Last Update: 8/29/2016

How I Got REAL ID With No Fixed Address

Getting a REAL ID with no fixed address ain’t impossible … if you got a card or two up your sleeve. Photo by Stephen Deplo, CC by 2.0
REAL ID proofs of residency fuck with nomads who don’t have no address living in a van down by the river. How’s an otherwise law-abiding van lifer to supposed to get a driver’s license, registration, license plates, and Obamacare? Cheat a little, that’s how – like the big dick corporations. Let me tell how Vanholio done his in New Mexico.

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 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 – Yet

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:

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.

  1. 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.)

  2. Submitted a USPS request to forward my mail from the residential address to my private mailbox / mail forwarding service, Traveling Mailbox.

  3. Got auto insurance for the residential address online and printed out the proof.

  4. Changed my bank account address to the residence and printed out the next statement with New Mexico address. (I changed the address back later.)

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

Cover of "All the Whores I Knowed Before" a book by Vanholio! For sale on Click through.

Also See …


  1. az is also a good state. driver lic. good till 65 years old then every 5 years. truck reg. can be purchased for 5 years at a time. no smog inspectioms in kingman. same as you done in nm. kingman camping park for an address and then a po fording service.

  2. I went with South Dakota because it's laughably easy to establish residency and get my license and registration. Get a mail forwarding service, pay to stay one night somewhere in the state, show them your passport, old ID, lodging receipt, and mail forwarder address, sign a statement that you'll return to the state someday, do the vision test, and that's it. No vehicle inspections of any kind, ever. Cheap vehicle insurance. Cheap license and registration fees.

    The down side: needing to go all the way to SD to sign up and to eventually renew the driver license. And no expanded Medicaid. So I spent the last three years crossing my fingers about health and accidents. I have eight more months of that before I'm old enough for Medicare.

    1. If I hadn't needed Obamacare one way or the other, I might have gone to South Dakota. Their laws invite in the nomads like Delaware invites in the corporations.

  3. Vanholio: The info was good, but the color with which it was delivered made the difference! I was laughing all throughout the blog article. "That ain’t none too fucking attractive." I'm still laughing. Hadn't heard that one in a long, long time.

    Good job. If you've got more to say about NM residency, I'd like to hear it.

    1. I aims to please. Maybe I'll publish more about NM residency as shit happens.

  4. Hello, what are the income cutoffs to qualify for Medicaid?

    1. It might be 133% of the Federal Poverty Level. Some things about expanded Medicaid vary by state. Not sure if eligibility is one of those (in the states that are participating). You can go here and follow the bread crumb trails:

    2. Thanks for the help. My understanding is that it's 133% of Federal Poverty Level, ~$16K for a single person. If New Mexico does something different, I'm gonna have egg on my face!

    3. If a person really wants to know, my guess is that answer lies in the link below. As usual, even simple ain't simple.