Many international students have questions about whether it is possible to drive in New York State with a valid foreign driver’s license, instead of a New York State license. It is perfectly legal to drive in New York State using a valid foreign driver’s license. However, not everyone is familiar with this policy. Even police officers have, on some occasions, ticketed an international student for “driving without a license” if the only license presented was from a foreign country. If your driver’s license is written in a language other than English, police officers may have difficulty reading it. It is recommended that you have an International Driving Permit to present with your foreign driver’s license.
The best information on this issue comes from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles website. http://www.dmv.ny.gov/
We repeat the text from their web link below:
A valid driver license from another country is also valid in NYS. You do not need to apply for a NYS driver license unless you become a resident of NYS. Read a definition of a New York State resident at the following website: http://www.dmv.ny.gov/
According to NYS law, a resident of another country can get a NYS driver license. The DMV does not recommend this because:
International Driving Permit
An International Driving Permit is not a driver 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. Contact the authorities in your home country to get an International Driving Permit. If you are not a resident of the US, you cannot apply for an International Driving Permit in the US.
You are not required to have an International Driving Permit to drive in NYS, but the permit has value. The permit verifies, in several languages, that you have a valid foreign driver’s license. A police officer who cannot read the language on your foreign driver’s license can read the permit.
Please note that applications for driving permits are accepted up to one hour before closing each day.
Last Updated: 2/4/13