Ithaca College and Cornell University students come from many other states and even countries. For a little perspective, Cornell's class of 2019 has representatives from 79 different countries. Coming to New York State with an international driver's license or a license from another state is no problem or is it? It depends, is the most common attorney answer.
What if you make NYS your residence, buy and register a car BUT do not apply for a New York driver's license?
What if you get a New York State driver's license but fail to keep updating your address?
The Two Biggest Pitfalls of Students and NYS Driver's Licenses
Driving is first and foremost a privilege. It is not a right in any state. Getting or losing a license or a privilege to drive is rather easy. With a driver's license comes responsibilities. Sometimes a hectic and dynamic student lifestyle can label these obligations as a low priority.
1. If you buy and register a car in New York, it is probably a good idea to also get a NYS driver's license.
Yes you can drive on a foreign driver's license and yes you can drive on a license from another state. But should you?
The problem arrises when you have any issue with your NY driving privileges. For example, if you get a DWI and you have an out of state or foreign driver's license you may never be able to meet the court's obligations and mandatory requirements. The Court may require you take a NYS driving course or place an IID (ignition interlock device) on a car, but if you do not have a NYS license this may prove impossible or complicated.
The Court only has power and authority over NYS driving privileges. If you don't have a NYS license you can't just walk into the Ithaca DMV and get your driving history. You can place yourself in a bad situation where you cannot even receive a conditional driving privilege for school, work, or internship.
We once had a student from France. She had a French driver's license. Then she got a NY Drunk Driving charge. Her BAC was 2x the legal limit and she was falling down on video so there was no plea bargain to lesser offense than a DWI. She received a hardship license privilege but no conditional driving privileges. She owned a car but could not drive it. Her NYS driving privileges were revoked and she had to get an IID on her car. Since she had NO NYS driver's license she could never take a NYS driving test to ever get a license. She had to have a friend drive her car with an ignition interlock to fulfill her requirement. For an entire year she could not take a job or internship in another state because she had no driving privileges in the United States.
2. If you get a New York Driver's license you are under an obligation to inform the NYS DMV about your changing address.
We have represented many students for the misdemeanor crime of AUO. AUO stands for aggravated unlicensed operation. It means you knowingly drove a car while your license privileges were under a suspension.
We had a student from China. He had received numerous violations for speeding in towns all along the highway from Ithaca to New Jersey. Unfortunately he never followed up on these violations, never went to court or paid any fines. The courts suspended his driving privileges on the main DMV computer. He graduated then moved to Seattle for work. Washington State would not issue him a driver's license because of all his NYS court license suspensions. Because he never informed the DMV of his change of addresses (he lived in three different apartments) he never even knew about his New York license suspension.
I moved and did not know is NO excuse under the law for AUO (aggravated unlicensed operation). AUO 3rd and AUO 2nd are crimes. With AUO 2nd the only punishment is either jail and/or probation.
New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law §505 (5) requires “every licensee to notify the (DMV) commissioner in writing of any change of residence of such licensee within  days after such change . . .”
People v. Kirksey, 186 Misc. 2d 514, 718 N.Y.S.2d 583 (Ithaca City Ct. 2000), failure to notify estopped the defendant from claiming lack of knowledge. This was an Ithaca City Court case, Yay Ithaca.
In other words, your claiming to NOT know of your suspension is NOT a legal excuse because YOU failed to notify them (the NYS DMV) of your address change.