Can you Drive in New York as a Foreigner

Many people are perplexed by driver’s license laws. This is largely due to the fact that the United States is made up of 50 different states.  With that in mind, if you ever plan to travel or move to New York from another state – or another country – and intend to drive a car, we strongly advise you to take the appropriate measures to obtain a New York driver’s license. One of the most commonly asked questions we get is whether or not you can legally drive in the state as a foreigner. Here’s how it works:

Drivers from different countries

If you have a valid driver’s license that was issued in another country, you can legally drive in New York State. Unless you plan on becoming a resident of New York State, you will not be required to obtain a New York State license. It would still be wise to check if international driver’s license is required.

In order to receive a driver’s license in New York State, you must pass a written exam, a road test, and a 5-hour pre-licensing course.

Once you pass your road test, you must show the DMV road test examiner your foreign driver’s license. Your foreign driver’s license will be destroyed by the local DMV office.

Renewal of your license

The DMV will file your paperwork with a Temporary Visitor status. Your license can be renewed online, by mail, or in person if your Temporary Visitor status has not expired.

If your Temporary Visitor status happens to be extended, you should visit a DMV office with your updated documentation from the US Department of Homeland Security. The new temporary visitor license will have a new expiration date.

Can you start driving without supervision if you have a foreign driver’s license and a New York State permit?

Yes. You can drive without a supervising driver if you have a legitimate foreign driver license. Except in a DMV road test area, you can start driving on any highway, street, bridge, road, or tunnel.

You will be required to bring a certified translation of your driving license or an International Driving Permit to the road test if your license is printed in a language other than English. The US Department of State, a  consulate, or another official agency must certify the translation. The translation must also contain

  • your given name
  • your birthdate 
  • your foreign license expiration date
  • the vehicle types that your driving license permits you to drive  

If you have a learner’s permit but do not possess a foreign driver’s license that is valid, you must travel with a supervising driver. To continue operating the vehicle that you drive, the supervising driver must be at least 21 years old and have a valid driver’s license.


Naturally, if you intend to spend a significant amount of time in New York, you should go through the process of obtaining a New York driver’s license. This is advantageous for both you and the state because it eliminates many of the obstacles that residents face when attempting to drive with a foreign license. However, for those who are new to the country and are concerned about how they will get around once they arrive in New York, knowing that they are not breaking any laws by driving with a valid license issued by another country can provide some peace of mind.

59 thoughts on “Can you Drive in New York as a Foreigner

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