Life in Buffalo

Driving in New York State

Information for International Students, Scholars & Employees

Before I travel to the U.S., what should I prepare if I want to drive in New York State (“NYS”)?


Winter Driving

Bring your Valid Driver's License from your home country. You can drive in NYS if you have an unexpired foreign driver's license with you. However, some police officers and automobile insurers believe that you need a NYS driver's license after residing in NYS for a period time. Therefore, we recommend that you obtain a NYS driver's license if you are eligible.

Get an International Driving Permit. An International Driving Permit is not required in NYS but it is helpful (especially if your license is not in English) because it informs authorities in several languages that you have a valid driver's license. By itself, the International Driving Permit is not valid for driving in NYS. You cannot obtain an International Driving Permit when you get to the U.S. so please bring one with you if you plan to drive in NYS.

Can I buy car insurance and register my car in New York State if I only have a foreign driver's license?

Yes, you can do both. HOWEVER,

  • Car insurance, which is mandatory in New York State, may be more expensive if you don't have a U.S. license.
  • Insurance companies often add a surcharge to the cost of your insurance if you don't have a U.S. driver's license (the "Inexperienced Driver" surcharge).
  • Some automobile insurers believe that you need a NYS driver's license.

Therefore, we recommend that you obtain a NYS driver's license if you are eligible.

Will I be able to rent a car if I only have my foreign driver's license?

Yes. But, rental car companies may have their own requirements (e.g. minimum age), which you must satisfy.


New York State Driver's License

When I get to the U.S., will I be eligible to apply for a New York State driver's license?

You will be eligible to apply for a NYS driver's license if you have one of the following documents and it is still valid:

  • I-20, DS-2019 or H-1B approval notice (I-797)

How do I apply for a NYS driver's license?

  1. Study the New York State “Driver's Manual”. This is the “rules of the road” book. When you drive in NYS, you are expected to know, and abide by, these rules. You can get a manual at the Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) office or you can download it from the DMV website:
  2. Go to the DMV, fill out the application and pay the fee for the Driver's License. You must bring proof of your name AND proof of your date of birth to complete this application. (Please see the requirements below.)  Note: NYS driver’s license fee rates for first-time drivers in the U.S. are available at (Look for your age under Class D driver’s license.)w
  3. Take a written test and eye exam. The written test is based on the information in the Manual. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, please wear them for the eye exam.
  4. Complete a 5-hour “mandatory pre-licensing course”. Look online to find out where you can take this course.
  5. Pass a road test. After you have completed steps #1-4, you may make an appointment for a road test when you are ready to be tested.

What kind of documents can I show that will prove my name?

To prove your name, you must show 6 points of identification from the following list:

  • (3 points) Passport. Your passport must be in English. You must also provide your: 1) U.S. Visa, 2) valid I-20 or DS-2019, and 3) valid I-94 card or Admission Stamp in passport
  • (2 points) U.S. Social Security Card. If you are not eligible for a Social Security number, you must get a letter from the Social Security Office (see below for link to directions) stating that you are ineligible for a Social Security number.  The letter of ineligibility does not have any point value, but is required. Note: The Social Security letter must not be more than 30 days old at the time of application.
  • (2 points) Your UB Student ID Card + UB enrollment verification* or UB transcript OR (1 point) Your UB Staff / Faculty ID Card
  • (1 point) Valid Major U.S. Credit Card
  • (1 point) U.S. Cash Card (ATM) (must have your signature and preprinted name)
  • (1 point) U.S. Supermarket Bonus / Check Cashing Card (must have signature and pre-printed name, Note: Wegman's Bonus Cards are acceptable)
  • (1 point) U.S Health Insurance / Prescription Card
  • (2 points) Photo Driver's License issued by another U.S. state (not expired for more than 12 months)
  • (1 point) U.S. Utility Bill (must have your name and address)
  • (1 point) U.S. Bank Statement (with your name and address)
  • (1 point) U.S. Computer Printed Pay Stub (must have your name)
    Note: If your U.S. Credit Card, Bank Statement and ATM Cash Card were all issued by the same bank, they only count as one point.

Directions for Obtaining Enrollment Verification

1. Go to
2. Click on HUB Student Center tab
3. Under Academics, select “Enrollment Verification” from the dropdown menu located to the left of your class schedule. Then press >> button.
4. You will be directed to a page with a link for the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) Student-Service Web Site.
5. Disable your pop-up blocker (if necessary) and click on the link.
6. A new window will open offering you a choice of options. Select the type of enrollment certificate you would like (We recommend “All enrollment”.). Then click on “Obtain an enrollment certificate” link.
7. A new window will open with your Enrollment Verification Certificate. You can print, save or e-mail the certificate.

What kind of documents can I show that will prove my date of birth?

To prove your date of birth, you must submit one of the following:

  • Your Foreign Passport, U.S. Visa and I-94 Card OR Admission Stamp (in passport). Your passport must be in English. If your passport is not in English, you should get a certified translation from your country's Embassy or Consulate
  • Refugee Travel Document (I-571)

Directions to the Social Security Office

Please refer to the map at:


Buying a Car & Car Registration

  • You must register your car with the DMV every two years. Note:  There is a fee for the car registration. There are six items needed to register for vehicle: 1) Proof of ownership, 2) Proof of NYS sales tax payment, 3) Proof of automobile liability insurance, 4) Completed E-ZVisit Form MV-82EZV, 5) Proof of applicant identity and birth date (the 6 points of identification listed above), and 6) Sales tax and fee payment receipt. Please see the NYS DMV website for additional instructions.
  • You must purchase automobile insurance if you buy a car. This can add a substantial cost to car ownership. Please be sure to consider the cost of insurance when planning your car budget.
  • Read the "Let the Buyer Be Aware" tips on the New York State DMV website.
  • Get tips about "Buying a Car"at or

Are there any tips regarding buying a used car?

  • Get information about the market value of a used car at or
  • Take the car for a test drive
  • Have the car inspected by a reliable mechanic or AAA-approved repair shop before agreeing to buy it
  • Be sure to get a receipt
  • Get the “title” for the vehicle
  • Be aware of New York State 's “Lemon Laws”:
    NYS' new and used car lemon laws provide legal solutions for consumers who buy or lease cars. If a car does not live up to the written warranty and cannot be repaired--or if it has not been repaired correctly after a reasonable number of attempts--the consumer could receive a refund or replacement car.
    For information and assistance concerning New York 's Lemon Laws, visit or

Automobile Insurance

What do I need to know about car insurance in New York State?

  • There is a minimum amount of coverage that you must carry on your automobile. This is determined by the State of New York.  Please visit for specifics about this requirement and helpful hints about insuring your car.
  • This minimum coverage must be in effect as long as your car is registered in NYS.  This means that, even if you are not driving the car for some reason, you must still pay your car insurance bills if your car is registered in NYS.
  • You must purchase an automobile liability insurance policy from an insurer licensed by the New York State Insurance Department and authorized to do business in NYS.
  • The insurance must be in the name of the person who has registered the car.
  • The cost for auto insurance is called the “Premium”. The amount that you must pay yourself if you get into an accident is called the “Deductible." If you want insurance coverage for damage to your car, you will need to purchase "Collison" coverage as well.
  • If you live in the "city", you will probably pay more than if you live in the suburbs.
  • If you have a bad driving record or are a new driver in NYS, your premium will be higher.
  • You can reduce your auto insurance premium by taking a "Driver Improvement" course.
    • ISSS organizes "AAA Driver Improvement" courses on UB's North Campus each semester. Please watch your listserv messages and check the ISSS website for dates and times.
    • The American Automobile Association offers courses regularly at various locations in Western New York. Please check the AAA website for locations and contact information:

How do I find a good insurance company?

  • Obtain recommendations of reputable companies from individuals whose opinions you respect.
  • Choose a company that will be there for you if you have an accident.
  • Call numerous agents or companies to compare rates (known as “premiums”) to see which company offers the best rate and customer service.
  • Be aware that companies that advertise a lot may need to cut their costs in other areas (e.g. payment of claims.)
  • Be wary of agents or companies that only want to sell you the NYS minimum level of insurance coverage.

How much insurance coverage should I buy?

  • Buy enough insurance so that you will have adequate coverage if you have an accident.
  • Be aware that you can usually increase your level of coverage beyond the NYS minimum requirements by paying only a small amount of additional money.

More Important Information

  • Driving while intoxicated (“DWI”) is a very serious crime in New York State.
  • In New York State, you must have a “hands-free device” to use your cell phone in the car.
  • You must always wear your seat belt — it's the Law!
  • Know what to do if you get pulled over by the police. For more information, visit or pick up the brochure "What To Do When Stopped By the Police" in ISSS, Talbert Hall 210.