Establishing Bona Fide Domicile
The advice from the Office of the Attorney General, Education Division concerning presumption is that before domicile is established, an individual must complete all basic requirements that a legal Washington resident is required to do by law.
Individuals must provide documentation showing they meet the following guidelines to establish WA domicile:
- Physically reside in the state for at least 12 consecutive months prior to the first day of the quarter students are seeking residency.
A legal resident must relinquish all valid legal ties with their former state/country of residence and establish such ties in Washington in accordance with state and local legislation.
- Establish Washington State legal ties:
- Driver’s License/State ID: One must obtain a Washington State Driver’s License within 30 days of arrival if they have a valid out-of-state driver’s license, including international driver’s license. If an individual does not drive or possess a driver’s license from any state or country, s/he should obtain a Washington State Identification Card within 30 days of arrival.
- Vehicle Registration: Individuals who own or operates a vehicle in Washington must have their vehicle registered in Washington within 30 days of arrival.
- Voter Registration: Individuals who have previously registered to vote in their former state of residence must register to vote in Washington. If one does not register to vote in Washington, this means s/he may still vote absentee in the prior state of residency.
Permanent Resident Card holders or any other status with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) are exempt from registering to vote.
- Establish a bank account in Washington: Existing bank accounts prior to arriving in Washington is sufficient as long as one’s name and Washington address is associated with the account and documented.
- Lease/home agreement
Students who are establishing bona fide domicile independently must complete the following requirements in addition to the guidelines listed above:
- Students must demonstrate they are financially independent for the current calendar year for which they are applying for residency and the previous calendar. This means they are paying for the majority of their expenses (cost of attendance and living) with their own income. Students who are 25 years of age or younger must provide their parents’ most recent tax returns.
- Students who are enrolled for 7 credits or more each term, during the period they are establishing bona fide legal domicile, are presumed by law to be in Washington State for purposes of education. Students cannot get resident tuition unless they can demonstrate conclusively they moved to Washington for purposes other than education.
One strong method of overcoming this presumption is through significant employment of 30 hours per week at a non-student position. Other methods can be a combination of significant employment and other ties such as community involvement (i.e. volunteering, etc.), participation in state/local organizations, family, etc. The burden of proof lies on the student to demonstrate they have overcome this presumption.
Examples of other factors that may help students establish proof of domicile include the disposition of property in the former state of residence, relocation of household members, and generally becoming involved in activities that will help prove their intent to make Washington their official state of residence.
All domicile must be established at least one year immediately prior to the first day of the quarter the student is seeking residency. Once the individual is in full compliance with all of Washington State’s requirements for residency, then s/he, as of that final date of compliance, has established domicile and is eligible to apply for residency. It is the student’s responsibility to request a change in residency status once all requirements have been met.
For more specific information on bona fide domicile, please reference the Residency FAQs.