Living in NYC

How to get a Driver License in NY State

Less than a month ago, I shared on my Instagram stories that I had finally taken my road test to get my driver’s license here in New York. I explained the entire process, and I was surprised to see people’s interest in the subject, so I decided to bring the topic to the blog. So if you’re thinking of taking yours, I’ll share the necessary steps below!


  • As happens with a lot of regulations and laws, each state has its own rules. This process refers to the state of New York.
  • Remember: I got out my license this year, in 2021, so if you’re reading this in the future, something has might changed.

Why did I decide to take my driver license?

If you know a little bit about NYC’s lifestyle, you know that a car is not something that you need to have to live here. We have an excellent public transport system, including train, subway, bus, and ferry, not counting bicycles. However, we enjoy taking short trips around the state and, despite being a super fan of train itineraries, you can’t always depend on them alone. Thiago had already taken his license a few years ago, and I could be cool about it, but I’m an advocate of women having their independence, too, you know? I think it’s essential that we don’t depend on our partners for everything. Also, when we travel together, we can now share the wheel!

There’s also the fact that my Brazilian driver’s license expired centuries ago, and when I go there, we always end up depending on the car. And, according to a Brazilian Resolution, I can use my N.Y. Driver license there as well.

Driver License in N.Y. State – Necessary Steps

  • Application process;
  • Taking a permit test;
  • Taking a pre-licensing course or a driver education course;
  • Road test.


There are three types of driver licenses:

  • Standard
  • Real ID
  • Enhanced

After May 3, 2023, only the Enhanced or REAL ID will be accepted to get on a domestic flight (within the U.S.), or to enter certain federal buildings or military bases (unless you have a passport or another federally-accepted form of I.D.).

See the differences here.

Any New York State resident age 16 or older can apply for a New York driver’s license. The first step is to determine what type and class of license you need. Class D – Operator – is the most common (or D.J. – Operator Junior, if under 18). However, the type of license you will be eligible for will depend on the documentation you can submit. But remember that under Green Light law, a law in effect in N.Y. State, anyone can apply for a “Standard” license, regardless of U.S. immigration status.

In general, the documents you need for the application are:

  • Standard – proof of date of birth, proof of residency, and 6 points of proof of name;
  • Para Real ID – social security, proof of citizenship or lawful status, 2 proof of residency, and 6 points of proof of name;
  • Para Enhanced – only for U.S. citizens + same documents for the Real ID.

Click here to see a documents chart and how many points each document gives you.

You can also check this link to determine which documents you will need.


Once you’ve figured out which documents you need, it’s time to start the application process – which can be done online or in the DMV. Honestly? Do everything online. Much easier, and you save your time!

Permit test

After completing your application, you will receive in your email a link to take the permit test. You need to start the test within 15 minutes of receiving the link. Therefore, only start your application when you are available to take the test. It will take 30-40 minutes to complete, and it is recommended to take the test on a computer or tablet. To pass the test, you must correctly answer at least 80% of the general questions and 50% of the questions related to traffic signs. If you don’t pass, don’t worry: you can submit your application again and take the test after 6 hours. There are 50 questions, and you have to get 40 right.

After passing the test, you will receive an email link to book an appointment and go to a DMV office to:

  • Submit the original versions of documents;
  • Take a picture;
  • Pay the fee – The fee costs around $70 (you can see the fee chart by clicking here).
  • Receive your temporary permission –  and your Learner Permit will be mailed within two weeks.

P.S.: if you don’t want to do this step online, go to this link, see Step 3, where you rea At DMV office, and check the steps.

About Learner Permit

The Learner Permit is valid for approximately 5 years (the exact expiration date depends on your date of birth and the date that you apply). You must be 16 years or older to apply.  But there are some restrictions:

  • No matter what age you are, if you hold a learner permit, you may not drive unless accompanied by a supervising driver age 21 or older who has a valid license to operate the vehicle you are driving.
  • You may not drive with a learner permit: on any street within a park in New York City | on any bridge or tunnel under the jurisdiction of the Tri-borough Bridge and Tunnel Authority | on the Cross County, Hutchinson River, Saw Mill River, or Taconic State parkways in Westchester County | in a DMV road test area

My advice: as soon as you get your Learner in hand, start the next steps to get your Driver license. Better to get rid of it soon!

Taking a pre-licensing course or a driver education course

After getting your Learner Permit, it’s time to follow the steps to get your Driver License, which involves taking the road test. To schedule your road test, you will need to have taken a pre-licensing course or a driver education course (5 hours). You can take this course at a licensed driving school or online. Again, do it online, because you do it on your time and availability.

  • I took this course. It is $50 and from the moment you start the course you will have 30 days to complete it. Keep an eye out as, during classes, the system may ask you to call a number – this is to confirm that you are actually attending classes. After completing the course, your completion information will automatically be sent to the DMV.

Road test 

After completing your course, you can finally schedule your road test! Remember that the fee you pay at the DMV when submitting your documents is good for two road tests. So, if you fail the first one, you can take another one free of charge. If you fail both, you will be charged a $10 fee to qualify for two more tests. To schedule your test, you need to:

  • Have your Learner Permit – you have to include the number in the system;
  • Certificate of completion of the theoretical course – if you took the course online, you don’t need this, they send this information to the DMV.

When you go to the scheduling page, you can enter your zip code to see available locations. My test was in Kissena Park, Queens, a very quiet area!

On your test day, you need to have a car – but you can’t drive that car. You must be accompanied by someone who has a Driver license.

I hired a guy named Joe – he is a Brazilian who has lived here for over 20 years and works as a driving instructor. His phone is (646) 410-1245. Don’t send a message, call him! As I was insecure, I booked a class with Joe before the test – he explained several essential details for me to pass – and then he took me to the test, and I was able to use his car. I paid $120 for these two services. Also, Joe helped me choose the best location for my test.

I was super nervous, but the test was simple. I don’t think it lasted 5 minutes! I had to make a return, parallel parking, convert… I think it’s very important to study how are the road tests here, because there are several different rules and, as drivers, we all have our quirks – and they can be a problem in passing the test! But if you hire a class with Joe, he will teach you all this!

Last detail: you don’t know the result right away – they give you a paper with a website, and you have to check after 6 pm on the same day to see if you passed. Can you imagine that I took my test at 11 am, and I had to wait until the end of the day? I was so anxious! Anyway, if you pass, you’ll be able to print your temporary driver license – and about two weeks later, you’ll receive the document in the mail! Then just celebrate!

And that’s a wrap! I hope this post can help those who want to start the process!

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