Formal identification is going to get you places when you move countries. Your license or identification from your home country will certainly suffice in the early days but as time goes on you'll find it more difficult without a local ID, so the earlier you can do it, the better.
Your passport counts as a formal ID in almost every circumstance, however, you don't want to be carrying your passport all the time for fear that you lose it! Remember, if you lose your passport, your visa is null en void, you have to start the process again, so don't carry it.
Proof of age card (e.g. New York State ID)
If you now live in the United States, have an address, and have a social security number it is of great benefit to go get yourself a state ID. This is a proof of age card and means you can leave all of your Australian ID safe and hidden at home.
It's a relatively simple process (if the DMV's website works) but will probably take a few hours out of your day.
Here's everything you need to know:
- Go to https://dmv.ny.gov/id-card/bget-non-driver-id-card-ndid on the NY DMV site as this contains a comprehensive up-to-date list of everything you need to do;
- Download the MV44 Form and fill it in carefully;
- Head to the DMV Online Reservation page and select:
- Make a reservation;
- Midtown Manhattan (or another closer one);
- License or ID;
- First Time NY Identification Card;
- Select a time (sometimes this page takes a LONG time to load, you may need to try a different browser a few times);
- On the day of your appoint, you need your:
- Print out (or phone version) of your appointment time reservation;
- MV44 document;
- Social security card;
- Proof of identity and date of birth;
- Approximately $15;
I would recommend arriving slightly early so that you can check-in and start waiting. You will go to one window for ID check and photo, then sit back down and be called again to pay.
You may have seen this card around the place, advertised in subways and at bus stops. This is, in effect, just a deals card for people who live in New York City. It can not get you into bars and is not a proof of age card. Don't make the same mistake many have made.
This card is totally worth it for cheap movie tickets, free ferries, free museum access, and more. All you need to do is head to their document calculator and you can review what exactly you need to take (you need to prove your name, date of birth, and your New York residency, so a passport and a bank statement with a US address should do it)!
Turns out, getting a driver's license in New York is actually a little difficult and is a bit of a process.
That being said, yes, you must do it if you want to drive in the state, despite what you've read.