Moving to Colorado or recently settled in the state? You have a lot on your plate, but make sure you give some thought to officially establishing residency in Colorado to make your life easier later.
What qualifies you as a Colorado resident? As a general rule, you are considered a Colorado resident when you work in Colorado, own a business in the state, or live in Colorado for 90 consecutive days. Colorado residency requirements differ for tuition, income taxes, driver’s licenses, and hunting licenses.
Here is everything you need to know about Colorado state residency requirements and how to become a Colorado resident for tax purposes, in-state tuition, and hunting and fishing licenses.
Why Establishing Residency in Colorado Matters
Most people never really need to think about state residency rules or how to prove Colorado residency after moving. Simply buying or renting a home, getting your driver’s license, and paying taxes is enough to establish you are a resident. However, there are many ways Colorado residency rules can affect you, including some you may not consider.
That’s because residency isn’t just about where you live and work. Your state of domicile is where you have your permanent home and intend to remain and return.
- Proving residency is necessary for in-state tuition. There is a high burden to prove residency and unmarried people under 22 must be proactive if their parents live out of state.
- Your former state may try to pursue income taxes after you move. If this happens, you will need to show not only that you are living in a new state but that you intend to make it your permanent home.
- If you spend extended periods of time out of Colorado or own a home in another state, two states may try to claim you are a resident.
- Residency requirements and the proof you must provide depends on what you are trying to do. For hunting and fishing licenses, for instance, it isn’t enough to simply have a Colorado driver’s license.
How to Become a Colorado Resident – Steps for Meeting Colorado Residency Requirements
Ready to call the Centennial State home? Here is a step-by-step guide on how to establish Colorado residency. Note that not all of these steps are required, and some may not apply to you.
Establish a Home in Colorado
The first and most important step? Establishing a domicile in Colorado. Renting or buying a home and moving in will begin the clock on your Colorado residency, although it’s important to follow through on the next steps. Otherwise, your residency may be challenged by your former state for income tax purposes or you may have difficulty proving residency for other purposes.
Forward Your Mail & Change Your Address
With a new address, don’t forget to forward your mail. A permanent change of address (COA) with USPS will have your first-class mail forwarded for 12 months (or just 6 months for periodicals). Take this step as soon as you have your new address and schedule the change if necessary as it can take days for your mail to begin forwarding.
Don’t forget you should still follow up with organizations and businesses to let them know your address has changed. Otherwise, once the forwarding stops, your mail may not reach you.
You can also change your address with the IRS and Social Security Administration to make sure you receive important tax and benefit documents.
- USPS Change of Address
- IRS Form 8822, Change of Address
- Social Security Administration Change of Address
Get a Colorado Driver’s License
After moving to Colorado and becoming a resident, you are required to transfer your driver’s license to Colorado within 30 days. This is also one of the most important steps to establishing residency in Colorado.
This 30-day deadline is triggered once you meet any of these Colorado residency requirements for a driver license:
- You have lived in Colorado for 90 days consecutively
- You are gainfully employed in the state
- You own or operate a business in the state
To transfer your driver’s license, you’ll start with the online driver’s license application. You generally do not need to take a written or driving test if you have your current license from another state and it is valid or expired for less than one year.
After completing the application, you will need to visit a Colorado DMV driver license office. You will need the following:
- Your current driver’s license, valid or expired less than a year
- Proof of identity and lawful presence. This includes an unexpired enhanced out-of-state driver’s license, a permanent resident card, or an unexpired U.S. passport or passport card. If you do not have these, click here to see alternatives.
- Two forms of proof of a Colorado address. Electronic proof is accepted. Examples include a USPS Change of Address form, first-class mail from a government agency or court, pre-printed pay stub, utility bill, or a lease or mortgage document.
- Proof of Social Security number. This can be a physical W-2 form, non-laminated Social Security card, or 1099 form.
Register Your Car in Colorado
You must register your car in Colorado within 90 days of becoming a resident.
If your car is titled in another state, you must submit a VIN verification form (DR 2698) filled out by a licensed Colorado car dealer, emissions testing station, or a Colorado law enforcement officer.
You will also need the following to register a car in Colorado:
- Title in the owner’s name or current out-of-state registration
- Colorado Vehicle Emissions testing proof (click here to see if this applies to you)
- Secure and Verifiable ID (includes a Colorado driver’s license, out-of-state license, or U.S. passport)
- Proof of insurance
Note that your out-of-state title will be converted to a Colorado title which will be mailed to your new address.
Register to Vote in Colorado
You are absolutely not required to vote or register to vote, but it’s an important step to prove Colorado residency and your intent to make Colorado your permanent domicile.
If you already have your Colorado driver’s license, you can register to vote online at GoVoteColorado.gov. Otherwise, you can complete a paper registration downloaded from the Secretary of State website or picked up from a post office or county clerk’s office. You can register to vote in person at a Colorado DMV driver license office, any government office that provides forms, military recruiting offices, public assistance offices, and polling centers.
Note: in Colorado, certain agencies like the DMV automatically use the information you provide to register you to vote. You can verify this after getting your driver’s license at GoVoteColorado.gov.
How to Prove Colorado Residency – Other Options for Establishing Residency
It’s always a good idea to demonstrate your intent to remain in Colorado in many ways. If your residency is ever challenged by another state or you need additional proof of residency, these steps can be helpful.
- Get a new passport with your Colorado address
- Get a dog license through your city or county
- Transfer a professional license to Colorado
- Open a new bank account in the state
- Enroll children in a public school
- Notify the Department of Revenue in your former state of your change of address. This step is often overlooked but it may help avoid challenges later, especially if you’re leaving a state known for pursuing former residents for income taxes!
Colorado Residency for Income Tax Purposes
The Colorado Department of Revenue considers you a resident of the state if you make a home in the state or intend to be a resident of Colorado. The department can consider many things to determine your intent such as property ownership, the residence of a spouse or children, school registration, car registration, and whether you have a driver’s license in the state. Colorado residency rules for taxes mean you are a resident if you:
- Live in Colorado for 90+ days consecutively
- Have gainful employment in the state
- Operate or own a business in the state
You must file Colorado income taxes as a resident if you have taxable income and you are required to file a federal income tax return.
If you have not lived in Colorado for the full year, you are considered a part-year resident. This includes people who have moved to the state with the intention of making it their home and people who moved out of the state. Part-year residents must complete the Colorado income tax return and the Part-Year Tax Calculation Schedule to determine which income is subject to Colorado income taxes.
Colorado Residency for Tuition Purposes
Are you planning to attend college in the state or send your kids to school? It’s crucial to understand Colorado residency requirements for college to qualify for lower in-state tuition.
Colorado residency for college requires that you have been domiciled in Colorado for 12 consecutive months to receive in-state tuition.
If you are an unemancipated minor under 22, the residency of your parents is used. You can establish residency on your own at age 22, through marriage, or by enrolling in a professional degree or post-baccalaureate program.
Establishing Colorado residency for in-state tuition requires more than just living in the state for a year! You must:
- Have lived in the state for at least 12 months, and
- Demonstrated your intent to make Colorado your permanent home
You will need to prove your intent through several connections to the state, not merely a Colorado address and driver’s license. Any connections you maintain with other states can count against you. This is why it’s important to take steps like registering to vote, getting a dog license, and opening a bank account in the state as soon as possible.
Note that there are many complex rules regarding in-state tuition qualification. For instance, unmarried minors under 22 may begin the 12-month waiting period by showing they are completely financially independent and self-supporting with several forms of proof. Active-duty military members and their families stationed in Colorado are exempt for residency requirements.
Learn more about Colorado in-state tuition and residency requirements here.
Colorado Hunting Residency Requirements
Colorado is one of the best states for elk hunting and fishing. If you’re an avid hunter, you’ll want to know how to become a Colorado resident for a hunting license for far lower fees.
Elk hunting licenses in Colorado are $56.88 for residents and $516 to $688 for non-residents. Planning to hunt big game like moose and bighorn sheep? As a resident, you’ll pay $314 for a license. Non-resident Colorado hunting licenses for moose are $2,300!
Colorado residency rules for hunting are different than for other purposes. You must have lived continuously in Colorado for at least 6 months before applying for or buying a license. Full-time Colorado students (enrolled at least 6 months) and active-duty military are exempt.
You can learn more about how to prove Colorado residency for a hunting or fishing license here.
With the exception of tuition, establishing residency in Colorado is fairly easy and you will probably do it without giving it much thought. However, it’s still vital to make efforts to show your intent to remain in Colorado as soon as you relocate because income tax rules for part-time and full-time residents can be complicated.
Now that you know how to become a Colorado resident, are you ready to make the move? Give us a call at Wasatch Moving Company for a free moving quote. We can’t help with taxes and tuition, but we’ll make your transition easier in every way possible!