How to Establish Residency in a New State

Here at moveBuddha, we’re always stressing the importance of planning, vetting movers, and conscientiously working through the items on your moving checklist.

They’re all vital, but establishing residency often gets overlooked when moving from state to state.

With so much else going on, it may not seem like a priority.

That said, it affects everything from taxes and voting rights to driver’s licenses and your children’s educations.

It’s a common misconception that transferring your driver’s license and setting up utilities with a local provider is enough, but that’s rarely the case.

Thankfully, establishing residency in a new state can be relatively quick and painless.

Before reading on, take a moment to check out these helpful resources:

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1. Know how to establish residency before you move

Learning about establishing residency in a new state is often as easy as jumping online.

For this post, we searched “how to establish residency in Maryland.”

In less than a second, we learned that anyone with an abode (home or apartment) in the state and spends at least 183 days there is technically a resident for personal income tax purposes.

This is important.

In addition, the search results included a link to an official State of Maryland Administrative Release about establishing domicile and residence in the state.

According to Investopedia

  • A residence is where someone lives all or part of the time
  • A domicile is a legal address, usually in the state where the resident pays taxes

When investigating how to establish residency, it’s wise to stick to reliable sources like:

  • Official state websites
  • Tax professionals
  • Attorneys

2. It’s called “establishing residency” for a reason

Generally, the first step in establishing residency is finding a house, apartment, condo, or mobile home.

Young singles and recent college grads may move first and stay with friends until a new residence presents itself, but this doesn’t usually work for larger and more established families.

In fact, finding a suitable residence should be done months before moving.

If you intend to live in a new state, you’ll need to establish a legal domicile as soon as possible.

Requirements vary from state to state, but you may need to complete and submit a Declaration of Domicile Form.

Be sure to read up on your new state’s specific requirements, and remember that PO boxes have no bearing on residency.

3. Change your mailing address

Once you have a new residence, you’ll want to officially change your address with the United States Postal Service (USPS).

This can be done at your local post office or online.

The latter option is faster and easier, and you’ll get an email confirming your change.

If you go this route there will be a $1.10 charge, so you’ll need a debit or credit card and an email address.

This charge isn’t for the service itself, but to prevent fraud by verifying that you’re the one requesting the change.

4. Set up utilities at your new place

Moving into a new home or apartment without power and water can ruin the experience.

If possible, coordinate with the utility and power companies to have these services turned on the day before you intend to move in.

Since you’re moving to a new state, you probably won’t be able to transfer these services.

With new providers, you’ll probably need to put down a security deposit and submit to a credit check.

In addition to utilities, don’t forget about:

  • Cable and internet
  • Phone
  • Trash
  • Security system
  • Pool and yard maintenance

5. Let insurance and credit card companies know you moved

Unless your old bank has branches in your new state, you’ll probably need to open an account with a new institution.

Your credit card company probably doesn’t care where you live, just as long as you chip away at your monthly balance.

Nonetheless, it’s always wise to update your address, regardless if they mail you statements or you pay online.

6. Change your driver’s license

After moving, transferring your license and having a new one issued by your new state’s DMV should be a priority.

Many states give new residents grace periods of up to two months, but there’s no sense in waiting until the last minute.

You won’t have to retake a driving test, but you may have to take and pass a vision test and pay a modest license transfer fee.

You’ll generally need to provide some of the following to prove you’re a resident:

  • Current out-of-state driver’s license
  • Secondary identification like a Social Security card or passport
  • A lease or rental agreement
  • Home purchase documents

7. Register to vote

Red states and blue states, donkeys and elephants…

Who can keep it all straight?

Political leanings aside, registering to vote in local, state, and federal elections is something you’ll want to do shortly after moving into your new home.

It’s usually easy, but updating voter registration varies from state to state.

Click here for helpful, state-specific information.

You can register to vote in some states when applying for a new driver’s license.

8. Let “Big Brother” know you’re moving

The Internal Revenue Service likes knowing where everyone lives, and getting on the IRS’ bad side could have unpleasant ramifications to say the very least. 

Thankfully, updating your address with the IRS is as easy as completing and submitting an 8822 Change of Address form.

9. Get the kids enrolled in new schools

Moving with school-age kids presents a host of additional challenges.

There’s no better way to get little ones acclimated to their new environments than by enrolling them in new schools.

When doing so, you’ll generally need:

  • Original or certified copies of birth certificates
  • Proof of age and identity
  • Proof of residency
  • Proof of guardianship and/or custody
  • Record of immunizations
  • Academic records from previous schools

10. Don’t forget to register your pet

Did you know that all dogs in New York City and San Diego County, California must be licensed?

Now keep in mind that the other 48 states have their own laws and regulations regarding pets of all sizes, shapes, and species.

Depending on where you’re moving and what kind of pet(s) you have, you may need to jump through a number of hoops before they become legal residents.

The implications of dual residency

Many states require residents to spend more than 180 (usually at least 183) days there annually to establish official residency and take advantage of state tax laws.

This is often the case when retirees and well-to-do individuals set up dual residency between a high-tax state like New York, California, and Illinois, and one with low or no income taxes like Texas, Nevada, South Dakota, or Wyoming.

Transporting vital records during an interstate move

When hiring professional movers or using moving containers, important moving documents should go with you.

Here we’re talking about:

  • Social Security cards and passports
  • Tax documents
  • School and health and records
  • Wills
  • Divorce and child custody papers

Frequently asked questions (faqs)

What documents will I need to establish residency?

To establish residency, you’ll generally need a valid in-state driver’s license, an insurance card, a utility bill, and a lease or rental agreement or mortgage documents to prove home ownership.

What is a domicile?

A domicile is a primary residence in the state in which the resident pays taxes.

How long after your move are you a resident?

Since residency rules vary, you’ll have to check with your new state government to find out how long you’ll need to live there before becoming a resident.

When will I be eligible for in-state tuition?

This also varies by state. In Pennsylvania for example, residents must prove that they’ve resided in the state for at least one year before qualifying for in-state tuition.

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