How to Establish NJ State Residency
As a graduate student, I believe it is important to show an appreciation for the source of funding. Fellowship or TA or whatever else, if someone else pays your way in grad school, it is pretty helpful, isn't it? Or if you're paying for yourself, you definitely want to minimize the cost, right? One thing that we, as grad students, can do to minimize our cost, be it something we pay, or something paid on our behalf, is to change our status with Rutgers in order to be considered NJ residents. Most domestic graduate students can establish NJ residency without too much trouble.
By doing so, we cut our tuition bill roughly in half -- a great relief, especially given the economic troubles facing the academic sectors of our university (or if you're paying your own way, I'm sure things aren't easy either!). This helps our departments (or other funding sources) "make ends meet" -- and if things aren't so bad, leftover funds from our collective tuition bills add up to quite a bit, and can be used to fund other students's tution -- giving others the opportunity we were lucky enough to have -- or might fund other initiatives like graduate student travel, software, equipment, etc.
The process can seem confusing, and the official instructions may seem too technical or arcane, so hopefully I can lay it out in a more practical way here.
0 The 0th step is the prepatory step. Fill out the last page of this form now. (You can print it all out now if you want -- you'll need the rest later.) You need to request one (1) copy of the most recent year's Gross Income Tax. Mail it to the address indicated. Include a $5 money order, which you can get at the Post Office or probably at your personal bank. Work on the rest of this while you wait for the stuff to come back in the mail.
I have been told that it is possible to complete this process without an official copy of your previous tax return. If you cannot obtain this, or do not wish to go through this process, you may attempt to skip this part of these instructions.
1 The first thing to do is to obtain a NJ driver's license. This will cost you something like $34 ($10 for some fee, $24 for the actual license). First, you need to gather up some paperwork and things like that:
- Six points of ID: First, gather up the materials you will need. To obtain just the driver's license you will need several things. It is important to follow the "Six Points" system set up on the NJ website here. If you want to skip the driving exam, be sure to use your old out-of-state license as one of your pieces of ID. And you can bring more than "six points" -- if you're not sure.
- Address Verification: The "6 points" is NOT enough. It is important that you bring these "6 points" of ID and "Address Verification." What is that? Bring a piece of mail you have received at your current address - it must be addressed to you, stamped, post marked, and preferably not junk mail (even junk mail with your name on it). A good example is a water or electric bill.
- Vehicle documents (optional): If you intend on also registering and titling your vehicle during this trip to the DMV, be sure to also bring your old title. You'll need to know the basic information about your car, including the old license plate number, current odometer (mileage) reading, and VIN. (The VIN - that's Vehicle Identification Number - should be on the title.) Note: The title and registration of your vehicle will cost an additional amount (depends on the vehicle) besdies the $34.
2 Once you have all this together, you should go to the DMV (called MVC in New Jersey for no apparent reason, although nobody seems to care either way). The one nearest to Busch & Livingston campuses is on Kilmer Road (I don't know if there is one closer to College Ave or Cook/Douglass). It is easy to get to, following these directions (adjust the beginning point or anything else at your convenience). Once you get there, here's how it goes:
- Go into the front door, then the doors on your right -- there should be a table or reception desk in front of you. Wait in line (if there is one) and tell the reception person what you need. (Do the license first if you are doing multiple things.) They will verify your address and give you things to fill out. Fill them out, go back to them, and they will have you wait in a line.
- Go through the line, then you get to the person. Do whatever the person tells you, pose for a photo, and wait.
- When you're done waiting, you should have a bonafide NJ driver's license.
- Optional: If you need to retitle and register your car, go back to the reception person, tell them what you need, and they will do the same -- give you paperwork and send you to a different line.
- (Still optional): Then go through the line, get a new title and registration.
- (Still optional): Finally, if you have your title and registration, you still need your car inspected. You can do that right there -- look across the parking lot, and you will see the inspection facility. Just drive through the line, and they inspect it for you (for free -- private facilities charge up to $80 for this!). If you fail the inspection, well, then you have to get your car fixed :(
3 Okay great, all the DMV stuff is taken care of! That's most of the work. The next step is to fill out the Residency Analysis Form. This is pretty straight-forward. First, download and print it from here.
- Fill out the first page, including the preliminary information and "Part 1." Some of this will not apply if you are unmarried. Leave anything inapplicable blank.
- Do NOT fill out parts IIA or IIIA. These are not for graduate students.
- Fill out part IIB. Do NOT fill out part IIIB if you are the grad student in question. If you are some third party (e.g. spouse) filling this out on behalf of the grad student, only then should you fill this out.
- Sign in part (C) as it indicates. DO NOT sign part (D) yet.
4 The last step is to assemble all the proof of residence, to hand in. Now, there are no specific items they require, but in general, they are expecting some particular things. Hopefully the Tax people have sent you your stuff -- it should be roughly five pages of data, with signatures on each page. You will want that, along with any of the following. The more the better. You can bring originals or copies. Be sure that you bring the part of the document with your name/address.
- The tax return stuff you got in the mail (see step 0)
- Your new NJ driver's license
- At least a page or two of your current lease showing the date, your address, and your name and/or signature
- Any recent utilities bills (cable, electric, gas, water, whatever you have)
- Bank or credit card statements
- The registration of the car, if you did this in step 2
- Any other documents you can think of (I submitted my auto insurance card, for example)
5 The last step is to go to the graduate registrar, located in the ASB (here), and hand in your materials. If you submit originals or copies, either way, be sure you have a copy of what you submitted too! (If you are submitting originals of things they will copy them for you.) Before you hand it all in, someone at the registrar's office will have to notarize section 4 D (don't forget this step!).
They may ask for your motor vehicle registration - they seem to really want this piece of ID. However, it is not required. If you do not own a car, or if you haven't registered it properly at this time, or if for whatever reason you choose not to use it, just say so. They ought to (and are required to) accept other valid proof of residency instead.
After that, you'll be all set... just wait, and you'll get a letter in the mail, hopefully with good news. Make a photocopy of this letter and give it to the graduate director in your department/program for their records.
NOTE: I am not an expert on how any of this applies to international students. If for this, or any other reason, you find it necessary, please speak with the registrar or the head of your graduate program for more information -- your department will definitely be willing to help, since it helps them make ends meet. For more on this, you can visit the NB Registrar's site. I am not an authority, I am simply trying to help by laying out the process in a more practical fashion!