To Register or Not to Register


I recently made a permanent move to Alabama from Arizona. A permanent move means new license both nursing and automobile. New drivers license and address change on everything. I ran into some difficulty in trying to accomplish this task and began to wonder about these tasks as a traveler. I never experienced difficulty while traveling but there were some who have had a problems. There are several residency issues for traveling nurses but I am only going to speak on get drivers license and register your auto in this post.

Drivers License for Travelers

As you travel from state to state you will find that their regulations and state laws differ. Generally if you drive safely and avoid being stopped by the police it will probably not ever be a problem. However unless you are driving a rental car, your state  of residence should be the same on your car registration and your drivers license.

Most states give you 30 days to get a new license if you are making a permanent move. I would recommend that before you travel to different states you might ask your recruiter if they are aware of the regulations for that state. If the recruiter is not able to answer then I would check with the DMV for that state. Generally the information is on their state web site and a google search will help to find the answer.

Register Automobile while Traveling

I have changed permanent residency several times in my life, but this time was the most difficult. As a traveler you shouldn’t  have these issues since it is a temporary move but it was a question someone asked me so I will try to answer.

For most travelers, it’s not something we would think about because we think of each move as temporary, we are only going to be there for 13 weeks at most. Each state has their specific mandates and that would need to be researched and followed. You should contact the state where you will be traveling and find out from their Division of Motor Vehicles what they require.

Register in California

I have heard that in California travelers have gotten a letter in the mail saying that they have to register their in that state or they would be fined as well as having to pay the registration. Apparently people are encouraged to report their neighbors if they notice out of state plates on vehicles parked for more than 20 days.

They do not make it easy to fight the charge since most take months to get to court and then you would have to appear in person. I know in California in particular the cost of registration is high.

That said many travel nurses in California that I know of do not register their vehicles when on assignment. I am not advising you to do that since I am not an authority on the subject. Do not do anything that might be illegal the consequences are stiff.

Generally this rarely becomes an issue since the only time it might be questioned is with a traffic stop. As long as you don’t get pulled over while on assignment, you might never need to explain yourself. I know that many times you can explain yourself, be polite and courteous and let them know you are a nurse on assignment. It is possible you will not be cited for any registration offense.

Check with DMV

You can also check out the DMV site for the state where you will be working. Some only require you to register if you are becoming a resident. This is where I had difficulty with my recent permanent move to Alabama. I am temporarily staying with my sister and have not established accounts for utilities and no rental agreement and therefore they would not let me register my car. However I did register to vote here and they counted that for registration and permanent residence.

Some states may have an out-of-state vehicle fee which is often much less than they charge for state residents. This may be the safest way to take care of the issue. Again I think that to go online and do your due diligence is the best way to avoid any problems.

One last point, make sure your know the laws for cell phone and texting while driving. You really should not be doing any texting and cell phone should always be hands-free. That said I can tell you California is very strict with hands free laws. I know since I have been stopped twice. Arizona has no cell phone laws. You have to watch out for those not paying attention because they are on the phone or texting.

I hope this has been helpful but always when in doubt check it out and have safe travels.

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Cheryl Roby, RN

Cheryl J. Roby is a Registered Nurse and retired US Army Reserve Nurse Major. She has more than 30 years of nursing experience and 26 years of military experience in the Army Nurse Corp. During her nursing career, she has traveled as part of her military experience visiting many of the 50 states and to South Korea. She was trained as an Army Medic during the Vietnam era and later as an OR tec. She went on to become a Licensed Practical Nurse and then completed her nursing training as a Registered Nurse. She was then commissioned as an officer in the Army Reserves. She appreciated the challenge of working in various specialties and expanding her clinical and professional skill sets. Her time in the Army Reserves and California National Guard gave her the opportunity to travel to most of the 50 states and work in other medical facilities. During her career, she had the opportunity to work in several specialties to include, OR, Occupational Health, Hospice, Sexual Assault Team, Forensic/ Correctional Nurse, Nurse Case Manager for developmental disabilities, Parish Nursing as well as a Nurse Entrepreneur.

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