December 31

How To Change State Residency

Whether you are packing up and moving on for work, for pleasure or to start a new adventure, changing state can be a headache-inducing process, especially when you consider the amount of paperwork that comes with such a move.

Changing state residency can seem like an overwhelming process, but we have put together the ultimate guide to help you navigate the trials and tribulations, and ensure that you change state residency quickly and painlessly.

Why Is It Important To Establish Your New State Residency?

So just why is it so important to go through the hassle and process of establishing residency? Well, the main motivation is to ensure that you are meeting all legal requirements. The main reasons for establishing and changing your residency include:

  • Tax Purposes

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most important reason for registering a change in state residency is for tax purposes – the law states that the state that you claim residency in should be the spot in which you spend the most time.

In many cases, you will be expected to spend a minimum of 183 days in a state, before you will be able to claim residency there for tax purposes – opening a bank account and updating your driver’s license alone will not cut it.

This may seem like excessive paperwork, but there is actually good logic behind it: there are a number of states across the US that do not require their residents to pay any income taxes. This makes areas such as Alaska, Florida, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Nevada, Washington, Texas, Wyoming, and Tennessee popular spots for second homes, especially for residents of states who need to pay income tax, including California, New York, and Connecticut.

To avoid a situation where hundreds of homes sit empty in non-income tax states, the law sets up minimum residency requirements.

Some individuals will also switch states and establish residency elsewhere to take advantage of other tax perks including lower business and state taxes.

  • Education

Some people may also need to change state residency in order to pursue education, including obtaining in-state tuition at a specific college or university. Moving can also help with being zoned for a high-ranking public school present in another state.

  • Voting

The state that you are registered in is the place where you are entitled to vote, and this can be a motivation for some individuals. If the place that you are heading to is a swing state, then you may feel as though your vote is more powerful and effective if you change state residency.

  • Establishing Residency In A New State

So now that we have discussed why it is important to change state residency, and the main motivations for doing so, the next question is just how do you go about achieving this? There are a few essential steps to consider:

  • Find A Place to Live

The first priority when relocating to a new state is to find a place to live – this is your number one concern! You don’t need to necessarily purchase a permanent residence immediately, but you will need to rent an apartment or house while you find something more long-term.

The main priority is to have a permanent address – this will be crucial for every step moving forward. It should be noted that a P. O. Box does not count – you will need a physical property to call home.

  • Establish Domicile

If your plan is to live in this state as your primary residence, you will then need to establish a legal domicile as soon as you move in, and this involves completing an official “Declaration of Domicile” document, and this officially declares your new residence as your permanent home.

Each state will have its own specific, strict requirements for the establishment of domicile, so make sure you do your homework and know exactly what is expected of you.

  • Change Your Mailing Address and Forward Your Mail

After purchasing your home, securing your rental agreement, or signing your lease, the next priority is to make sure that you can receive your mail – this is crucial for ensuring that you don’t miss anything important. Changing your mailing address with USPS is fast and easy – all you need to do is head online to USPS.com, and select the date that you wish to start forwarding your mail from – if you have secured a residence before you move, this can be in place before you arrive.

You will also need to ensure that you update your address with the IRS as a matter of priority, to ensure that you receive all correspondence, tax information – and hopefully rebates and refunds – as quickly as possible. You can update your address with the IRS by filling out an 8822 Form at any time – but make sure this is achieved as soon as possible.

  • Update Your Address With Utility Providers

This is a task that needs to be done in advance – when you know you are moving, get in touch with your utility service providers and give them your new address. When you are moving fairly close to home, you may use the same provider and simply schedule days to turn off water, cable, gas, and electricity in your old place, and turn them on in a new place.

When it comes to moving to a new state, however, you will need to shop around to compare the best rates – there may be a better deal than you can get your hands on and take full advantage of. The same also applies to home insurance, so do your homework and make sure that you are getting the best deal.

  • Register To Vote

Registering to vote is another very important part of changing state residency, and should be one of the first things you do when you arrive in town. You can usually find the details you need by calling or visiting your local town hall, and they will be able to point you in the right direction.

This is especially important if you are moving to a state that is known to be a swing state – in these regions, your vote could make a huge difference, so make sure that you are in the best position to use it as soon as you get the chance.

In some cases, you may also be able to kill two birds with one stone by registering to vote when you are at the DMV, applying for a new driver’s license in your new address. Which brings us to…

  • Get A New Driver’s License

If you are planning to drive in your new state, then you will need to get your hands on a new driver’s license, and this is a fairly painless process if you already have a driver’s license from your previous state.

You may, however, have to double-check the area that you are moving to, as different states can have their own unique requirements and regulations, so do your research before you head to the DMV.

You are likely to need to take proof of residency when you head to get your new license, so grab a water, gas, or electricity bill, as well as your existing driver’s license, your social security card, and another form of identification such as a passport – it is a good idea to be overly prepared here and ensure that you have covered all bases, as the lines at the DMV can be infamously long!

During your trip, you can also take the chance to register your car and grab a new license plate. As we mentioned above, you may also be able to register to vote, depending on your state.

  • File Taxes In Your New State

Before you can truly establish residency in a new state, you will need to file a set of tax returns in the new state. This can be a complicated process – not to mention a tedious one – and so an accountant can be a great investment, at least for the first year of filing.

  • Update Your Bank Account

Your bank account is another essential part of changing residency, and you will need to make sure that you have updated both your credit card billing address and the information assigned to any bank accounts – this should be done as soon as you move. Depending on where you move to, you may also need to open a valid bank account with a bank located in your new state.

  • Register Any Pets

Pets are a crucial part of your family, and moving with a pet typically requires you to register any animals and pets in your new state, as well as purchase a valid license within a month of moving in. Different states have different requirements and rules, so double check before you register, and make sure that your pet has all necessary shots and papers.

  • Don’t Forget Your Friends and Family!

This is not so much a legal requirement, but it is essential – a key element of changing state residency is remembering to update your friends and families, and letting them know your new location!

Final Thoughts

Moving house can be a challenge – and this is only exacerbated when you have the added stress of changing state. By staying organized, however, you can ensure that you tick everything off your to-do list, and work to make sure that your move is as painless and stress-free as possible, all while ensuring that you are abiding by the letter of the law – the last thing you want is an unpleasant letter or court summons to interrupt your new life!



Listen to the Ask a lawyer podcast 

We will answer all your questions by a lawyer - but not your lawyer