When you don’t have a permanent physical home address, you can establish residency (your domicile) in any state. Some states are better than others for this purpose. The three most popular states for full-time travelers to establish residency are South Dakota, Texas, and Florida. These states don’t have a state income tax and they are also pretty lenient as to what is required to establish residency. We chose to make South Dakota our domicile for a couple of reasons:
- As we own a consulting business that we will continue to operate while traveling, South Dakota not having a corporate income tax was a big draw.
- Once residency is established, you only have to spend one night in South Dakota every five years. This requirement aligns with the go-with-the-flow nomadic lifestyle of full-time travelers.
- There are no vehicle inspections in South Dakota. Some states require vehicles and/or travel trailers to be inspected once a year. This requirement may interfere with the go-with-the-flow nomadic lifestyle of full-time travelers.
- We are originally from Wisconsin, where the majority of our family still lives, and plan to visit there regularly. South Dakota’s proximity to Wisconsin will make it easy for us to make our required residency visit.
Other things to consider when choosing a domicile are vehicle registration rates, sales tax rates, health insurance rates, and vehicle insurance rates. As we are coming from San Diego, EVERY aspect of transitioning to South Dakota is more affordable for us – yay for us!
How To Establish Domicile
Set Up an Address
The first step in setting up a domicile is to establish a PMB (private mailbox) with a mail forwarding service. You will use this address as your legal address for everything – registering vehicles, drivers license, banking, tax returns, etc. We chose Americas Mailbox in Box Elder, South Dakota just outside of Rapid City. This is a legal residential address, not a PO Box. In addition to receiving your mail, they also help with registering your vehicles and will even do it for you every year when the registration comes due if you’d like them to. They also offer contacts regarding vehicle insurance, health insurance, accountants, and attorneys, but we took care of that stuff on our own.
It was very easy to get our mailbox set up. We sent in the required information from their application checklist, which is found on their website, and our mailbox was set up literally the day they received our information.
When they receive mail for us, they will scan the exterior of each piece and upload it to their website. We will determine what mail can be tossed and what should be sent to us. They will then send us our mail when we request it.
Americas Mailbox also has a vehicle checklist with the information needed to register your vehicles. I emailed the information to them, they emailed me back with the registration cost, and I sent them a money order along with original copy of the title and a notarized power of attorney giving them the power to register our vehicles on our behalf. The license plates and registrations were sent to our mailbox at Americas Mailbox, which we picked up on our recent trip to Rapid City. You DO NOT need to have a South Dakota driver’s license in order to register your vehicles.
Obtain Driver’s License
This, of course, needs to be done in person. Show up at a Driver Exam Station with the following items:**
- Current Driver’s License
- Proof of Social Security Number (only if current license does not have a gold star in upper right corner) such as social security card, W-2, 1099, or pay stub.
- Passport or other proof of lawful status in the U.S.
- Hotel/Campground Receipt (dated within the last year) – We stayed at the onsite hotel at Americas Mailbox and they gave us a receipt that had both of our full names on it for this purpose.
- PMB Receipt – Americas Mailbox gave us the exact printout we needed.
- Marriage Certificate (only if name has changed at some point in your life)
- DD-214 (only if you want ‘Veteran’ to be printed on your license)
Once at the exam station (where an exam is not required if you have a current, valid license), you fill out an application. You then step up to the counter, hand over your documents, sign a Residency Affidavit stating you intend to return to South Dakota after being absent, perform a quick eye test, get your picture taken, sign the electronic pad, and then you’re handed your new driver’s license. Southern Californians are used to blocking an entire day for the DMV, so the fact that this only took about 20 minutes was amazing – we didn’t even need an appointment!
**Verify needed documents at the SD Department of Public Safety here or by calling (605) 773-6883. Make sure to tell them you have a PMB address.
Get quotes from numerous insurance companies and make sure they know you’re going to be a full-time traveler.
Travis is a veteran, so he has insurance through the VA. As we are self-employed, we pay for Missy’s health insurance out of pocket. Americas Mailbox gave us a couple of contacts for agents in South Dakota, but we ended up going with a policy we found on healthcare.gov. None of the insurance companies in South Dakota offer nationwide plans, so the plan isn’t a great option for out-of-network visits, but at least we have it if there’s an emergency. Other options to look into are short-term plans, usually a year long in duration, that often offer nationwide coverage. Or healthshare plans, which are faith-based companies that aren’t technically insurance, but quite a few full timers utilize. I personally would never use one, so do your research to find a plan that you are most comfortable with and works the best for your needs.
Move Our Business
Our business was registered in California, so we had our attorney get it registered in South Dakota. While you can most likely take care of this on your own, we have peace of mind knowing that everything was done properly and legally.