Remaining a Georgia citizen while traveling abroad . . .
August 30, 2011 11:30 AM   Subscribe

Is there a way to maintain your state citizenship while traveling within the country, and perhaps outside the country, for up to two years?

Right now, I am 21 years old and not in school. Currently I have lived in the state of Georgia for over two years, which makes me a bonafide Georgia resident. As such, I am eligible for the state's HOPE scholarship. However, several obstacles (I'm not going to go into too much detail here) are currently preventing me from going to college just yet -- but these obstacles should be worked out within two years. So, in two years' time, I would live to still have my Georgia citizenship so that I could apply for the HOPE scholarship once I enroll in a university.

During the next two years, I would like to do some traveling. I want to spend some time in my home state with my family, and I would also like to commit myself to farm work abroad.

Is there a way to maintain my Georgia citizenship while doing this traveling? What if I were to pick up a part-time job along the way? I'm particularly thinking about doing this while spending some time with the family in order to put more money into my savings. Would working in another state null my Georgian citizenship? What if I maintained a living/mailing address here in the state?

Any help, advice, suggestions, or experience would be greatly appreciated.
posted by fignewton to Law & Government (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
According to this (PDF), you cannot leave the state for more than 12 consecutive months and still retain your residency status. According to the same document, it looks like you need to live in the state for 12 consecutive months prior to applying for state programs, in order to regain your Georgia residency status.
posted by asnider at 11:36 AM on August 30, 2011

Are you claimed as a dependent on your parents' taxes? Will you still be in 2 years? The residency requirements here state:

A Dependent Student meets the Georgia Residency requirements, for purposes of the State Programs, if his or her Parent has established and maintained Domicile in the State of Georgia for at least 12 consecutive months immediately prior to the first day of classes of the school term (semester or quarter) for which the student is seeking assistance from one or more State Programs, and:
1. Such student graduated from an Eligible High School located in the State of Georgia; or
2. Such Parent claimed the student as a dependent on the Parent’s most recent federal income tax return.

Definiton of dependent:
“Dependent Student” means an individual under the age of 24 who receives financial support from a Parent whose most recent federal or state income tax return lists the individual as a dependent.

So if you'll be a dependent, then no problem, as long as your parents stay in Georgia and claim you as a dependent.

If you're an independent, you're basically out of luck:

An Independent Student meets the Georgia Residency requirements, for purposes of the State Programs, if he or she has established and maintained Domicile in the State of Georgia for at least 12 consecutive months immediately prior to the first day of classes of the school term (semester or quarter) for which the student is seeking assistance from one or more State Programs.
posted by brainmouse at 11:38 AM on August 30, 2011

I interpreted that PDF differently from asnider. It looks to me like you can travel, but you have to come back within 12 months.
506. Retaining Georgia Residency.

506.2. Independent Students.
If an Independent Student, who was correctly determined to meet Georgia Residency requirements, for purposes of State Programs, temporarily relocates outside the State of Georgia, but within 12 months returns to the State of Georgia and Enrolls in an Eligible Postsecondary Institution, such student shall retain his or her status as a Georgia Resident, for purposes of State Programs.
posted by desjardins at 11:38 AM on August 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Let me do some clarifying. My parents do not claim me on their taxes. I file as an independent, single adult. My parents do not even live in Georgia; they live elsewhere. I work full-time. I provide for myself. I am already a Georgia resident. I have lived here for over two years. I have filed two years' worth of GA taxes, and I have a GA driver's license.

Also, I have not yet gone to college. I am not in school yet.
posted by fignewton at 11:44 AM on August 30, 2011

You will need to check with the specific colleges and with the HOPE scholarship program. State residency is an ill-defined area of law in many respects, and "residency" requirements for in-state tuition at colleges is virtually always far more stringent than residency requirements for anything else.

Generally if you have a part-time job out of state, you pay taxes in your home state and file a tax form with your work state to have taxes withheld from your paycheck returned to you because you're paying in another state. It's an annoying process, but the state you work in doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the state your residency is in.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:50 AM on August 30, 2011

I went through this and found it a bitch to prove I was a Georgia resident. The crux of the proof is your financial support. If your goal is to remain HOPE-eligible and get in-state tuition, I would really really really not advise moving back home and working out-of-state while living rent-free with your parents.

If you do, you should move back to Georgia ONE FULL YEAR before you want to ENROLL IN SCHOOL as an in-state student and DO NOT take any money from your parents.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:14 PM on August 30, 2011

Are you sure you're eligible for the HOPE scholarship? The eligibility requirements are more complicated than simply having GA residency (or even having GA residency and a 3.0 GPA). Take a look here.
posted by litnerd at 12:15 PM on August 30, 2011

State Residency and Residency for Tuition Purposes are two different things. From your question I see you are inquiring more about Residency for Tuition Purposes. Your question is best answered by talking to an individual at the college you hope to attend. That individual is called a "Residency Officer". It is there job to be up to date on the current state laws.

Often to achieve Residency for Tuition Purposes you must show domicile and intent.
Intent - you are paying state taxes, have a driver's license in the state, have your car registered in the state.
Domicile - you are renting or own a home in the state.

Typically these requirements must be met for one year prior to attending the school.

From what you have written - your travel should be just fine. However - to be sure - contact a Residency Officer at the school you hope to attend. If they are not helpful the requirements are usually written by the Board of Regents for the state - contact someone there if necessary.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 12:15 PM on August 30, 2011

I interpreted that PDF differently from asnider. It looks to me like you can travel, but you have to come back within 12 months.

That's actually what I said. The point about having to apply 12 months prior in order to "regain" residency was in reference to what happens if you leave for more than 12 months and have lost your status. I threw that bit in because the OP is considering leaving for up to 2 years.
posted by asnider at 12:25 PM on August 30, 2011

Just to expand on a point that I don't think has been made explicitly, though many people allude to it, there is no such thing as citizenship in a state. There is only residency on an organization-by-organization basis. What residency means differs widely depending on whether the organization has an incentive to include you (income tax) or exclude you (state school, scholarship), and I've never really encountered two sets of residency requirements that are exactly alike. Even different schools or school systems within the same state might have different requirements. Also, in my experience decisions about residency are ultimately made by individuals and you have little recourse -- this hasn't led to any problems for me personally (in fact, particular people lack the incentive to exclude you that the institution does) but it just really makes it hard to predict what might happen.

Looking at the linked PDF above, it is clear (from 509, the appendix) that they do not make it easy, harder probably than just establishing residency for tuition purposes. They are interested in funding only people who have intent to stay in Georgia permanently (this is what they mean by establishing a Domicile), not just people who happen to be living there. "A person does not have to live in Georgia for any specific period of time before establishing a Domicile in Georgia, nor does just living in Georgia for twelve consecutive months establish a Domicile in the state."
posted by advil at 1:11 PM on August 30, 2011

Enroll in one easy online class at a time while you're traveling just to maintain status as an in-state student?
posted by miyabo at 6:50 PM on August 30, 2011

I'm a little confused. I don't think you can be a citizen of a state in the United States - you can be a U.S. citizen and a state resident but you're not a citizen of the state of Georgia. If you're a U.S. citizen, I think you basically have to renounce your citizenship to lose it. You're still a citizen if you choose not to live in the U.S. for a few years. If you're a U.S. citizen, you can vote in U.S. elections and in general, if you're living abroad, you would vote in elections in your last state of residence. Perhaps continuing to participate in state elections would indicate your intent to return to the state?
posted by kat518 at 6:56 PM on August 30, 2011

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