I'm now a South Dakotan and you can be too

As you probably know I moved to Nicaragua full time over a year ago. Well I never moved my US residency out of California. That means I was paying California state income taxes. Now, normally I don't mind paying taxes. Even California's pretty high taxes because I'm using the services provided by them.

But since I no longer live there and don't work from there, it didn't make sense to continue paying them. So I had to resolve that and move my residency to a no income tax state. There are quite a few of them but most require a set amount of time in state to establish residency.

South Dakota however is pretty simple. You just need to spend 24 hours every 5 years to get a "permanent traveler" residency in the state. This allows you to establish residency there but it's a special status and by default you can not actually live within the state.

It's perfect for immigrants like me or digital nomads, etc.

The process is very simple and aside from paperwork I could do in advance, took just a couple of hours to complete.

Yea yea, tell me how you did it already!

Alright, [vegan] meat and potatoes time. Here's what you will need. The first three items are self explanatory so I'll just to the final two.

You will need:

  1. Birth Certificate or Passport
  2. Social Security Card
  3. Current drivers license
  4. Agreement with your mailing address provider
  5. Receipt from your hotel showing your mail address provider address

Mailing address provider

You will need a state approved mailing list provider. There are a few but I chose Your Best Address based on reviews I found online and reddit discussions. The sign up process was simple, though a bit tedious. The staff there are super friendly and eager to help. They're well versed in the process and can answer any questions you may have.

When you go to change your drivers license you will need a copy of your agreement to show the Department of Motor Vehicles. This is a legal requirement so don't try to skip this.

Hotel receipt

Before going to the DMV, be sure to ask your hotel to add your mailing address provider address to the hotel receipt and print out a proof of stay. The hotel will no doubt know exactly what you're doing and be ready to print out your receipt right away. I saw that quite a few people are there to do just this process so they're all prepared for it.

I personally stayed at the Holiday Inn, Sioux Falls Airport. The price was average and the hotel was nice. Bed was comfy. Didn't really need much more than that. The other advantage is, it's about a 5 minute drive from the airport and about a 2 minute drive to the DMV. About 10 minutes to most other places you'll want to visit in Sioux Falls (downtown, restaurants, etc.), so the location is perfect.

Getting it done

This is gonna sound stupid but literally just walk into the DMV. This location near the hotel is apparently the busiest in the state. I waited a whopping 10 minutes to be called. If you want to save those 10 minutes, make an appointment in advance online. Californian's will understand my shock at this wait time.

Tell the receptionist what you want to do, they'll verify all your paperwork and give you a number. Now you wait.

When called to a window, the person attending you will also verify your documents, ask for your current license, charge you $28 USD, take your photo, and print your new license. This process took about 7 minutes total (see disclosure below).

Full disclosure: Literally as the worker was about to print my new license, the DMV computer systems for the entire state crashed. I had to wait for about an hour for them to come back up. Aside from this unlucky incident, it took 7 minutes.

Oh and bonus score I wasn't expecting, the new license is a Real ID so that's one less headache I have to worry about.

That's it. You walk out with your new South Dakota license and you're officially a resident. You can also register to vote during this process (please do this!)

Thoughts on South Dakota

I spent less than 40 hours in the state and 16 hours of that was sleeping. I will say from what I saw of Sioux Falls I was pleasantly surprised. I know it's stupid but I had an idea of what this "fly over state" would be like and I was completely wrong. The city, while small, had plenty of things to do, cool looking bars, nice restaurants and plenty of vegan options for me (this surprised me the most).

Another thing, the people are so damn nice! Of course there were exceptions but as whole, I felt very welcome and comfortable.

I got the impression that South Dakota's program to lure in businesses is working. There were quite a lot of business travelers there. Seems like quite a few companies are moving to the state for various reasons (obviously taxes being one of them). The cost of hotels surprised me because it was more expensive than I thought it would be. Once I got there and saw the number of business travelers, it made sense.

This post isn't about my companies but I also completed the move of my California companies to South Dakota. Let me know if you want a write up of that process but it's also pretty simple.

California in my blood

In my heart, California will always be home to me. It was weird giving up my California license and looking at this new South Dakota one. I mean in the end it's just a stupid card but it did signify something more for me. I'm truly giving up more and more of my old life and it feels weird. I mean it's a positive thing but still feels strange.

Anyway, it's like they say...

"You can take the boy out of Cali but you can't take Cali out of the boy."