California Residency Law

By Joseph Nicholson
Flag of the state of California
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California is the most populous state in the union. Any American citizen has the right to establish residency there, but there are a variety of contexts in which California residency is significant. In each context, the requirements for California residency are somewhat different.

Revenue and Tax Code

For state income tax purpose, according to the California Revenue and Tax Code, a California resident is anyone in the state for other than temporary purposes. Being in the state for more than nine months of a tax year creates a rebuttable presumption of residence. Residency also includes anyone domiciled in California, but out of the state for temporary purposes. A person’s domicile is the place where he has the most permanent residence and to which he always intends to return.

Temporary Purposes

A person domiciled in California remains a resident under the state tax code when away for temporary purposes. Holding elective or appointive office in the U.S. government, or being employed by someone who does, is considered a temporary purpose. However, anyone out of the state for an uninterrupted 546 consecutive days is considered to be away for other than temporary purposes and may lose residency.

Residency for University of California

The University of California offers taxpayer subsidized, lower tuition rates for in-state residents. Establishing residency for this reduced tuition is a stricter standard than gaining tax liability through state residency under the tax code. To be a resident for UC purposes, a person must establish a physical presence for at least one year and must demonstrate an intent to stay in the state by registering to vote or showing other purposes for being in the state other than education. A person under 24 who does not have a parent domiciled in the state must also be financially independent.

Divorce Residency Requirement

Residency means something else entirely in the context of divorce. To file for a divorce, at least one of the spouses must have been a resident of the state for the six months immediately before filing. Additionally, a divorce can only be filed in a county in which one of the spouses has been a resident for the three months immediately preceding the filing. It is not necessary to have been married in California, however, or for either spouse to have been a California resident at the time of marriage.

Privileges and Immunities

California residency laws have a long history of being controversial and hold a unique place in American legal history. Article IV, section 2 of the U.S. Constitution provides that each state will offer the privileges and immunities of residency within its borders to American citizens residing in other states. In 1941, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California law that prohibited bringing a non-resident indigent person into the state. A concurring judge found the so-called anti-Okie law in violation of the Privileges and Immunities Clause. In 1999, a majority of the Supreme Court overturned a state law that denied California welfare rates to anyone not in the state for more than a year as a violation of the Clause.

About the Author

Joseph Nicholson is an independent analyst whose publishing achievements include a cover feature for "Futures Magazine" and a recurring column in the monthly newsletter of a private mint. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Florida and is currently attending law school in San Francisco.