Is it Legal to be a Nomad?

A few years ago, the Daily Mail wrote an article about American nomads and their lifestyle. The article reported on a group of people who traveled remote areas of the land, typically following the seasons, and relying solely on their survival skills and their ability to hunt and forage for food. A photographer followed the small group from 2006 to 2012.

Although it is not illegal per se to be a nomad, the lifestyle does come with its setbacks.

While the subjects of the article may seem heroic, the reality is that one of the challenges almost every nomad faces is calling a place home. Of course, nomads are perpetual travelers and call anywhere “home”—a car, van, RV, temporary hut or a sleeping bag rolled out under the open sky. Government agencies, on the other hand, generally do not agree with this perspective of home.

This concept is complicated because our nation’s legal system is created around the foundation that people live in a home that is located in a fixed place. Nomads who are permanently traveling do not fit into this traditional mold. Consequently, many nomads resort to choosing a new state in which to reside that is more friendly to perpetual travelers. Even worse, many resort to breaking the law.

Residency Versus Domicile

Although residency and domicile are two different terms, they are commonly used interchangeably by the general public.

An individual may be a resident of more than one state, but is domiciled in only one. Generally speaking, the state in which you are domiciled is the one in which you live—at least part of the year—as well as work, vote, receive mail, obtain health care, conduct banking, and register/insure your vehicles, etc. While someone may do this in multiple states, this results in a risk of more than one state claiming you as a resident for income tax purposes.

Legally speaking, a person establishes a domicile when he or she is a resident of a state and intends to make that state his or her home. Intent, of course, is shown through actions. The more of a connection you have with a particular state, the more likely domicile will be established. Each state in the nation has its own rules when determining if a person is a legal resident, which is further complicated by the fact that the rules often differ between state agencies.

Visas and Legal Issues

A visa is legal permission to remain in a country for either a temporary period of time or permanently.  Depending on the country, you may or may not need a visa to travel from one place to another.

When most nomads are in need of a visa, they will travel on a tourist visa. In other words, this means that if someone is doing any type of work in the country on a tourist visa he or she is technically breaking the law. Generally, as long as the person is discreet and not taking employment away from a local the host country may turn a blind eye. If the person is caught, however, he or she may face trouble with the local authorities including arrest, monetary fines, jail, and even deportation.

So, while being a nomad is not technically illegal, supporting the lifestyle may require you break the law. If you have any legal questions about this issue or any other legal matter, contact the seasoned Nevada attorneys at Parry & Pfau by calling (702) 879- 9555 today.

(image courtesy of Atlas Green)