How to Change Your Residency to Tennessee

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Just because an individual lives in the state of Tennessee doesn't mean that they are a legal resident there. The term "residency" is a legal one, like "domicile." It refers to the state that a person considers their permanent home. If they leave it, they leave with the intention of returning.

This state of mind isn't always easy to prove to the government, but it is necessary to "establish residency" in Tennessee in order to attend college paying in-state tuition (without paying extra, nonresident fees); get a Tennessee driver's license or vote in the state.

If you have questions about how to change your legal residency to Tennessee, it's good to get an overview of the law and procedures.

Residency Status in Tennessee

A person's residence is the place where they usually live or, if they currently reside elsewhere, the place to which they have a definite intention to return. A person can only have one legal residence. An individual is a Tennessee resident if they either live in Tennessee or have lived in Tennessee in the past, are currently absent, but definitely intend to return.

A person who moves to Tennessee will not necessarily become a resident and lose their prior residency. A change of residence cannot be based solely on relocation; it also depends on the person's state of mind.

If they intend to remain in their Tennessee location permanently, they acquire legal residency. To prove residency, they must take actions that are consistent with that intention.

How Long in Tennessee for Residency?

How long does it take to establish residency in Tennessee? There is no set period; no particular duration of residency is required to achieve legal residence in Tennessee.

Just like a move to Tennessee does not, in and of itself, establish residency, living there for a year or two, or even 10, won't do the trick, either. In fact, a person doesn't even have to live in the state to establish residency.

Intent as a Residency Requirement

In this way, Tennessee's residency law is unusual, since most states mandate a minimum time living in the state as a prerequisite to residency. Instead, Tennessee looks to the intent of the individual.

If they move to Tennessee intending to live there for the foreseeable future, and then take necessary legal steps to put down roots in the state, they can become residents in short order. No minimum number of months or years is legally required.

How to Establish Residency in Tennessee

Residency is a legal term used to identify the place where a person resides, considers home or is based. Residency establishes the right to vote, where a person is liable to pay state taxes, and be subject to the state's laws that apply to its citizens.

In order to declare residency in a particular state, a person must first meet certain eligibility requirements mandated by that state and prove that they did so.

To establish residency in Tennessee, an individual must show their intention to live permanently in the state or, if living elsewhere, an intention to return to Tennessee. They can establish this with proof that they have taken appropriate steps to prepare for a life in Tennessee, including:

  • Renting, leasing or buying a residence in Tennessee.
  • Signing up with utility companies in Tennessee to provide electricity, gas or garbage services.
  • Obtaining telephone service or internet service in Tennessee.
  • Registering to vote in Tennessee.
  • Signing their children up for Tennessee schools.
  • Getting a job in Tennessee.
  • Licensing or registering the person’s vehicle or personal property in Tennessee.
  • Paying habitation taxes.
  • Purpose of the person's presence in the state.

The place where a married person’s spouse and family live is presumed to be that person’s residence, unless they take up a continuous abode with the intention of remaining in a place other than where their spouse and family reside.

Required Documents for Proof of Tennessee Residency

Government agencies often require one or more documents to establish proof that an individual is a resident of Tennessee. These include documents that establish that the person took active steps to set up a principal residence there. Examples include:

  • Current rental contract.
  • Mortgage agreement or property deed.
  • Verification letter from a current employer on company letterhead sent to a Tennessee address.
  • Driver's license.
  • Electric bills or gas bills for a local address.

Getting a Tennessee Driver's License

It may seem a little like a bureaucratic trap: a new resident of Tennessee can prove their residency in order to vote, or for almost any other purpose, simply by showing a Tennessee driver's license. But they cannot get a driver's license in the state without proving residency first. So how to get that license?

Anyone moving from another state to Tennessee must replace their out-of-state license with a Tennessee license. They also have to register their vehicles in Tennessee. In order to get a license, it is necessary to pass a written test, but even before that, they must prove state residency. They can do this by bringing original documents bearing their name and new Tennessee address.

These proof of residency documents must be selected from a list published by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security. In fact, there are two lists, termed List A and List B. An individual must either bring two items from List A, or one from List A and one from List B.

Driver's License Residency Documents




List A

Documents must show residence address used on application and applicant's name or the name of their spouse.

  • Current utility bill including landline telephone, electric, water, gas or cable.
  • Current bank statement
  • Current rental/Mortgage contract or receipt including deed of sale for property.
  • Current employer verification of residence address or letter from employer on company letterhead with original signature.
  • Current paycheck/check stub, work ID or badge.
  • Current automobile, life or health insurance policy.
  • Current driver's license/ID issued by the Tennessee Department of Safety to a parent, legal guardian or spouse of applicant.
  • Current Tennessee motor vehicle registration or title.
  • Current Tennessee voter registration.
  • Current Internal Revenue Service tax reporting W-2 form within last 12 months.
  • Receipt for personal property or real estate taxes paid within past last year.

List B

Specific documents on this list issued by the Internal Revenue Service or the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service.

  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number issued to the applicant.
  • Form I-94 issued to the applicant.
  • Form 551 issued to the applicant.

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