Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Residency? Domicile? Or, How We Became Real Texans.

When we started traveling fulltime we stayed California residents, using our parents address as ours and a PO Box for our mail.  Once every two or so weeks sister would pick up our mail and forward the important stuff onto us wherever we happened to be.  We filed a private school affidavit that allowed us to homeschool the children.  This worked well, but it wasn't ideal long term.

We began to research what other fulltime travelers did for their mail, residency and homeschooling dilemmas.  We don't own land or a house anywhere, so that wasn't a deciding factor.  It came down to three states we were choosing from, South Dakota, Texas and Florida.  All three had mailing forwarding services that would fit our needs, all three were fulltime traveler friendly.  Out of the three Texas is the only state with no regulations on homeschooling, both Florida and South Dakota have moderate regulation.

There were a few deciding factors that led us to choose Texas as our new home state.  One, no regulations on homeschooling.  Two, low cost license and registration on our RV and vehicle.  Three, Texas is centrally located and has weather we wouldn't mind being in at any time of year (just because we travel fulltime doesn't mean we wouldn't ever have to have jury duty.)  The switch was pretty painless.  And it was only after we made all the changes did we realize we also have no state income taxes, so that was an added plus.

How we became Texans:
1. Became Escapees members and signed up for their mail forwarding service (we did this prior to arriving to Livingston, through the mail)
     -We were issued an permenant street address, not a PO Box.
2. Visited Livingston, TX
     -Got our Excursion and trailer inspected (at a local body shop)
     -Registered and licensed both, registered to vote,  received new license plates that day (at the Polk County Tax Assessors office)
     -Applied for Texas drivers licenses (at Texas Department of Public Safety)
3. Switched our insurance to Texas.  We were able to stick with our same companies, Ameriprise for vehicle and Progressive for travel trailer.  The switch took just a phone call to each company.  And our premiums went down dramatically from what we were paying in California.
4. Changed our address with employer, bank, insurance, cell phone, etc.

All in all we were running around Livingston for less than 3 hours to accomplish all of these tasks.  Which included some juggling of kids and ATM cards to get sufficient funds in cash.

A few need to knows:
 - Registering vehicles, applying for drivers license and registering to vote can only be done once you have a Texas mailing address. 
 - The tax assessors office (where you register and license vehicles and RVs) only takes local checks and cash.  We had not been residents long enough to have new "local" checks and our bank was not in town, so we had to make a few trips to the ATM.
- In order to apply for drivers license, all vehicles and RVs must be registered, so make sure you do this first.
-When you apply for a Texas drivers license they confiscate your old license and give you a temporary 8 1/2x11 black and white print out of your license which has to last you the 6-8weeks until your real license arrives (plus forwarding time).  We can say that this license even though this license looks as fraudulent as they come, Nick was able to fly from California to Arkansas and back with it.  (Although it was a little iffy on both legs of the trip if his ID was going to be sufficient.)  So I might suggest that if you are planning on doing any air travel make sure it is at least 8 weeks after you apply for your license :)
- From what I can gather, the licensing and registering of vehicles and RV's can be done through the mail.  Inspections must be completed within 10 days of entering the state.  I am not clear on how long you have to switch your drivers license.
- Yearly inspections are due on vehicles and RVs, however if you are not in Texas when registration and inspections come due, you can still pay registration.   You will then get vehicles and RVs inspected the next time you go to Texas, within 10 days of arriving back in the state. 

   Y'all we are Texans now.

 We received a lot of information on this process from the Escapees forums and  a document published by the Escapees RV Club called "How to Become a Real Texan", this is a newly updated version packed full of information.  The DPS and the Tax Assessors office were both very helpful over the phone, so that we could make sure we had everything in order before arriving.  

Supporting your fulltime RV adventures and aspirations


  1. You sound like a real Texan! You even used y'all correctly in a sentence- bonus points!

  2. Hi Stephanie,
    I just started following your blog and I'm in love with it! Thank you so much for sharing your life on the road! I'm absolutely fascinated with how you and your large family are able to do daily activities in such a small living space. My husband and I are looking to move into an RV and are super-excited!

  3. Thank you SO MUCH for all of your info on 'How to become a true Texan'. You are a blessing to us and took a lot of legwork and research out of the 'how to's'. We are newbie full-timers as well and are always actively seeking any and all advice! We love reading about all of your experiences.

    Blessings to you and your family!


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