you are in possession of a valid driver's license. Police officers who cannot read the language on your foreign driver's license will be able to read your permit. To obtain an International Driving Permit, contact the authorities in your home country. 

There are only two agencies authorized by the US to issue international driving permits (IDPs):

150 countries in the world accept your IDP, which contains your name, photo, and driver's license information.

When is it Not Acceptable to Drive with a Foreign Driver’s License in New York?

Once a person becomes a resident of New York State, their foreign licenses are no longer valid (see below). The following situations also prohibit the use of a foreign or out-of-state license:

  • It is a different license type than that used for the vehicle being operated.
  • There has been a suspension of the foreign license.
  • There is an expiration date on the foreign license.

Is there a limit on driving with a foreign license in New York?

Foreign drivers may use their licenses in New York for up to 12 months. From the date of your entry into the United States or when your visa is issued, the 12-month period begins. A New York State driver's license will be required after this 12-month period.

What is the Minimum Age for Foreign Driving Licenses in New York?

In the USA, the minimum driving age is 16. It does not matter if it is lower in your country of residence. In the United States, you must be at least 16 years of age to drive.

Do's and Don'ts of Driving with a Foreign License in New York

It can be intimidating to drive in a new city, especially if you don't know the local rules. Here are some dos and don'ts for New York drivers with foreign licenses:


  1. Understand the local traffic laws and customs: New York may have some very different traffic laws and customs from your country. Do some research beforehand about the traffic laws, signs, and signals in your area.
  2. Keep your driver's license and IDP with you at all times: A driver's license and ID are essential while driving in New York. If the police pull you over, you must present both documents to avoid a citation or fine.
  3. Be alert and drive defensively: New York City is known for its aggressive driving culture, so it's important to stay alert. Make sure you are aware of your surroundings and keep a safe distance from other drivers.
  4. Obtain car insurance in New York: If you plan to rent a car while you are here, make sure you have car insurance. Insurance is typically offered by car rental companies, but you can buy it from a third party as well.


  1. Drunk Driving: Drinking and driving is illegal in New York and can have serious consequences. Consider arranging a designated driver, taking public transportation, or hiring a ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft if you plan to drink.
  2. Driving and using your phone: This is also illegal in New York and can result in a fine or citation. Pull over to a safe location before using your phone.
  3. Speeding: Speeding is a common offense in New York and can result in a fine, citation, or even suspension of your license. Observe posted speed limits and stay alert at all times.
  4. Ignoring Parking Regulations: Parking in New York City can be challenging, but you should obey parking regulations to avoid fines or towing. Pay attention to posted signs and know when the street will be cleaned.

I need to extend my stay in New York: Can I continue Driving?

It is obligatory for foreigners driving in New York to obtain a New York State driver's license if they plan to drive beyond the 12-month period permitted for foreign drivers. 

How Can I Apply for a Driver’s License in New York?

  1. The first step towards obtaining a New York State driver's license is to apply for a New York learner's permit. A written test is required for the permit application.
  2. After obtaining a learner's permit, a foreigner must take a driver education course that includes classroom instruction and behind-the-wheel training. It must be taken at a school approved by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
  3. To obtain a New York State driver's license after completing the driver education course, the foreigner needs to pass a road test. Foreigners are evaluated on their driving skills and traffic laws during the road test.
  4. Proof of identity, legal presence, and residency in New York State must be provided by the foreigner. Applicants must provide a valid passport, visa, and utility bills showing their name and address as examples of acceptable documentation.
  5. To obtain a New York State driver's license, the foreigner must pay the required fees. There are different fees depending on the type of license being obtained and the applicant's age.

In order to obtain a New York driver's license, permit, or non-driver ID card, you do not need to be a US citizen, only New York state residents need New York driver's licenses. 

Who is Allowed to Drive in the State of New York?

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's license or learner permit, or
  • a valid driver's license or permit issued by another state or country

It is important to adhere to the permit restrictions of New York State even if you have a learner permit issued in another state. Furthermore, you are required to comply with the New York Graduated License Law if you are under 18 years of age.

I do not possess a driving license in my home country, can I still drive in New York?

Applicants who are not licensed in their home country must obtain a New York State driver's license if they plan to operate a motor vehicle while in the state. This requires the completion of the pre-licensing course as well as passing the written and road test.

Are you planning to become a resident of New York?

New York State residents are required to obtain a driver's license within 30 days of becoming residents. If you possess a valid driver's license from another U.S. state or territory, federal district, or Canadian province, you may be eligible to exchange it for a New York driver's license.

If you hold a license issued outside the U.S. or Canada, you will be required to apply for a new original New York State driver's license at a New York Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) office.

Is it possible for undocumented immigrants to obtain a driving license in the State of New York?

Since June 2019, undocumented immigrants are granted the right to obtain a New York State driver's license. As a result of New York ex-Governor Andrew Cuomo's signing of the Green Light Bill, non-U.S. citizens who have reached the age of 16 may apply for a non-commercial New York State driver's license regardless of their citizenship status.

The process of obtaining a New York State driver's license can take several weeks or even months, so if you need to extend your stay in New York, it's best to begin the process as soon as possible. Furthermore, it is crucial to follow local traffic laws and regulations while driving in New York to avoid fines. For more information and resources visit Moving to New York.

I’ve Been Injured in a Car Accident: Can I Hire a New York Car Accident Lawyer?

Absolutely! When a person with a foreign license is injured in a car accident in New York, they can hire an experienced car accident lawyer in New York like The Ward Law Group to file a claim. It is essential to have proper documentation to support your claim, such as insurance and identification. Victims of car accidents can call The Ward Law Group at 855-DOLOR-55 or visit www.855dolor55.com to seek compensation for damages and injuries sustained in a New York car accident. If you’ve been involved in a car accident, regardless of where you are from, or even your legal status, The Ward Law Group will fight for your rights and the compensation you deserve. Call us today!