How Long Do You Have to Live in California Before You Can Claim Residency?

You must become a state resident to take advantage of state school tuition discounts. Every state has its own policies for determining who is a state resident. In California, your residency depends on how long you live in California, what ties you have to the state and local government and whether you are financially self-sufficient.


Physical Presence Requirement

You must be physically present in California for 366 days to become a state resident, except for brief absences such as vacations. You do not have to remain continuously in California, but you must establish a principal residence in the state and live in the state during the majority of the 366 days to qualify. If you leave for an extended period of time after establishing residency, you must prove that you still have a principal residence in the state and intend to continue to live there.


Residential Ties

You must establish ties to the state of California; it is not enough to have a physical residence in the state. For example, you must work or go to school in California, get a California driver's license or state ID card, register to vote and/or register your car. Legal ties to the state of California demonstrate that you intend to make California your home, so you should make as many connections to California as you possibly can.


If you are not making enough money to be financially independent, you are considered a resident of whatever state your parents live in. Thus, you must work full time or have another full-time source of income to establish residency in California unless your parents are already California residents. Even if you establish ties to the community and live in California for a year, you cannot establish residency without being financially independent.



Becoming a California resident can help you save money on your education. California residents can attend classes at state schools for lower tuition and may be eligible for scholarships open only to state residents. In addition, you must be a California resident to take advantage of public assistance in California or to engage in certain procedures such as filing to change your name. In addition, if you are not a California resident you may have to file California tax returns as a nonresident or file taxes in another state.