Car & License

An ND graduate student captured this video in January 2011 after a South Bend snow storm.


  • The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) is the state agency responsible for regulating vehicles and licensing drivers. The BMV operates two full-service customer service branches in the South Bend area.
  • An Indiana learner’s permit is a document that permits individuals 18 and older, who are learning to drive, to practice driving only when a licensed driver is in the front seat of the car with him or her. Individuals under the age of 18 must have a parent or guardian in the front seat when they are practicing. 
  • An Indiana driver’s license is a document that permits a person to drive a car in the United States. Each state issues its own driver’s license, but the license can be used to drive in any state. 
  • An International Driving Permit (IDP) is a document that a driver can obtain in his or her home country that translates his or her driver’s license into ten different languages.

To Drive in the U.S., You Must:

  1. Have a valid, unexpired driver’s license from your home country AND an International Driving Permit:
  • You are permitted to drive in the U.S. for one year using these two documents. 
  • You must carry both documents with you while driving. 
  • You cannot obtain the International Driving Permit in the U.S. – you must obtain it in your home country.
  • You may not use any other translation of your license as a substitute for the International Driving Permit.
  • If you want to register and title a car in Indiana, you will first need to obtain an Indiana driver’s license.


  1. Obtain an Indiana driver’s license:

a. If you already have a valid unexpired driver’s license from your home country:

  • You must obtain an official translation of your driver’s license. The instructions to obtain a translation are on the bottom of this page.
  • You must visit a BMV license branch to present identification documents, and pass a driving skills test, written examination, and vision screening test. See below for application instructions.

b. If you do NOT have a driver’s license from your home country: 

  • You will first need to obtain an Indiana learner’s permit at a BMV branch. 
  • You must follow the BMV instructions on using the learner’s permit, passing the driving skills test, and obtaining a driver’s license.

Application Instructions for Obtaining an Indiana Driver’s Permit and License

  1. Wait at least 14 business days after you register your immigration documents with ISSA before you apply for a license. (Immigration document registration takes place during International Student Orientation. This step only applies to new students.)
  2. Verify that your first, middle, and last names are spelled consistently on all of your documents. If you discover a discrepancy, please contact an International Student Advisor at ISSA immediately.
  3. Review the Driver’s Manual on the BMV website ( and prepare for the written examination.
  4. Bring the following original documents to the BMV branch:
    • Passport with student visa (Citizens of Canada and Bermuda will NOT have a visa)
    • I-94 card (If your initial entry into the United States was after May 2013 and you did not receive a paper I-94 card, you should print your I-94 record by visiting:
    • I-20 or DS-2019 form (If you have more than one I-20 or DS-2019 form, bring the two most recent copies.)
    • Social Security Card or Letter of Social Security Number Ineligibility 
    • At least two documents with your name and address proving your Indiana residency. Examples include utility bills, credit card or bank statements, your student account statement, an official transcript, a letter from ISSA, etc.
    • Driver’s license from your home country and an official translation, if applicable. If you have an International Driver's Permit, this serves as an official translation. If your entire license is in English, you do not need a translation. Please refer to the instructions below for obtaining a translation.
    • Students on Optional Practical Training (OPT) will also need the valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
  5. You must pass the written examination at a BMV branch. You do not need an appointment, but must arrive at least one hour before the branch closes in order to take the exam.
  6. You must pass the vision-screening test. This test is given at the BMV when you submit your documents. 
  7. In order to obtain an Indiana driver’s license, you must pass the driving skills test.
    • If you already have a valid license from your home country, you can take the driving skills test immediately. You must schedule this test via the BMV website ( You will need to create a personal account before you begin.
    • If you do not have a valid license from your country, you will receive a learner’s permit. You will be eligible to take the driving skills test after 180 days.
  8. All documents proving your identity, Social Security Number or ineligibility for a Social Security Number, lawful status, and Indiana residency will be verified through a central verification process. The BMV will issue an interim license, valid for 30 days, authorizing you to drive until you receive your license.
  9. Once the BMV has determined that you are lawfully present in the U.S. and have passed all the examinations, they will mail your driver’s license or driver’s permit to you.

Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) Information

South Bend Branch 
623 South Saint Joseph Street
South Bend, IN 46601

To get to the South Bend Branch BMV office, take bus #7 from the Library Circle to the South Street Station.

Mishawaka Branch
2544 Miracle Lane
Mishawaka, IN 46545

Obtaining a Translation of Your Non-U.S. Driver’s License

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles' policy states "Translations of documents that are in a language other than English without English subheadings must include complete translation into English of pertinent information required to complete the application process. Translation must be typed on separate page on the letterhead of a government entity, accredited educational institution, translation company or organization providing translation services to the public.”

To obtain a translation of your international driver’s license, you may choose one of the following options:

  1. Obtain an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) in your home country. An IDP serves as an official driver’s license translation. (Please note: An IDP does not replace your license.)
  2. Ask a student, faculty or staff member who speaks your language to translate your license using the license translation template and then print it on official letter head. The template may only be used by Notre Dame students, faculty, staff and their immediate dependents. You may not translate your own license.
  • The translator should fill out the bottom section of the template attesting to his or her abilities as a translator, print out the completed template (in color) and sign the document.
  1. Use a U.S.-based translation agency.
  • Translations must be printed on the agency’s letterhead.
  • Translations should include a signed statement from the translator that indicates the translation is complete and accurate, attests to his or her competence as a translator and states that the document has not been translated for a family member, friend or business associate
  • The translation agency must be located in the United States.
  • Many translation agencies, such as Prime Language Services and Certified Translate will provide translations of small documents for less than $50.  These agencies are examples and are not endorsed by or affiliated with the University of Notre Dame.

Assisting a Spouse with Identification Documents

For international student and scholar spouses who lack the number of documents required, you should go to the BMV with your spouse. Along with whatever identification documents you do possess, your spouse may present his/her own documents which establish that the two of you are married (marriage license, translated into English, if necessary) and reside at the same address. You will be asked to sign an affidavit attesting to this.

Buying a Car 

Begin by consulting a “guide for car buyers” (one student recommends the “… for Dummies” series) available through the library, city bookstores, or online. The following site is from the Consumer Protection section of the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

Before making a decision to purchase, especially in the instance that you choose a used car, it is a good idea to consult with those who have some experience in examining the working condition of a car. Notre Dame’s Transportation Department can assist you in locating a service station that will perform inspections prior to purchasing a vehicle. Contact Marty Ogren at 631-6467.

The most popular reference for establishing the value of a car is known as “The Blue Book.” Of course, the condition of the car and the accumulated mileage will ultimately determine the car’s value regardless of its make, model, and year.

When considering financing your car purchase, consult with your bank or other financial institutions to arrange for the best rate of interest and schedule of repayment on the loan. A car dealership may offer to arrange financing for you, but you should be prepared with the other quotations in order to find the best terms. (See this site Car Buying Tips for more about comparing finance arrangements).

Dealerships will offer a full warranty on new cars covering future repairs for a specific period. They will probably offer an extended warranty at additional cost

There are websites where you can enter the VIN (vehicle identification number) on a car and see the history of the model, i.e. whether there have been complaints or legal actions on account of the car’s condition and performance. For an example, see Lemon Check.

These services may charge a fee for full information, however, and it has been suggested that the best background check is the one performed by a mechanic just before you decide on whether to purchase!

Getting Insurance Before Purchasing a Car

If you are planning to purchase a car from a dealer, you will likely be asked to present proof of insurance before you are allowed to test drive a vehicle.


Note: Titling your car and registering it for a state license are two separate transactions.  Remember that you must carry auto insurance before you drive your car!

You must title your car immediately, and you can do so at the following Bureau of Motor Vehicle locations:

623 South Saint Joseph Street, South Bend, 233-2149

2544 Miracle Lane, Mishawaka, 255-9620 (located inside the Town and Country Plaza—-this is closest to campus).

  • If you bring a car here from another state, you must seek an Indiana title for it within 60 days.
  • If you purchase a car in Indiana, you must title it within 31 days of the purchase. Failure to do so may result in a fine, in addition to the title fee.

If you have purchased a new car, you must bring to the license bureau:

  • A properly assigned certificate of origin
  • An odometer statement (usually recorded on the certificate above)
  • Proof of Indiana State tax having been paid
  • Proof of Indiana Residency (see for details)
  • Your Social Security number, or a Letter of Ineligibility from the Social Security Administration plus your I-94 record

For a used car:

  • A properly assigned certificate of title (the dealer or previous owner must sign over to you the original state title)
  • An odometer statement (If you have purchased a car from a private owner, the bureau will collect a five-percent sales tax on the purchase price of the car)
  • Proof of Indiana Residency (see for details)
  • Your Social Security number, or a Letter of Ineligibility from the Social Security Administration plus your I-94 record

In addition, if you are bringing a car from another state you must have it inspected by the police. An officer will verify the VIN number, which appears on a small metal plaque near the dashboard (This is a measure which prevents stolen cars from being titled).

Note: For further information, visit the Indiana State BMV Website at

Registration and License Plates

In addition to gaining the title of a car, you must register it in order to get the license plates. This is a separate transaction from the title with additional taxes, fees and requirements. You must present, in addition to personal identification:

  • The certificate of title
  • Proof of auto insurance

You will be issued a license plate, which you must immediately affix to the rear end of the car.

Auto Insurance

There are several types of insurance sold in connection with an automobile. It is mandatory by state law to carry “liability” insurance, which should cover damage to vehicles and property and some of the medical costs that may result from an accident where you are cited as the primary cause of the collision.

In addition, you may enroll for:

Collision—covers the cost of repairs to your own vehicle (usually after an out-of-pocket deduction).

Comprehensive—will cover acts of vandalism, theft and damage as a result of natural causes, like a tree branch falling on the car or hail.

Some choose to purchase insurance over the internet. Be aware that if you choose this option, although you may save some money on premiums, you must process all claims through this site. Local agents, even though they may be affiliated with your company, are not obligated to assist you.

Selling your Car

There are many ways to advertise the sale of your car, including newspaper ads, online, and through flyers posted around campus.

When selling your car it is very important that you:

  • issue a dated receipt (keep a copy for yourself)
  • removing the license plates from the car (if you let someone else drive for a few days on the old plates, make sure you get them back)
  • transfer the title with a Notary Public as witness.

If you fail to retrieve the license plates from the vehicle you have sold, a buyer may continue to drive on your plates without transferring the title into his/her name. Any parking fines or other charges made against the car then remain your responsibility!

Safety Belts and Car Seats

Indiana State law requires that the driver and all front-seat occupants traveling in a car, truck or van manufactured from 1966 to present must buckle up! Children 3 to 6 years old must wear a seatbelt at all times or be situated in a car seat appropriate for the child’s age and weight. Children under the age of 3 must be seated in a “child restraint system” that meets federal safety standards.

You can purchase a car seat at most discount retail stores, such as Target, K-Mart, etc, or at Toys-R-Us on Grape Rd. For more information about the use and selection of child safety seats, consult the following:


If you plan to drive to campus each day, it is important to check with the University’s Parking Office. The office is located in the Campus Security Building, 631.5053. Always take care to park your car correctly.

Traffic Violations

If you accrue more than one citation for traffic violations on campus, you must pay all fines by year’s end or you will not be able to renew your parking permit, etc. If you feel that you have been cited in error, file immediately a petition with Campus Security. Forms are available online or at the Campus Security Building.

You should attend promptly to any citations issued by city or state authorities.

Driving while intoxicated is a particularly serious violation with grave consequences. You should not drink and drive. The “designated driver” approach to getting back home is safest so that you do not cause harm to yourself or others. Agree ahead of time who will refrain from alcoholic beverages and take responsibility for driving others home. If you lack a designated driver, call a cab, take the bus, walk or sleep over.

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