It's easier to find your residence than it is to find your residence status. Your residence is a building; residence status may or may not be where that building is located.
When it comes to New Jersey residence status, the state offers several alternative definitions of what it takes to be a resident of New Jersey or a part-time resident of New Jersey. If a person does not fit into either of these categories, they are considered a nonresident.
What Is Resident Status?
Resident status is an indication of whether someone meets the criteria set for a particular type of residency. There are different rules for United States residency, which generally refers to a person's immigration status. A person can be a permanent resident without living full time in the country. Residency in a particular state generally refers to a tax status.
Despite these broad discrepancies, a person is often asked to prove residency for a particular reason, such as applying for a voter registration card or to purchase insurance. To prove residency, it is necessary to determine the standard that a particular state uses.
New Jersey Residency Status
According to the instructions provided on a New Jersey tax return, a person is considered a resident of New Jersey if they are one of the following:
- Domiciled in New Jersey for the tax year and spend at least 30 days a year in the state.
- Maintain a permanent home in New Jersey and spend more than 183 days per year in the state.
A nonresident of New Jersey is anyone who does not meet one of these requirements. That is, if someone is not domiciled in New Jersey and did not spend more than 183 days in the state that year even they have a permanent home there, they are a nonresident.
But there is middle ground. An individual who moves into or out of the state of New Jersey during a tax year may be considered a part-year resident. If so, they must file a resident return and allocate the income, exemptions and deductions between New Jersey and their other state.
New Jersey Residence for Military
Anyone trying to determine residency for military personnel needs to understand a slightly different set of rules. Military personnel's residency depends on their domicile, the place they considered their permanent home at the time they signed up for their military service. It is also the place they intend to return to when they are discharged.
People may have two or more houses, but they only have one domicile. It does not change until they move to a new state with the intent to establish a permanent home there and to leave the old domicile behind.
If a member of the military is stationed in New Jersey, but their domicile is elsewhere, they are nonresidents of New Jersey. This is equally true for state income tax purposes as for other purposes. It depends entirely on the person's home of record when they signed up for service.
Military Stationed Outside New Jersey
On the other hand, if the military personnel's domicile was New Jersey when they entered military service, it remains New Jersey no matter where the individual is assigned to duty. This is true whether they are stationed in a state or in a country outside of the U.S. or if they live aboard a ship or in a barracks.
When Residency Is Important
Obviously, people can travel to and through the state of New Jersey without being either full-time or part-time residents. In fact, one can own a home in New Jersey and spend time there without being a resident, if one does not meet the other requirements.
But in order to access some state benefits, individuals must establish residency in the state. For example, in order to have a New Jersey driver's license or photo identification card, it is necessary to prove residency status. It is also necessary to prove legal presence in the country.
Effect of Residency for Students
Likewise, students who are New Jersey residents are able to attend college in New Jersey while paying a significantly lower tuition than nonresident students. In order to qualify for in-state tuition, they will need to prove that they are residents. This is particularly important if they did not attend elementary school and high school in the state.
In addition, some types of financial aid for college students are available only for New Jersey residents. That is, the aid is awarded based on state eligibility requirements, including a determination of residency. This determination is usually made by the college admissions office once a student is admitted to attend.
Establishing Residency for MVC/College
Having a New Jersey driver's license is sufficient proof of residency for some things. But obviously, someone trying to prove residency to get a new New Jersey license does not have one yet. They can use any of the following documents as proof of address for a New Jersey driver's license and/or a New Jersey identification card:
Current property tax bill or statement, or receipt, showing a New Jersey address.
Any letter or correspondence received from the IRS within the past year at a New Jersey address.
- Any letter or correspondence received from a state tax office
within the past year at a New Jersey address. Original unexpired lease or rental agreement at a New Jersey address with name of applicant as lessee or renter. Checking or savings account statement from a bank or credit union issued within the last 60 days showing a New Jersey address. Utility or credit card bill issued in the past 90 days showing a New Jersey address.
A deed or a title to real property in New Jersey. First-class mail from any government agency in the past six months to the individual at a New Jersey address. High school or college report card or transcript from a New Jersey school issued within the past two years.
Obtaining a REAL ID Card
To obtain a "REAL ID" in New Jersey, an individual needs two documents proving residence that include:
- Valid New Jersey license or non-driver ID.
- Utility bill issued within the last 90 days.
- Credit card bill issued within the last 90 days.
- Any correspondence received from the IRS within the last year at a New Jersey address.
For the ability to attend a college in New Jersey, paying in-state tuition, it's simply a question of proving that the student has legally resided in the state for 12 months prior to enrollment.
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.