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Is living a nomadic lifestyle in the U.S. legal?


This is probably one of the biggest and most important questions someone should and does ask themselves before embarking on a nomadic journey in the United States of America.

The answer can get a little complicated, because it really depends on where in the U.S. you are going, how you travel, where you camp, and what state, municipality, or county you are in. The laws vary everywhere, yet most the factors remain the same and the answer is, yes! Yes, you can live a nomadic lifestyle in the U.S. as long as you comply with local, state, and federal laws.

Note: If you are visiting the U.S. on a VISA and have a valid passport, you must also comply with all U.S. local/state/federal laws, otherwise your VISA could be revoked.

Lets take a look at one state for now, to get a better idea of the laws, restrictions, and policies that nomads encounter along their journey. Since we domicile in the great state of Texas, we’ll use Texas as an example.

U.S. – Texas – City of Houston – Harris County

Disclaimer: The following information was researched and accurate at the time of this publication, as per their sources accuracy at that time. Any information changes after this publication or source dates may not reflect the information previously quoted. It is highly advised that you do your own research/due diligence.

Texas Domicile Law

For purposes of jurisdiction, “domicile” means a legal residence which is the place where a person has fixed dwelling with an intention of making it his/her permanent home[i]. Domicile is a combination of two factors namely, residence and intent to remain. … Residence is of a more temporary nature compared to domicile. – Source

The above means that in order to obtain and maintain a Texas ID/Drivers license, you must have a domicile/residential street address. This is pretty common for any state and an ID is required to prove residence in the U.S..

If you don’t maintain residency somewhere and have a government issued identification card of some kind, you’re asking for trouble. Do it the right way and establish residence somewhere first, if you haven’t already.

Texas Camping And Overnight Parking

Several states allow overnight parking at rest stops, but not all do. It is still generally acceptable to sleep in your vehicle if you’re not actively driving, trespassing or under the influence (you can still be charged with a DWI/DUI even if you are sleeping and the vehicle is parked).

It’s important to note that some municipalities have passed ordnance against sleeping in vehicles due to the escalating homeless situations. Don’t try to urban camp in those jurisdictions. It’s a fast way to get a fine or have your vehicle impounded.

There are lots of overnight friendly places in areas where municipality permits.

Harris County (Houston, Texas)

In Harris county, You are required to reside in the county more than 6 months out of a calendar year for it to be considered your domicile, residence, primary address and able to be used to register a vehicle or transfer a title into your name. (We ran into this at the County Tax Office when registering/titling our motorhome)

Be sure to research your local laws to ensure you are in compliance.

This means, that as long as we reside/stay within our respected county for 6 months and 1 day each year, we can then travel and work remotely for the remaining days of the year, however we want too, go where we want too, and live a nomadic lifestyle, if we want too.

We generally choose our Texas time for the winter months.

Harris County Ordinance law

Unlike the city of Houston and other municipalities, Harris County does not have the power to pass ordinances Source

That means that you have less laws to worry about being outside city ordnance jurisdiction.

Houston, Texas Municipality/Parking Law

Within the jurisdiction of the city of Houston, you are going to run into a lot of complications if you’re trying to urban camp overnight somewhere. This holds true with the majority of larger cities/metropolises across the U.S. (Reminder: Always check local municipality laws.)

Houston, Texas Vagrant, Vagabond, Homeless Laws

You can’t be homeless, without a vehicle, or without a residence in Houston without breaking some laws.

  • It’s illegal to block a sidewalk, a walkway, stand in a roadway median or block a building doorway.
  • It’s illegal to sleep in tents, boxes or any other makeshift shelter on public property.
  • It’s illegal to trespass on private property.
  • It’s illegal to use a heating device that could start a fire on public property.
  • It’s illegal to carry around belongings that take up more than 3ft. long, 3ft. wide, and 3ft. tall of space.
  • It’s illegal to feed more than five homeless people without a permit.
  • It’s illegal to be a nuisance. If you, your vehicle, or your personal property is considered a nuisance, it can be confiscated/towed and you can be removed or arrested. Harris county nuisance abatement and procedures
  • It’s illegal to use a state/county/city park for anything other than what it was designated for. No overnight camping without authorization.

Federal Income Tax Law

Often, a major determinant of an individual’s status as a resident for income tax purposes is whether he or she is domiciled or maintains an abode in the state and are “present” in the state for 183 days or more (one-half of the tax year). Minnesota’s current budget bill proposes lowering the residency threshold from 183 days to 60 days for individuals who maintain a residence in Minnesota but live part of the year elsewhere. California and New York are particularly aggressive in this respect. There and elsewhere, taxpayers have the burden of proving through documentary evidence which states they spend time in during the year and how long they remain in these states. – Source

According to the federal government, you need to split up your taxes for each state you reside in for longer than 60 to 183 days (Depending on the state). This also depends on the type of business, sales, work, etc. you did there (That’s applicable to Federal and State taxes). Be sure to check with the IRS to make sure you are in compliance.

Thankfully, Texas doesn’t have state income tax or personal property tax. Making it a great choice for domicile/residence (For us anyways).

We have our primary bank and business filings in our domicile state/county (Texas – Harris County), Since our business is online, we can work remotely, through our online business and are still operating out of the state of Texas (Where the business is filed) for tax purposes,

Texas Traveling Weapon Laws

There are an increasing amount of law abiding citizens venturing into a travel lifestyle and inquiring about self defense and protection options. When it comes to legally owning a tool or weapon in one state, you may not think about if it’s illegal in another before passing through or even stopping for a while there. Check the laws!

Travel Safety and Security

This is a tough one because it really depends on your nomadic lifestyle and type of remote work you choose to do. If you are a part-timer, retired with pension, or going to be an employee or affiliate for a company, you’ll just need the basics, however, if you are going to take the freelance or entrepreneur route and plan on getting some exposure (E.g. youtube series, blog series, press releases, social media campaigns, etc.) while you’re living a nomadic lifestyle then you’re going to need to beef up your security when traveling.

Disclaimer: The above information was researched and accurate at the time of this publication, as per their sources accuracy at that time. Any information changes after this publication or source dates may not reflect the information previously quoted. It is highly advised that you do your own research/due diligence.

Happy adventures everyone!

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