How to Claim South Dakota Residency as a Full-Time RVer

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When it comes to your state residency, most people don’t consider it for too long. It’s often a decision made when accepting a job or buying a house. However, one of the benefits of being a full-time RVer is more freedom to choose your residency. There are several popular states that RVers consider, but many end up with a South Dakota residency when they hit the road.

Today, we’re looking at why you should and how to claim South Dakota residency as a full-time RVer. Let’s get started!

What Does Claiming Domicile Mean?

Individuals claiming domicile in a state are legal residents of that state and pay taxes, vote, have driver’s licenses, and register vehicles according to the state’s requirements.

While most people are domiciled where they work and live, that doesn’t work for RVers and other nomads who are constantly on the move. They get to more or less choose a state to claim a domicile in.

This is no easy choice if you have 50 to choose from but, some states have benefits that are more hospitable toward the nomadic lifestyle.

These states typically have low taxes and cheap vehicle insurance and are more homeschool and retirement friendly. Depending on where you establish your domicile, you can save thousands of dollars each year.

Pros of South Dakota Residency

A South Dakota residency has many benefits, especially regarding taxes. It’s one of the most tax-friendly states in the entire country.

There are no state income, pension, personal property, and state inheritance taxes. There is only a 4% net tax on vehicles and RVs. As we said, it’s an extremely tax-friendly state.

You need to register vehicles in whichever state you’re claiming domicile. Many choose a South Dakota residency for the low vehicle registration and license fees. There are no annual vehicle inspections. It’s easy to see why many choose the Mount Rushmore State for domiciling.

Pro Tip: Before visiting South Dakota for your residency, check out this article on How to Plan an RV Trip to South Dakota

Cons of South Dakota Residency

South Dakota requires that you spend at least 24 hours in the state before establishing residency. However, one major con is that you must return to the state once every five years to renew your license.

You’ll need a receipt from a campground, hotel, or Airbnb to prove your stay. There are other states that you can domicile that don’t have this requirement.

Another con of South Dakota residency is that you might need to change your health insurance. Not all health insurance companies are available in every state, and even if they are, your current plan may not be available in South Dakota. One of the largest complaints of those choosing to domicile in South Dakota is the low-quality options for health insurance.

A final con is the higher vehicle insurance costs. Depending on where you are changing your domicile from, you may experience higher insurance costs in South Dakota due to the damaging hail storms they experience there. However, it is better than Florida or Texas, though, due to the tornados, hurricanes, hail, and flooding they experience as well.

A South Dakota flag, a state many RVers use for residency.

Do You Have to Live In South Dakota to Be a Resident?

You don’t have to live in South Dakota 365 days a year to be a resident. You first need to spend 24 hours in the state to establish residency and then return once every five years to renew your license.

Even if you spend most of the year traveling the country, you’ll be a full-fledged South Dakotan by selecting South Dakota as your state of domicile.

The only issue you could run into is if you own property and live at that property for most of the year. You could run into legal issues. You must do your best to establish relationships with doctors, libraries, and any other proof if you intend to consider South Dakota home.

How to Claim South Dakota Residency as a Full-Time RVer

Once you decide to claim South Dakota residency, there are a few things you need to do. Doing these in the correct order is essential, as it will help expedite the residency process. Let’s look at what to do when establishing residency in South Dakota.

Establish a South Dakota Address

You’re going to need a South Dakota address. Many mail services and clubs like America’s Mailbox and Escapees can provide this. These typically require an annual membership, but they can help you with all the paperwork and items needed to establish your domicile. These are two of the largest service providers and have helped thousands of nomads establish their residency.

It’s best to start this process several weeks before you plan to arrive in South Dakota. This will allow you plenty of time to square away any documents necessary to join the membership and mail them back. Some documents will require a notary to complete them, so don’t delay this step in claiming your South Dakota residency.

A welcome to South Dakota sign, where many RVers claim as their state of residency

Receive Mail

One of the benefits of establishing a South Dakota address in advance is to mail in your completed documents. They can be waiting for you when you arrive in South Dakota, and you’ll have everything you need ready. You’ll need mail in your name when you head to the DMV.

Keep in Mind: Do you know how to get your mail as an RVer? Check out What Is Americas Mailbox and How Does It Work?

A man checking his mail in his state of residency, South Dakota.

Schedule Your DMV Visit

The last thing you want to do is head on down to the DMV without an appointment. Walking into the DMV without one and not having a considerable wait is like hitting the jackpot in Las Vegas.

Make sure you start the process long before heading to the DMV so you can be in and out as quickly as possible.

Stay One Night

South Dakota requires those wishing to claim South Dakota residency must show proof of staying one night in the state. It’s a part of the residency affidavit that you’ll complete and have notarized.

This can be a receipt from a hotel or campground, but it must prove that you’ve stayed overnight within the past year. 

Compile Your Paperwork

You will need to gather some documents before heading to the DMV. Present a certified copy of your birth certificate, a passport, a permanent resident card or certificate of naturalization (if applicable), employment authorization documents, or an unexpired U.S. visa. 

Ensure you have any documentation, such as a marriage license, if you need to show evidence of a name change. You’ll also need to bring a Social Security or Medicare card that lists your complete social security number.

The final documents you’ll need are the residency affidavit, your receipt from your one-night stay, and a document proving your mailbox address. This can be the mail you previously sent to your new South Dakota residency address or a document from your mail service provider.

Head to the DMV

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary paperwork, you can head to the DMV when it is time for your appointment. Make sure you give yourself time and arrive a few minutes early. You don’t want to be late and forfeit your appointment.

The entire process at the DMV can take anywhere from 20 minutes to more than an hour. It typically depends on the number of workers at the DMV and how many other people they’re serving.

Organizing your paperwork ahead of time can save you a tremendous amount of time when it’s your turn.

Establish a Connection in the State

Now that you’re a South Dakota resident, you’ll want to establish a few connections to prove that you’re settling in South Dakota. This could be lawyers, doctors, and accountants in the area. This is a significant step that many nomads skip, but it can get them into legal issues.

Geronimo and Kathleen Sanchez skipped this step back in 2004, and it got them legal issues with the Commissioner of Revenue and the Minnesota Tax Court. The family didn’t establish connections in South Dakota, and the Minnesota Tax Court made them pay back taxes and fees.

Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, where many RVers claim as their state of residency.

Enjoy Being a South Dakotan!

Once you become a South Dakotan, you can enjoy the many benefits of being a resident. You can travel the country and see some amazing things.

Just don’t forget to come back to South Dakota to keep yourself on the right side of the law. However, with all that South Dakota has to offer, you’ll likely find yourself wanting to spend more time exploring the beautiful state.

What states are you considering making your domicile if you’re hitting the road full-time?

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