I recently read a Buzzfeed humor article, 31 Important Things You Learn When You Move Across The World. The article had two lines that really struck a chord with me: “You learn that forms that ask for a “permanent address” are evil, and didn’t account for people like you” and “ ‘Please provide a permanent address.’ *Cue Panic Attack*”
There is a lot truth in those lines, with Tracy and my retirement lifestyle of selling our home, being expats living abroad, short-term renting, and changing our city of residence every year or two has made us – by some definitions – without a permanent address.
In my previous career in police work, “No Permanent Address” or “No Fixed Address” was a euphemism for a person being homeless. (Tracy and I commented about being “homeless” after selling our house and the lease running out on our apartment rental just prior to our departure to Europe. It was an unsettled feeling for us, but certainly not the same as the reality faced by real homeless people.)
Wikipedia defines ” ‘No Fixed Abode’ or ‘Without Fixed Abode’ (as) a legal term generally applied to those who do not have a fixed geographical location as their residence. This is applicable to several groups:
- People who have a home, but which is not always in the same place:
- Those whose occupation requires them to live permanently on boats, ships, or movable oil platforms, or to travel constantly (as showmen, for example).
- Nomadic peoples (e.g. Indigenous Norwegian Travellers and Romanichal) and traveller groups (e.g. Irish Travellers, Scottish Gypsy and Traveller groups, New Age Travellers, Norwegian and Swedish Travellers); as well as individuals who adopt a mobile lifestyle, living in narrowboats, recreational vehicles, or the like.
While we do have friends who are full-time RV travelers in the US, almost all of them currently own a piece of real estate or physical home somewhere (even if it is currently rented to a tenant.) Tracy are I are hardly vagabonds who are randomly camping in Roma settlements around France, but our process of moving frequently creates a necessity of updating our visa status, address, and other issues with French government agencies. Our French visas actually classifies us as long-term “visiteurs” rather than as residents.
No longer owning a home in America and not physically living there has created a bit of a “grey area” with residency. What is our “permanent address?”
The concept of “no permanent address” is a legitimate concern in today’s world. In these modern times, if you want to vote, have a driver’s license, open a bank account, register a vehicle, have a credit card, or obtain health insurance, it isn’t just enough to have a U.S. passport, you need a permanent address. In addition to American expatriates living abroad, this is a very common problem in the full-time RV community in the US. A post office box in many states is insufficient for a legal domicile. The demand for a “permanent address” has spawned companies (especially in Texas and South Dakota, Escapees RV Club being one example) who cater to full-time travelers by legally providing a permanent address.
Tracy and I, like many expats, have elected to use a family member’s address as our permanent address in our former hometown of Reno, Nevada. (When I was college-aged I used my parent’s address as my permanent address as I “hopscotched” between living arrangements and roommates.) Because of Tracy and my decades-long connection to Reno and Sparks as residents, students, workers, taxpayers, homeowners, raising children and still having local family, and it being our last home, Reno serves as our official, permanent US residence.
This need for a permanent address isn’t just an issue for RVers and expats. George H. W. Bush had a long career of public service as a congressman, ambassador to the UN, envoy to China, director of the CIA, vice president, and finally president of the US. That career frequently required that he lived in Washington D.C., New York, Virginia, Maryland, or overseas. From 1985 until his retirement in 1993 he used the Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa in Houston, Texas as his legal domicile and official voting address (although he moved out of Houston in 1981, stayed at the Houstonian intermittently, paid rent only for days his rooms were actually occupied, and owned an actual residence in Kennebunkport, Maine.) Former President Bush had signed an affidavit stating that he would build his retirement home in Houston and the “intent” stated in that document satisfied Texas that he was a bona fide resident of Texas (although Texas’ action did annoy some residents of Maine who, because of his home in Maine, felt former President Bush should have been considered a Maine resident and pay the Maine state income tax.) After leaving public office former President Bush did make good on his promise and retired to Houston.
By no means do Tracy and I attempt to be “Perpetual Travelers” whose primary motive is to avoid becoming legal residents of any country with the ultimate goal of tax avoidance and evading any legal responsibilities of residency. We contribute our fair share and fulfill our responsibilities to our countries of citizenship and occupancy.
While Tracy and I like to entertain a romantic fantasy of ourselves living a free-spirited, Bohemian, and unconventional expat life (cue images of Hemingways’s “Lost Generation” traveling from Paris to Pamplona in the 1920s or Montmartre’s diverse arts community from the movie, “Moulin Rouge!”), we are actually fairly orthodox, living within the many rules of “the system,” and we are definitely “on the grid” with a permanent address . . . but with an untraditional – and ever-changing – physical address.