Indiana Driver's License

I knew that eventually, I would have to change my driver’s licence over to an Indiana license. I finally got that taken care of and I can now cross that off of my list of things to do. So, I’m going to write about how to obtain a license.

If you have a Canadian driver’s licence, you have up to one year before you have to switch over to an Indiana license. You may use your Canadian licence in conjunction with an International Driver’s Permit (which can be obtained from any Canadian Automobile Association office).

If you are an experienced driver, you will not have to get a learner’s permit, but you will have to pass the written test and take the driver’s test. You can download the manual from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (or BMV) website (spare yourself the hassle of going to the office to get a hard copy because they will probably tell you to download the manual from their website). When you’re ready to take the test, head down to your local BMV branch. You do not have to schedule an appointment to take the written test, but you must arrive at least one hour before the office closes.

The written test consists of multiple choice questions. The first set of questions (60 or so) is about basic driving knowledge. You are only allowed to get up to 6 questions wrong in this section. The second part of the test is identifying traffic signs (around 20-25 signs) and you are only allowed to get up to 3 incorrect answers in this section. If you do not pass the test, you may have to wait a few months before you can retake the test however, I’m not sure if this applies only to new drivers or to anyone who is taking the test. (I did think that it was odd that she didn’t go over the answers that I got incorrect. I wasn’t sure on a couple of the questions. One of the questions was about stopping for a school bus on a state highway. Must all lanes stop or only the lane with the bus? I think that I answered all lanes must stop, but the answer may have been only the traffic in the lane behind the bus must stop).

After I passed the written test, I scheduled a driving test. I arrived at the BMV 15 minutes early, signed the book and had a seat. The examiner will called me to the desk and I brought proof of insurance and my vehicle registration. Then the examiner asked me to take an eye exam (I just looking through some binoculars to read a line of letters or numbers). She asked me a few questions (“Have you ever been convicted of a felony?”). We then went to the car and she stood behind the car and asked me to turn on the car on and turn on each of the turn signals and hit the brakes to check that the brake lights were working.

Once on the road, she instructed me on where to turn. The examiner told me to drive straight unless she said otherwise. It was pretty standard test. We drove past a school, drove around a round-about, made right turns at major intersections, made left turns at lights and from side streets. She didn’t go over the results of my driving exam, she just told me that I passed. Maybe I didn’t make any mistakes or maybe she just doesn’t go over the results. I also noticed that she didn’t ask me to parallel park.

I then went into the office and presented the proper documentation. That included my Social Security Card, my residency card, my passport, two documents indicating my current address (I used the correspondence from the USCIS with my name and address) and I had to produce my driver’s licence from B.C. I also brought my marriage certificate in order to have my name changed from my maiden name to my married name (but the married name needs to be printed on the Social Security Card as well). I don’t know if it was just because I am not a US citizen, but it did seem like it took a long time to process. I got my picture taken and they told me that I should be receiving my card in about a week. I have a temporary permit which includes my picture (it’s not a very good picture, but I don’t really care). You can smile but you can’t show your teeth. It cost $21 to get your driver’s license in Indiana. I wasn’t charged for taking the written exam (surprising since I’m pretty sure that when I took the written exam in B.C., I was charged a fee).

Tips for getting your license:

  • Be prepared to go to the office in person. Contacting the BMV is a huge hassle. They may not answer the phone, even if you make the call during business hours. If you send an e-mail, they may not respond (I have never received responses when I tried to e-mail the BMV). I have had difficulty contacting the BMV to reschedule my driver’s test. 
  • Go to the office early. There are long lines at the BMV! Try to make it to the branch in the early morning when there is likely to be shorter lines. Also, I heard that Wednesdays and Thursdays were not as busy as the other days of the week.
  • Be aware of the office hours. All of the BMVs in Indiana are closed on Mondays, but they are open on Saturdays from 8:30 until noon. Be aware of any public holidays.
  • Take your driver’s exam at a time when there is less traffic. 10:30 am in mid-August seems to be a good time because all of the kids are in school and many of the adults are at work. Try and avoid rush-hour traffic (usually starts around 3:30 or so).
  • Drive the speed limit. The examiner makes you go through 3-4 different speed zones so keep your eye on the posted signs and on your speed.