I have just moved to up-state New York. I'm on a J-1 non-immigration visa, and have a full UK driving license, but not international driving permit. I'm struggling to find definite information online about the following details.

Am I permitted to:

  1. Buy a car and
  2. Drive the car in my current situation (or would I, for example, need to get a US driving license)?

[References would be helpful]


This is the order I actually ended up doing things, and I didn't get into any trouble:

Within the first 3 months

  1. Bought a car from the dealer using 6 points of ID (I actually provided more then 6) - the dealer did all the registration etc.
  2. Got insurance through progressive, who let you insure a car with a foreign driving licence.
  3. Got a driving permit from NY DMV.

Within the first 6 months

  1. Took the NY driving test (after the 5-hours pre-licensing course) and surrendered my UK driving license.

Although as per the links in ViB's answer, I don't think this last step was completely necessary

  • This might help dmv.ny.gov/driver-license/drive-new-york-state
    – Traveller
    Commented Aug 22, 2021 at 14:58
  • Comment rather than answer because this is advice that doesn't answer the question: I've looked at the law quite a bit in regard to my wife, who was living in New York with a G-4 visa. Her reasons for considering getting a NY license were somewhat different from yours, and in the end she didn't, but one conclusion we reached that does apply to you is that it's very confusing and therefore difficult to reach firm conclusions. I suspect that in the end you'll find it easier just to get a New York license. I obtained a NY license "from scratch" twice: in 1985 and in 2005. ...
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 22, 2021 at 15:39
  • ... The second time, as an experienced driver, it was very simple. If your admission is for "duration of status" (that is, "D/S" on your I-94), you'll want to avoid getting a Real ID because you'd have to renew it annually. If I recall correctly, your having a foreign license means that you won't need to have another driver in the car after you get your learner's permit.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 22, 2021 at 15:41
  • 1
    @phoog I agree with your comments here. It actually seems more clear-cut that students don't need to get a local license. I should have mentioned this in the question that my J1 is in the 'research scholar' category, not the 'student' category. Commented Aug 24, 2021 at 10:42
  • 1
    If you buy from a dealer or seek to register the car in your own name, either the selling dealer or the state department of motor vehicles will, in order to complete the transaction, require you to show that you have the state-mandated amount of liability insurance on the vehicle. Commented Aug 27, 2021 at 22:19

1 Answer 1


I have been there, Korean license in NY state.

Drive the car in my current situation (or would I, for example, need to get a US driving license)?

Yes, you can drive here as long as you are not a NY state resident. There are many interpretations of the laws but as I understood it is referred if you spend of 3 months in the state [1].

Afterwards, you can either get a full NY driving license. Or, you can get a driving learning permit (really easy 20 questions exam) + you have to carry your international license (or International driving permit for non-english driving licenses [2].

1: https://dmv.ny.gov/driver-license/drive-new-york-state

2: If I have a driver license from another country and I have a NY State learner permit, can I drive without a supervising driver? section https://dmv.ny.gov/more-info/moving-new-york

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