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  • Writer's pictureJess

Domiciling and Mail Forwarding

Updated: May 16, 2022

If you’re in the process of moving into an RV, van, or any other home that doesn’t give you the ability to pick up your mail from the same physical address everyday, I’m sure you’ve heard of mail-forwarding. It’s a super handy system in place where you can have your mail sent, sorted, and scanned so you’re never out of touch with the paper world. The next step further is called domiciling: utilizing a state of your choosing as your legal home even though you really aren’t living in its borders. For many people, like us, domiciling is what makes the most sense when living a traveling lifestyle. But it’s not all roses and peaches.

We just wrapped up our mail forwarding and domiciling process, and that’s what it truly was for us, A PROCESS. I did countless hours of research to find the ideal state for us, learn about the best mail forwarding services offered there, and identify what we would need to take with us to fulfill the government paperwork requirements. Let’s just say after reading several handfuls of blogs on this subject and discussing with legal counsel, domiciling ended up being a huge stressor. So I’m here to help the next person with the honest truths and hurdles of domiciling.

Why should someone domicile?

Domiciling is the process of making a state your legal home even though you don’t actually reside there full-time. You’ll want to get the state Driver’s License, register to vote, get your vehicles plated, enroll with insurance, and rent any storage units you may need there. It’s also highly recommended to switch over to professional service providers in that state, such as doctors, accountants, and legal services. Depending on which state you choose, you may also receive a state income tax break! There are currently 9 states that do not have state income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. Of these states, 3 are extremely popular for mail forwarding and domiciling; Florida, South Dakota and Texas.

Our Escapees Mail-Forwarding Experience:

From my research, I would recommend Escapees or America’s Mailbox as your mail forwarding service. I didn’t realize this at the time, but America’s Mailbox will also assist in the registration of your vehicle on your behalf. But from the limited experience we’ve had with Escapee’s, they have been extremely informative both over phone and email.

This process was relatively simple, we became members of Escapees, chose a mail plan, and then had to mail notarized information to prove our identities. The hardest part was making sure we sent EVERYTHING that they needed. I went ahead and sent them an email double checking before we sent out our information to make sure nothing was forgotten or slowed down. Once they received our info, that same day we received our South Dakota address! All in all this process took 2-3 weeks including the research.

Why Did We Choose South Dakota?

When looking for states to domicile in, we strictly looked at no income tax states that were near Colorado; Wyoming, South Dakota, and Texas.

Wyoming was our top choice at first considering Cheyenne is only 2 hours away! We could travel there and back easily and complete everything in 1 day. But when trying to find mail forwarding services, I couldn’t identify a single reliable service. The icing on the cake was when I found out that Wyoming does NOT accept a mail forwarding address as your permanent address for your driver’s license. There goes that idea!

Texas is also a great choice because Livingston has such a great mail forwarding system already in place with Escapees. However, the commute would’ve been 16 hours one way for us. Having traveled a similar distance several times to Indiana, we really loathed the idea of making that drive.

That left South Dakota, which fit nicely in the middle. I had already done some research on Escapees for Texas, and they also operate in South Dakota. Rapid City is about 6.5 hours away from Denver, not ideal, but way better than Texas. Bonus! We’d also get to check out the Badlands National Park while in the area. The only downside to South Dakota is it’s a little out of the way from the route we plan on traveling across the country, so we will have to make a conscious effort to time out when we’ll be near and schedule any appointments we are due for.

Our Domiciling Experience in South Dakota:

A week after receiving our mail forwarding address we took off to Rapid City, South Dakota to get our new state driver’s licenses, titles, license plates, and insurance. Knowing this part was so important, I did as much research as possible to make sure we had everything they could ask for and all the steps identified. Yet, even with this research, we encountered problems.

For your South Dakota Drivers License:

  • You must stay a night at a motel or campground. **Be sure to get a receipt that has your name(s) and ideally your new address**

  • Current driver’s license, social security card, and passport

  • Residency Affidavit (Escapees gave us this document but it can be found online easily)

Tip: In South Dakota you don’t need car insurance before you get your driver’s license.

Tip: Getting your driver’s license before you register your vehicle IMMENSELY helps with the registration process.

I can’t stress enough bringing a receipt that has your name(s) and new mail forwarding address on it. I knew we needed a receipt, but I brought in an itemized receipt for our campsite. We had to go back to the campground office and have them write up a new receipt for us. While not the worst thing that could happen, this was the one part of the process I was confident in, yet there was a hiccup.

For your South Dakota License Plates:

  • In South Dakota you MUST have the original title for your vehicle with you. If you are currently making payments on your vehicle you will need to send the bank you financed with a Title Release form. They will then send the original title to the Treasury office. This step can be done before traveling to the state, and I recommend this. Simply fax the filled out form to your bank and ensure you receive the tracking number once it’s mailed out so you can time your trip to the treasury office.

  • Be sure the VIN number is on the bill of sale paperwork, even if bought from a private party.

  • Complete the out-of-state transfer paperwork, which includes the weight of your vehicle. You will need to show proof of weight. If purchased from a dealer, the weight should be in your closing paperwork.

Getting the license plates for our van ended up being the biggest headache. With all of the research I conducted, I somehow missed that we needed the original title. We unfortunately do not have a very responsive or reachable bank, Suntrust/Truist, when it comes to our van loan, so it took us 2 days to obtain the fax number to send the Title Release form. The good news though is because we had received our driver’s license the day before starting the license plate process with the treasury department, we were able to be placed inside the system so we could leave South Dakota and finish the process via phone/email.

Fast forward 2 weeks to when the treasury dept. told us to check in with them, they still had not received the title. Turns out the fax number we were given by Suntrust/Truist was incorrect, and the bank knew but was not ensuring their agents were giving accurate information to their customers. *insert eye roll* A week later they finally sent out our title.

Tip: We waited a week before calling and checking to see where the Treasury Office was in processing their mail-ins. At the time they were behind 2 weeks, BUT if you pay $25 they will place you in the front of the queue. So I recommend calling the day after you’re notified the title is delivered to the treasury office.

Tip: Call right when the Treasury Office opens or you will be in queue for close to an hour.

Tip:Ensure your previous state registration is not close to expiration. When we were about to pick up our van from RossMonster, we registered with Colorado and let them know we would soon be switching to South Dakota. Our attendant asked if 1 month would be enough time and we thought it would be since we had already planned to travel there in about a week's time. But because of the delay in our original title being sent to the treasury office we ran out of time.

South Dakota will only issue a temporary license/registration ONCE A YEAR for up to a 15 day time period. We ended up driving on an expired temporary license for about a week, but we kept evidence of our efforts to obtain the new plate to present to law enforcement in case we were pulled over.

So, finally after a month-long process our license plates were headed to our Escapee mail forwarding address! Just a few days ago, we had them delivered to us on the road successfully via USPS general delivery in Springdale, Utah, just outside of Zion National Park! WOOOHOOOOO!

I hope this post gives you enough information to walk into this process 100% confident in what is to come. I did as much research as I could, but I wish I would’ve found a post that went in depth on the mis-steps that can happen. My biggest advice would be to start the mail forwarding and domiciling process 2-3 months before you plan to set-off for vanlife. We ran up against crunch time with our registration expiring and really felt the stress. If you have any more questions when getting ready, please let us know! Happy to assist in what should be a really exciting next step in your journey.

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