van life people in their residence, driving down desert highway

The Van Life & Digital Nomad Guide to South Dakota Residency and Mailing

Establishing residency, mailing and licensing in South Dakota is not as difficult as it may seem. We’re here to outline how you can easily establish residency in South Dakota whether you’re a digital nomad, living the van life or both.

First off, you don’t have to live in the state of South Dakota to establish residency. You must have a legal address in the state and we are covering how to get that. For the purposes of a drivers license you must stay in the state for one day every five years.

Why South Dakota? 

South Dakota has no state income tax, meaning your hard earned money as a digital nomad, van lifer or traveler will not be paid into the state. This includes pensions, dividends, interest and other earned income.

You will also not be taxed on inheritance or personal property. If you’re interested in trading in a vehicle for something newer, you will only pay a 4% tax on the difference paid.

South Dakota has no annual vehicle inspections with affordable vehicle registration fees. The state also brings to the table a very low 4.5% sales tax making a compelling case for conducting larger purchases there.

Establishing Mailing

Picture of red mail box in front of green foliage which reads

Sign Up With a Mail Forwarder

One of the requirements for establishing residency is that you have a valid mailing address.

There are a number of companies that offer mail forwarding services to digital nomads and those in the van life alike, such as Your Best Address, America’s Mailbox and Dakota Post. These companies will set you up with a real street address so you meet the requirements needed to establish residency.

Generally once you’ve signed up with the mailing service, these companies will reach out to you with your new address. The new address will also help you in obtaining your vehicle registration and drivers license if needed. 

Complete Postal Service Form 1583

After obtaining the new mail address you will be able to fill out a Postal Service Form 1583 whether you’re doing the van life or you’re a digital nomad. This form acts as an application for delivery of mail through an agent. This will give your servicer the ability to forward mail and receive it on your behalf. All reputable mail forwarders in this space will only open mail if you explicitly request it.

Because of the way the laws are set up you must mail this form to your mail forwarder. Be sure to have the form notarized before sending it off.

Complete Change of Address Form

This is a relatively simple form compared to the previous. You can complete the form by visiting the USPS Change of Address form online and follow along with the prompts. This form is used to affirm with the United States Postal Service that your official address has changed.

Establishing Residency & License

Long public road in desert which requires license to drive a van on. Road is going into South Dakota mountains.

Stay in South Dakota For One Night

In order to apply for an ID card or drivers license you will need to be present in the state. Arrange to stay one night at a motel/hotel, Airbnb or campground (no state campgrounds). After staying for the night, gather a receipt which includes your full name. 

Each person should obtain a receipt with their respective name on it particularly in the case where a spouse does not share the same last name. Be sure the receipt contains your new mail address somewhere on it. This is the address that was provided to you by your mail forwarder as outlined in the mail section above.

Gather Proof of Identity for Date of Birth and Lawful Status

These documents are needed to prove you are who you say you are. I will outline what is needed now but you may want to consult South Dakota’s DPS website for always up-to-date requirements.

You will need to prove your legal status in the United States by providing documentation. Any one of these documents will do. You only need to provide one.

– U.S. Birth Certificate issued by the county or state (No hospital certificates)

– Foreign passport accompanied by an unexpired Visa with I-94

– Unexpired U.S. Passport

– Unexpired employment authorization documentation

– Certificate of Citizenship

– Certificate of Naturalization

– Valid permanent resident card

Gather Proof of Social Security

One document must be provided to prove your social security number. Valid documents are as follows.

– Social Security Card

– Pay stub (including social security number & name)

– W-2 Form

– Non SSA 1099 Form

– SSA 1099 Form

So to recap, you will need a receipt proving ownership of mail forwarding address provided by your servicer, a receipt proving you stayed for one night, with your new address on it, one form for proof of SSN and one form for proof of identity.

Vehicle & Title Transfer

People in van life shown in van on side of road, waiting for tow transfer

Of course if you’re living on wheels you will want to move your vehicle registration, title and all of that over to the state of South Dakota after establishing residency. Keep in mind fees will vary by year and depend largely on the age and overall weight of your vehicle. Most reputable mail forwarders will offer additional services in assisting you for this part of your van life journey.

You must complete an application for motor vehicle and registration, provide an original title or manufacturer’s statement of origin. Both of these documents must be transferred to you (the applicant) in a valid way. You will also want to provide a bill of sale or purchase order which will help the state of South Dakota determine your excise tax, which is set at 4%.

Keep in mind if you’ve already paid 4% or more in tax on the vehicle to another state this tax will be waived. You must also provide the empty weight of your vehicle, the year and a current odometer reading. You may prove weight by providing a copy or picture of the sticker in the vehicle door, certificate of origin or copy of brochure with empty weight specifications.

A current list of vehicle title and registration fees are listed at the South Dakota Department of Revenue.

Closing Thoughts

man sitting on van looking at stars, symbolizes closing of article

By establishing residency in South Dakota as a digital nomad or person living the van life (or maybe both) you can enjoy low tax rates, lax vehicle inspections and an investor friendly approach in terms of laws.

Though there are other states that allow residency, South Dakota offers a pretty strong case for why they are ideal for the purposes of establishing residency in the state.

Reputable companies that provide mail forwarding and residency services in the state of South Dakota for Digital Nomads and those in the Van Life alike include Your Best Address, America’s Mailbox and Dakota Post. I hope this has helped inform you on how establishing residency works while living as a nomad. 

This is just one step to complete so you can get into the van life or become a digital nomad with as little friction as possible. I’d advise taking care of it before getting out there. If you are already out there get residency out of the way so you can enjoy your adventure without distractions. Happy traveling!


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