Our Florida Domicile Process
Mail? Bills? Insurance? Voting? As magical as it might feel to get rid of your mortgage, there are things that don’t disappear when becoming a full-time RV’er. So they are something you have to take into account before making the plunge into that lifestyle. We certainly were trying our best to avoid these big questions, but it came time to put on our big boy pants and get some things done. We won’t get into all the details (trust me there’s a lot) because then it seems like a ton of bricks. Plus, we truly don’t have all the answers. We hope we can provide you with our experiences and you can research it from there!
While it seems to other people that we don’t have a home and are just traveling around all willy-nilly, we still do follow the “rules”! This requires us to establish a “domicile” or “home base”. Most everything you do will require having a permanent address. Since our legal address will no longer be where we own our home, we need to choose a state to declare as our “domicile”. Texas, South Dakota, and Florida are the 3 most common states full timers use based on these BIG 5.
- Income Taxes
- Health Insurance
- Driver’s License Requirements
- Vehicle Registration & Insurance
So Uncle Sam is more prevalent in some states than others! There are several states that don’t collect state income tax. This is one of the big things that make Texas, South Dakota, and Florida popular domicile states! Choosing a state that has very low or no income tax can save you a lot of money. But, most certainly don’t make this your only criteria in selecting your state of domicile.
State of Domicile also determines insurance rates, both health, auto and trailer insurance. Heath insurance seems to come with the biggest dollar amount of all the insurance type expenses. As most people are already aware, it is also constantly in flux, with insurance carriers dropping coverage in some states on a regular basis. For this reason, health insurance is an analysis that most likely will need to be done on annual basis. At this time, for our situation, Florida is a somewhat friendly state to obtain health insurance. I say somewhat friendly, because it still costs money and is not always as consumer friendly as we would like it to be.
The renewal of your driver’s license is a process that varies by state across the Country. Florida is very clear in explaining what documentation is needed to obtain a Florida driver’s license:
- Primary Identification - an original or certified of one of the following
- Certified United States birth certificate
- Valid United States Passport or Passport Card
- Consular Report of Birth Abroad
- Certificate of Naturalization, Form N-550 or Form N-570
- Certificate of Citizenship, Form N-560 or Form N-561
. Proof of Social Security Number
- Social Security Card
- W-2 form
- Pay check
- Any 1099
3. Two Forms of Proof of Residential Address - Gather TWO of the following documents showing your residential address: (internet printouts or faxes of these documents are acceptable)
- Deed, mortgage, monthly mortgage statement, mortgage payment booklet or residential rental/lease agreement
- Florida Voter Registration Card
- Florida Vehicle Registration or Title
- Florida Boat Registration or Title (if living on a boat/houseboat)
- A statement from a parent, step-parent or legal guardian of an applicant. The parent or guardian must reside at the same residence address, accompany the applicant and present "Proof of Residence Address"
- A utility hook up or work order dated within 60 days of the application
- Automobile Payment Booklet
- Selective Service Card
- Medical or health card with address listed
- Current homeowner’s insurance policy or bill
- Current automobile insurance policy or bill
- Educational institution transcript forms for the current school year
- Unexpired professional license issued by a government agency in the U.S.
- W-2 form or 1099 form
- Form DS2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) status
- A letter from a homeless shelter, transitional service provider, or a half-way house verifying that the customer resides at the shelter address
- Utility bills, not more than two months old
- Mail from financial institutions; including checking, savings, or investment account statements, not more than two months old
- Mail from Federal, State, County or City government agencies (including city and county agencies)
- Transients Sexual Offender/Predator/Career Offender: - FDLE Registration form completed by local sheriff’s department
We made the extra effort and drove to a Florida DMV office in Sumter County, where the Escapees Campground is located. This proved to be worth the extra effort as the young lady at the DMV office responded immediately when we presented her with our Escapees Mail Agreement. Her comment was, “Oh yea, we do a lot of these.” Thanks Escapees for being popular! So after presenting our passports, my Social Security card (had we mentioned that Betsy lost her SS Card during our downsizing?!), Betsy’s last 1099, and for our proof of address we both used our Escapees Agreement and our car registration. The car registration was all a matter of sequence since the same young lady also did that for us while doing our licenses.
As I mentioned above, registering our Honda Pilot in Florida was part of this process. It is also a fairly easy process. The most important step (that we failed to comply with) is to have your auto insurance in place BEFORE going to the DMV to register your vehicle. A quick call to Met Life while we were at the DMV office remedied this problem. We provided the title for the vehicle and the clerk performed a VIN verification and odometer reading on site. We chose to pay for a 2 year registration (no discount for choosing this option). We were provided with a FL license plate (we chose the one that says “Sunshine State” because we liked the ring of it), and the appropriate registration stickers. There are many, many specialty license plates available, but they all included additional fees, so we opted for the “Classic” plate!
The last part of this decision process was to pick a mail service to take care of our mail. Unfortunately, not everything can be done via email and online these days. Since we were already Escapees members, and they provide a mail service with a Florida address, it seemed like an easy choice to make. In addition, they had it clearly laid out on their website what needed to be done to become a Florida resident. If there is any downside to using Escapees Mail Service, it is the fact that our mailing address is really a Texas address. The only thing our Florida address is meant to be used for is official Florida documents, such as Driver’s License, car registration, voter registration, etc. Any mail that comes to our Florida address is first forwarded to Texas before being sent to us. The kicker is, for every piece of mail that goes through this process, we are charged $1. So it definitely encourages us to change anything we can to our Texas mailing address. This process could cause some confusion down the road, but we are more than willing to give it a try and see how it works out.
In summary, the entire process was fairly quick & easy. We had all our documents lined up and ready. If it were not for us overlooking having our insurance in place beforehand, we could really have been in and out in less than an hour.
I know this was a lengthy post, and thanks for sticking with me till the end. Hopefully this information will help you as you navigate the process, or maybe you got a good chuckle reading everything we had to do. We just considered all of this a “necessary evil” to get to our end goal . . . Full Time RV’ers!!
If you have any questions about the process - certainly feel free to comment below. Have you declared another state as your domicile? - we would love to hear how it went for you.