How to Establish Residency

Three Parts:Review the RequirementsGather ProofEstablish Residency

Many colleges and universities offer lower tuition rates for students who live within the state. If you want to take advantage of these lower in-state costs, you will need to provide proof that you currently reside in the state and intend to continue living in the state. Residency must be established directly with the Office of Admissions or Registrar's Office at your educational institution.

Part 1
Review the Requirements

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    Research the requirements for your state. Most states have their own rules for determining residency, and most colleges and universities will only consider you a resident if you meet the rules set by the state the school is in.[1]
    • Residency requirements are usually stated within the state statute. Look for the statute online. If you are unable to find it, the university registrar should be able to tell you what the residency requirements are.
    • Note that most requirements for residency are the same from state to state, so following the generic guidelines will typically be enough. You should still find out if there are any differences for your state, though.
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    Consider your dependency status. The burden of proof will either lie with the applicant or the applicant's parent based on whether or not the applicant is still legally dependent on that parent.
    • Dependents must still be under the age of 24 before the end of the calendar year arrives.
    • Additionally, the student must rely on the parent financially to be considered a dependent of that parent, but that parent does not necessarily need to claim the student as a dependent on his or her taxes.
    • Students who are independent must prove presence, intent, and financial independence by themselves. Students who are dependent will need to prove the presence and intent of the parents they reside with. When a student's parents are divorced, residency must be proven for the parent who resides with and financially supports that student.
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    Prove your physical presence in the state. You or the parent you are dependent upon must reside within the state for a full calendar year before residency can be granted.[2]
    • Some states have a different time requirement. For instance, Alaska requires proof of physical presence for two full calendar years, while Arkansas only requires physical presence within the state for six months.
    • This time requirement may also vary based on whether you are dependent or independent. For example, Nebraska does not have a minimum time for dependent students, but independent students must prove that they have been physically present in the state for at least one year.
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    Establish your intent to remain in the state. You or your parents must also demonstrate your intention to remain in the state on a long-term basis.
    • Essentially, you need to prove that you intend to remain in the state as a resident throughout and beyond the school year.
    • This requirement may vary based on your dependency status. In some cases, a student who intends to remain in the state may still qualify for residency even if the parent moves out of state.
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    Show financial independence. Many states require independent students to provide proof of their financial independence.
    • This is not a requirement that dependent students need to worry about.
    • Note that none of the proof you provide indicating financial independence may conflict with your proof of presence or intent.
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    Cut residential ties to other states. In addition to proving residency in the state of your university, you must also have no residential ties to any other state.[3]
    • As a general rule, any type of document that can be used to prove residency in the state of your university can also be used to prove residency in another state. Any record indicating that you have recently applied for residency in another state will also work against you.

Part 2
Gather Proof

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    Gather government-issued documents establishing physical presence. Even though some private documents may show that you have been present in the state for the past year, the most effective documents will be those that are tied to the state or federal government.
    • The most common forms of government-issued proof include:
      • A voter registration card
      • Registration with Selective Service in the state.
      • A filed "Declaration of Domicile" form with the county clerk
      • State and federal income tax returns
      • High school diploma from a school within the state
    • Activities showing that you are regularly present within the state might help as supporting evidence but should not be relied upon completely. Such evidence most often includes memberships to local organizations and club
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    Document all proof of intent. Proof of intent is less objective, but in general, any document showing that you are establishing a life within the state can be used to help prove your intent.[4]
    • Common examples include:
      • State driver's license
      • Vehicle registration within the state
      • State hunting and/or fishing license
      • Local bank account
      • Local library card
      • License of marriage or divorce within the state
      • Utility bills from within the state
      • Proof of state-aided health or welfare
    • Owning a home or renting an apartment within the state may help, but since many people own vacation homes out of state, some colleges won't accept this as proof. Only provide this proof if it somehow demonstrates that the home you own in the state is your principal home.[5]
    • Similarly, proof of employment within the state may also help, but some people work in a state they do not live in. Some universities may accept records of full-time employment, but others will not.
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    Prove financial independence, when necessary. If you need to prove financial independence when establishing residency, you will need to satisfy at least one requirement demonstrating your independence.
    • In most states, you can be considered independent if you are at least 24 years old by the end of the calendar year.
    • If you are a single undergraduate student who has not been claimed as a dependent by anyone for at least two years, and can demonstrate self-sufficiency through lease agreements or similar documents, you can usually be considered independent, as well.
    • You may also be considered financially independent if you are married, a veteran of the U.S. military, a ward of the court, a legal orphan, or responsible for legal dependents other than a spouse.[6]
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    Avoid evidence that may work against you. If you have legal documents to prove that you are a resident within another state, they may cause your university to reject your claim of residency for the university's state.
    • Evidence that can be particularly damaging includes:[7]
      • Failure to pay state income tax
      • Failure to obey any law that applies to permanent residents of the state
      • Employment in another state, especially a non-bordering state
      • Ownership of a home in another state
      • Extended absence from the state, excluding absences required of military members

Part 3
Establish Residency

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    Get an application from the Office of Admissions or Registrar. In most states, residency status will be granted or denied by the university. As such, you will need to complete the university's residency application.
    • Fill out the form accurately and completely. Missing or inaccurate information will delay the process and may prevent your claim of residency from being accepted.
    • In some cases, both you and your parents (or custodial parent) may need to sign the application.
    • Make sure that you submit the form before the due date established by your university.
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    Provide at least two government-issued documents. You'll need at least two government-issued documents establishing residency, and at least one of these documents must satisfy any time limit established by the state.
    • There is no such thing as having too many documents proving residency. Submit all of the proof you have, just in case one document gets rejected.
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    Provide documents that prove intent, as well. Some of these documents might be government-issued, while others won't be.
    • Regardless of who issued the document, it is recommended that you provide every possible document proving your intent. Since intent is more subjective than physical presence, you will need even more proof to defend this claim.
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    Include proof of financial independence, when applicable. If you are an independent student, you will also need to provide at least one document proving your financial independence when you submit your application.
    • Even if you proved financial independence on your admissions application or on previously submitted financial aid forms, you should still submit your proof again when attempting to establish residency.
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    Wait for a decision. After submitting your application and proof, you must wait for the tuition classification officer to make a decision. Most colleges and universities will inform you of their decision when it has been made.
    • The decision is only binding at that particular university. If one university denies your claim of residency, it is possible that another university within the same state may grant your claim.
    • In some cases, you might be able to appeal the decision with that college or university. There usually won't be a way to appeal the decision to a power beyond that educational institution, however.

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