Saturday, September 30, 2023


Full-time RVing — What about your driver’s license?


By Russ and Tiña De Maris

Planning on embarking on a lifestyle of full-time RVing? There are lots of considerations and details to be worked out, not the least of these is that little card in your wallet — a driver’s license. How does a full-time RVer who, by nature, doesn’t have a “fixed” address get a driver’s license that shows a “fixed” address?

While you may not spend much time there, you’ll still need to have chosen a state of residency. That decision in itself is a lengthy discussion, so for the moment we’ll assume you’ve already picked your state. Now the question is, what does your state’s DMV require for proof of address when you apply for your license?

With few exceptions, nearly every state in the Union requires PROOF of that residence. Could be a rent receipt, a property tax statement, or a utility bill. We know of one RVing couple who rented a closet from a friend and had a telephone line installed at the home, even though they spent very little time physically present at the address. It did constitute a legal address, and the phone bill was proof enough for the DMV to issue a license.

Maybe that won’t work out for you. Most other states will accept a rent receipt from an RV park, showing the physical address of the park and a space number. BUT — and it’s a big BUT — almost all states require proof of a minimum of 30 days’ residency before a license can be issued. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to hang around the RV park for a month, but you will have to go in, plunk your money down, and pay for a month’s stay. With that precious proof in hand, head for the DMV.

But of course, you won’t be living at the RV park for the rest of your full-time experience, so using that address for mail purposes isn’t going to cut it. Many full-timers have elected to use a mail-forwarding service. Legal information, Medicare and IRS documents, etc., end up at this service. So why not just use your mail-forwarding address as your “legal residence” address for a driver license? Enter the highly controversial Real ID Act. A federal law directs that states all follow certain standards before issuing a driver license or state ID. Among those standards: Checking to make sure the address you give isn’t a mail forwarding service but, indeed, is residential.

Gold star on license shows compliance with Real ID Act. Arizona DMV photo.

No, not all the states have signed on to Uncle Sam’s Real ID Act. However, this will create some issues next year. In 2018, if you show up at the airport and plan to use your driver license as an ID to get through security, it won’t work — if your state isn’t in compliance with the Real ID Act. You’ll know if your license is compliant — there’ll be a gold star on the face of the license. Yes, there are alternative forms of acceptable ID that will get you through TSA. But come 2020, you’ll need a license from a compliant state or you won’t be going anywhere. Incidentally, the Real ID Act can make it tough to get into other places without a compliant license — nuclear power plants, military bases, even federal buildings.

It can be an inconvenient hoop to jump through, but it’s all part of the things to go through to get your full-timer’s wings.


Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.


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Ed Clay
3 years ago

Maine doesn’t have a compliant driver’s license

RV Staff
3 years ago

From Roger Marble: Without a “compliant” license, you can’t fly or enter a Federal office building. Also, a DL is needed in many states if you want to register and vote.

Trey Rogers
5 years ago

We use Americas Mailboxes in Rapid City South Dakota. They are very proactive and we have never had any problems. I highly recommend them.

Susan Callihan
6 years ago

Escapees RV Club in Livingston, Texas, won a legislative battle to gain their own postal code for their mail forwarding service. They have an awesome mail processing facility at their Rainbow Park in Livingston. The “population” of the mail service exceeds the population of the town of Livingston! Escapees explains in detail how to obtain domicile in Texas, So. Dakota, or Florida (the preferred states), and they have the chops to back it up.

6 years ago

South Dakota actually requires a receipt showing your SD mail forwarding service address and you only need 24 hours of “residency” not 30 days. We got our licenses 3 years ago and they have a gold star on them, compliant with the REAL ID Act. Our mail service is a physical address fulfilling all normal requirements. The employees at our service are very knowledgeable regarding requirements and very helpful with facts and information, plus we have never had a problem with their service.

Sue Heinecke
4 years ago
Reply to  Sharal

How do we contact them for information?

George Cederholm
6 years ago

While the REAL ID act isn’t new (we got our first compliant drivers licenses from South Dakota about 7 years ago), it’s good that the whole 2018 TSA thing gets some press now to minimize “gotcha” moments. But, I’m confused about the statement, “But come 2020, you’ll need a license from a compliant state or you won’t be going anywhere”. What new requirements come into effect in 2020? Certainly, passports will still be valid for TSA and they can’t keep you from flying if you don’t have a driver’s license, right?

Isn’t a large part of this issue that some states have refused to comply with the Feds in the first place? I know we didn’t have a choice in SD between compliant and non-compliant licenses. And in Arizona, where we winter, there was a lot of buzz last year about the state finally giving in to create an option for people to get one but at a pretty steep surcharge.

Alaska Traveler
6 years ago

Article wasn’t clear on “forms of identification”. After 2020 only a driver’s license will work on an airline? So are they saying a passport won’t work?

Howard cole
6 years ago

Prior message garbled by spell check.
Issue questioned is current liscence issued prior to effective date of coming new gold star requirement for residence requirement?

Howard cole
6 years ago

How does this coming Gold Star drivers listened requirement on current drivers listened qork with liscense that expire after the effective date of the new requirement???

Judy Glazier
6 years ago

Bear in mind also that the company that insures your rig, even knowing that you are a full-timer, must have a physical address and can only communicate with you, i.e. mail documents, bills, etc., at that address.

4 years ago
Reply to  Judy Glazier

My insurance does it all online. No problems.

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