How to Have a Permanent Address as a Digital Nomad – Podcast 035

In this essay B and Jack talk about what are your options in terms of setting up a permanent mail address as a digital nomad. They go over the question of if setting up a permanent address is really necessary. After that, they cover the main options you have to set up a permanent address as a digital nomad as well as what counts as proof of a permanent address.

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We are not lawyers, thus whatever we say about taxation is simply our own opinion. You should check professional legal advice in your country.

1. Summary

1.1. An overview of the topic [03:20]

In this episode, we explore what are your options in terms of having a permanent mailing address as a digital nomad.

The obvious contradiction here is that as a digital nomad you will always be moving around the world. So say a “real” permanent address is not possible. Yet, in order to do certain things (e.g. pay taxes, open bank accounts, receive letters and orders, etc.) you might be required to provide a permanent address. Thus, the aim of the episode is to present you with your possible options in terms of having a somewhat “symbolic” permanent address that you can use when you need it.

1.2. The topic within the Digital Nomad Life System  [05:10]

The Digital Nomad Life System is a 6-step system created by us at Nomad Tactics that aims to explain how someone can go from living a non-nomadic normal life to living an optimized digital nomad life.

The topic today fits the first step of our system, which is the “Nomadic Life Prep”.

Nomadic Life Prep can be understood as the actions someone needs to take beforehand to optimally transition a stable life to a digital nomad life. There are many areas we will cover in this step of the system. The main areas are finances, logistics, and psychology. Ideally, you should set up a permanent mailing address when you are still in your home country. That is why we place this topic into this step.

To have a general overview of the Digital Nomad Life System you should listen to this episode.

1.3. Do you need a permanent address as a digital nomad? [09:22]

Of course, once in a while, all digital nomads need to provide an address, say when you are registering in a hotel. In many instances, the address you provide is irrelevant. So you can put, for example, the last address you have in your home country. People will not really mind since they are asking for the address simply as a formality. So, we are not considering these situations where you need to have a permanent address.

Having said that, I think whether you need a permanent mailing address depends on certain factors:

Where is your home country? In certain countries to do governmental-related things like paying taxes, you need to provide a permanent mailing address. You need an address because you might receive relevant mail and/or because they might check if the address is valid. In some countries, you don’t need one so perhaps having a temporary address is alright.

What kinds of things do you want to do while travelling? If you are interested in developing say a 5 flag framework to your life then having a permanent address is categorical since you will need it to open bank accounts, register residencies, etc. in many countries. To do most of those things you need to provide a permanent address. If you do not want to implement the 5 flags then perhaps having a permanent address is not that relevant.

While it is not necessary for all digital nomads, I think it is in fact useful for most of us to have a permanent address.

This is because even though you may not need a permanent address to pay taxes, you might need it for other things like receiving replacement cards, sending yourself the souvenirs you bought along the way, and so on…

Therefore I think it does make sense for digital nomads to set a permanent mailing address in some shape or form.

1.4. The possible ways to set up a permanent address as a digital nomad [19:19]

So there are basically just two main reasonable options in terms of permanent address. These are registering your family/friend’s address as your permanent address or using a mail forwarding service as your permanent address.

A. Using a friend or family house address

So back in episode 007, we talked about where to store your belonging when you become a digital nomad. One of the options we mentioned in that episode was to ask friends/family to store with them. You can do a similar thing when it comes to setting a permanent mailing address.

In other words, you can simply ask friends or family to register their address as your permanent mailing address.

There are slightly different ways in which you can use this option. These are: you can ask for them as a favour, or pay them, if you decide to pay them for that you could go a step further by formulating a very symbolic subletting agreement with them (if that is legal in your country of course) where you pay them a small amount per month as a symbolic rent, thus making the whole thing more official.

The main advantages of this option are the following. This option is free or will cost you very little per month. It is very safe, especially if you leaving your things with your family. The permanent address you register will be a real street address since it is the house in which your friend/family lives. Thus, it is unlikely you will have any issue when you register this to services.

On the other hand, the main disadvantages are that you might not want to send too many parcels there since that would be inconvenient for your friend/family. If something happens to your mail, you most likely won’t be able to complain since they are doing you a favour. You won’t be notified that a  new mail/parcel was received ASAP. You probably cannot ask them to tell you or send you a digitalized copy of every new mail you receive. In the case of parcels, receiving deliveries might be a little bit tricky since you will need to coordinate logistics with them.

B. Using a mail forwarding service

This could be seen as the more “professional” option in terms of a permanent mailing address.

A mail forwarding service is basically a monthly service that provides you with an address in a given location to receive your mail and parcels.

The best thing about this service is that apart from receiving your mail or parcels, they also digitalize the mail, upload it and make it available to you online. Once you read the mail you can ask them to keep it for you or get read of it. 

There are three important points you need to know about this type of service: 

First, the availability of such a service and the number of options you have will vary from country to country. In the USA, you have many companies that do this so you are spoiled in terms of choice. In most European countries you will have fewer options but still can find them.

Another thing is when you are planning to subscribe to a mailing forwarding service is if they provide you with a “real” street address or it simply a PO. What you are looking for is a “real” street address. The reason for that is because you cannot use a PO to register many things in many countries around the world. So there would be no point in having such service.

Finally, it is important to understand that different mail forwarding companies offer you different complimentary services. Thus it is important to do your research and find which ones are relevant to you. Some mail forwarding companies can forward mail/packages overseas and others do not. Some mail forwarding services allow you to pick up your mail/parcels in a physical location. Some of them can help you get rid of junk mail. So it is important to check exactly what are the additional services.

The main con about this type of service is that it is an extra expense. The good news is that you can receive mail and parcels easily compared to coordinating delivery hours with your family member. And you will have access to the mail very quickly. Also, with some of these services you are able to receive as much mail and parcel as you want, without causing inconvenience for someone.

You can expect to pay 10 to 20 USD per month.

1.5. What counts as proof of a permanent address [21:09]

Ok, so let us assume you are convinced that having a permanent mailing address makes sense. You know how you are going to set up your permanent address.

What you basically need to do now is to gather a couple of documents that were mailed to such a permanent address and with the permanent address written on them.

The documents that are accepted as proof of a permanent address are the following:

  • Valid Driver’s License
  • Property Tax Receipt
  • Utility Bill
  • Lease Agreement or mortgage statement
  • Insurance Card
  • Voter Registration Card
  • College Enrollment Papers
  • Bank or credit card statement
  • Insurance policy or bill

In the context of the digital nomad life, most of these documents will not be applicable to you and most likely you will only be able to provide an insurance policy or bill bank or credit card statement. Just with those you are likely to be fine.

It is usually advisable to have at least two different types of documents that have this permanent address written on them. 

Once someone asks for proof of permanent address you will simply show them and that should be enough.

1.6. General tips related to setting up a permanent address [27:25]

Go paperless on all you can: We have already established that having a permanent address is useful for certain things. But, still, you want to avoid receiving letters. Therefore, my advice is to try to opt for the paperless option for most of the services. This option is usually available when we are talking about bank statements and insurance. By going for the paperless option you will have the access to this document online without the need of receiving letters. This is not only practical but also environmental-friendly.

Set up the new permanent address couple of weeks before leaving: You should set up the permanent address, in other words, register everything you need into such address when you are still in your home country a couple of weeks before you depart in your digital nomad journey. There are two reasons for that. First, you will be able to test out the address and see if there are any issues with it. Sometimes one of the things you need to register with this new permanent address might raise an issue if you use some forward mail services. So it is important to test it beforehand to check if everything goes smoothly. If you have any problem and you are still in your home country it is easier to come up with another plan. The second reason why it is important to set the new permanent mailing address a couple of weeks before you start your journey is that, by doing so, you will sometimes require different documents to be sent out to the new address, thus you are able to collect such documents as proof of the address. We talked about the possible documents to prove an addres in the previous secitontion. These are things like bank statements, insurance card letters, etc.

If you don’t have enough time to wait for these documents to be sent out you can alternatively ask someone to forward them to you overseas when these documents arrive or, at least for some services (e.g. bank statements) you might be able to print out yourself a statement with the new address. 

Leave a limited power of attorney document with a trusted friend, family, or mail forwarding service:  This is basically a document that allows other people to act on your behalf in your absence under limited circumstances. In the context of a permanent mailing address, this is important because, for some parcels or mail, especially important mail and expensive parcels, someone needs to sign as the acknowledging of the receipt. It is crucial to have this document before you leave your home country to avoid headaches later on.

If you are a US citizen make sure you register this permanent address in a “digital nomad friendly” state: As we said previously, in many countries, like the USA,  in order to do some of the governmental documentation related to tax, voting, and other things, you will need a permanent address. Having said that, different states within the USA might be more or less narrow in terms of using a mail forwarding service. In other words, in some states, due to the complexity of proving a permanent mailing address, they might make your life as a digital nomad extra hard if you use a mail forwarding service. Apart from that, depending on which state you register, there will be a difference in your taxation if you are a USA citizen. So it is important to look into that, though please be mindful that we are not lawyers.

With that in mind, and assuming that as a digital nomad you won’t be living in the USA. You can theoretically register your permanent mailing address in any state. So you should look for a “friendly” digital nomad state at least in terms of registering a permanent mailing address for governmental purposes. I am not an American myself but based on the research I have done online the two best states are South Dakota and Texas.

1.7. Our recommendation in terms of which option to use

Mail forwarding services that only offer you a PO Box are a no-no… this service is too limited and should be avoided.

Mail forwarding services is the best solution if you need to receive a lot of mail and orders and also need to check things ASAP.

Friends/ or family is the best option if you only need to use the permanent mailing address once in a while to receive mail and orders.

2. Transcript

3. Resources

  1. Podcast 002 (Nomadic Life System)
  2. Podcast 007 (Storage option for digital nomads)