Two Quick Disclaimers First
Just Vanholio’s Experience
This article ain’t the end all, be all of how to choose a state of residency and get a driver’s license, etc. This is just Vanholio’s experience and thinkin’ on the matter. Bob Wells at CheapRVLiving.com has got the whole how-to for ya, soup to nuts. (See links to his articles and videos at bottom.)
'Technically' Ain't Got REAL ID
Got my license in New Mexico, and it turns out the state's on extension to being fully REAL ID compliant. Mostly they’re working out how to handle illegal aliens and other non-citizen residents. But I did jump through all the same REAL ID proof of residency and citizenship hoops to get my license, registration, and tags. My license just don’t got the star on it. What I did should work for you in any state.
Establishing New Mexico Residency
All the Docs I Needed
As New Mexico interprets REAL ID, here’s what they require for proof citizenship and New Mexico residency:
- Passport or birth certificate
- W-2, pay stub, or Social Security card with your Social Security Number
- Two different documents proving your address (see full list)
For my license, registration, plates, and title change, I also needed:
- Proof of New Mexico auto insurance (see requirements)
- Current van title
How I Produced the Proofs
As a US citizen and a decent record keeper, I have a passport, birth certificate, Social Security card, and my Texas van title. So that was covered. The tricky bit for nomads is getting the proofs of residency without a fixed address.
I decided the easiest of the required residency documents for me was a bank statement and auto insurance, especially since I needed the latter anyway. Here’s what I did.
- Picked out a New Mexico residential address. (If you’ve got a friend or family member in your chosen state who will let you use their address, that’s the easiest and best way of all.)
- Submitted a USPS request to forward my mail from the residential address to my private mailbox / mail forwarding service, Traveling Mailbox.
- Got auto insurance for the residential address online and printed out the proof.
- Changed my bank account address to the residence and printed out the next statement with New Mexico address. (I changed the address back later.)
- Took the auto insurance and bank statement printouts, plus my other docs, to the MVD office and did the paperwork, paid the fees, and got my title, registration, plates, and temporary license.
- About a month later, my permanent New Mexico driver’s license showed up in my Traveling Mailbox.
It’s some damn hoops to jump through, but it’s totally goddamn doable.
But Ain’t That Illegal?
Yes, but it ain’t immoral, IMHO. Being a nomadic vandweller ain’t illegal or wrong as such. The bureau-nazis and LEOs just have their systems set up in such a way as to criminalize not having a fixed address, a “domicile.” They wanna keep tabs on you. So I adapted to exercise my legal and moral right to live in a van down by the river. I look at it this way.
- REAL ID is a national standard to keep foreign terrorists from getting an ID that gets them on planes and into secure facilities. I’m a US citizen and not a terrorist.
- I’m as much a New Mexico resident as those fat cats incorporated in Delaware are Delawareans. Besides, I’ll be paying New Mexico taxes same as anyone and probably spending a good amount of time there, too.
- The Boy Scout way would be to challenge the current residency laws and regulations in court to win a non-address alternative to get licenses, Obamacare, and the rest. Work within the system, they say. Fuck that. I ain’t got the time, money, or belly fire for that shit.
Why I ‘Moved’ to New Mexico
New Mexico is an unusual choice of residency for a nomad. Most folks either stick to their home states or go with Nevada, Florida, Texas, or South Dakota. Here’s Vanholio’s considerations ...
New Mexico Has Expanded Medicaid
This here tale is mostly about Obamacare. As a self-employed, pre-retirement fellow, Vanholio gets his medical insurance through Obamacare. The problem is that for everything but emergencies, most policies (including mine) only cover you in your home state.
As an OTR vandweller, that sucks donkey balls, particularly since Vanholio is a Texas boy. The Lone Star State is huge, out of the way, and blazing hot most of the year. Not only that, Texas bowed out of Expanded Medicaid. Since I live on a tiny budget, that leaves me paying almost $3,000 a year for high-deductible, basic insurance.
So I looked at the map. Being that I mostly wander around Texas and the Four Corners states, New Mexico is about the center of my range. Good place to have my doctors. Plus, New Mexico has Expanded Medicaid, so that’ll be $3,000 a year raise for me.
New Mexico Taxes and Insurance Cheaper Overall
Now, unlike Texas, New Mexico has state income tax. That ain’t none too fucking attractive. But I crunched the numbers at SmartAsset, and as little as I earn, New Mexico’s income tax burden is peanuts on me.
Plus I done made it up in other ways. My van registration is about half in New Mexico as in Texas. Plus I ain’t gotta pay for yearly exhaust inspections. And by comparing average car insurance rates by ZIP code, I cut my rates in half! I come out ahead on this thing all around.
Hey, Beer Vanholio! He works hard on this blog.
Also See …Choosing a State of Residence (CheapRVLiving.com)
What Does a Nomad Use as Physical Residence Address (CheapRVLiving.com)
Is Living in Your Van Illegal?
Are You Homeless if You Live in Van?