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Can I Drive in NY if I Have a Foreign License?

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New York is an exciting state. Whether it’s to work, to live, to study, or to simply explore, many people flock to the state. However, many of these individuals come with a foreign license. This begs the question of whether they are legally able to drive in the state? Sometimes tourists may legally drive with a foreign license, and sometimes they are required to have either an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a New York state driver’s license. But when is each of these okay?

I Do Not Have A License In My Country, Can I Still Drive In New York?

If you don’t have a license from your home country, you are required to apply for a New York state driver’s license in order to operate a motor vehicle in the state. This requires that you take a course and pass a test.

In order to be eligible for a state license you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 16 years of age;
  • Sign an affidavit swearing that you have never been issued a Social Security Number; and
  • Offer proof of your name, birthday, and residency status. 

Do You Need a NY License if Visiting?

If you are visiting New York and you have an International Driver’s License, you can drive in the state legally. Only those who become a resident of New York have to apply for a state license. Unfortunately, some traffic courts do not accept an IDL and require you to show a license from your country of residence. For that reason it may be best to obtain a host country license should you be stopped for a traffic ticket in New York. It may also be in your best interest to obtain an International Driver’s Permit, which essentially confirms in multiple languages that you have a valid drivers license. 

If you are a visitor with an international driver’s license, you do not need a New York State license to drive here. You only need to apply for a New York State driver’s license if you become a “resident” of New York State, as defined below. However, some traffic courts insist that you produce a license from your home country and will not accept an International License. Our advice is to obtain, carry, and produce your host country license if you are stopped for a NY traffic ticket. Therefore if a police officer stops you and can’t read the language on your foreign driver’s license, he or she will still be able to understand what you are showing them. Your home country can help you to secure an IDP.

Those who plan on becoming or have become a New York state resident must get their New York state driver’s license within the first 30 days of their residency. 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.

You need not be a U.S. citizen to obtain a New York state driver’s license. You must simply pass the tests. If you plan on returning to your country of origin then it’s important to ensure that your foreign license is not destroyed, as is usually the case.  

Unfortunately, individuals in the state to attend school aren’t usually considered residents. However, showing your student ID and foreign license is often good enough to have a ticket for being un-licensed dismissed. Additionally, as of June 2019, undocumented immigrants are allowed to obtain a state driver’s license.

Canadian Citizens

Quebec and Ontario, Canada both have reciprocity with the state of New York. This means that should you receive a traffic ticket conviction while in New York, it will transfer to your Canadian license. 

Unanswered Traffic Violations Impact Your Eligibility for Residency

While you should never ignore a traffic ticket (as it can result in various additional penalties and be shared with immigration authorities), it’s unlikely that a minor offense, such as speeding, will impact your ability to become a resident of the state – or a U.S. citizen. 

AutoTrafficTickets.com Helps Those in New York Who Have Been Issued a Traffic Ticket

If you have been charged with any traffic violation, including driving without a state license, while visiting New York from another country, it is best to contact an experienced New York traffic ticket attorney as soon as possible. 

A knowledgeable and experienced traffic ticket attorney understands the relevant laws. AutoTrafficTickets.com can help you to receive the best outcome. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!

Posted in: Traffic Tickets