Attaining California Residency

If you are a U.S. citizen, you must attain California resident status, as defined by the University of California, by the beginning of your second year. After your first year, the Astronomy Department will only support tuition at the in-state rate. Those students who fail to demonstrate residency must pay the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition. For the 2012-2013 academic year, this amounts to about $7631 per semester.

Residency is evaluated by the Residence Affairs division of the Office of the Registrar. Your status for the applicable term is based on your activities in the 12 months prior to that term. In most cases, residency status is determined in the summer or early fall. To attain resident status at the beginning of your second year, you must take action almost immediately upon your initial arrival in Berkeley.

You can find official residency guidelines at the Office of the Registrar's Legal Residence Information webpage. As acknowledged in that resource, there is not an exact formula to guarantee residency status. The remainder of this Wiki page is an unofficial guide from students who have been through the petition and evaluation process. Although the heavy majority of astronomy graduate students have successfully attained California residency, the process is different for each individual. The comments below reflect petitions submitted through 2019.

Step 0: Eligibility

There are two cases where you do not have to attempt resident status:

1. You are already a California resident

When you declared your intent to attend UC Berkeley, you were asked to submit an initial Statement of Legal Residence (SLR). If you grew up or were an undergrad in California, you may have claimed in-state resident status in that form. If your claim was accepted, you are already a resident. This status should show up in CalCentral.

2. You are an international student

Students who are not U.S. citizens are ineligible for California residency and will be charged out-of-state tuition rates until they pass their Qualifying exam. Often the Astronomy Department supports the tuition difference for international students through fellowships and other funding resources. If you are an incoming international student, you should talk to Sheryl Conner about tax forms and other funding-related issues.

In addition, if you graduated from a California high school, you may be eligible for CA resident tuition even if you are no longer a Calfornia resident. In practice, you will still want to establish residency after your first year, but you may be able to save your advisor and/or the department some money from your first year tuition. You will need to fill out a nonresident tuition exemption under AB540. See and (Reading the first link, I believe that all students who are US citizens, permanent residents, or aliens without lawful immigration status are eligible).

The short version (2019 update)

Fill out your Statement of Legal Residence on CalCentral. In a few weeks, you will get a request for many documents on CalCentral, and you will need to upload them through separate forms for:

  • Arrival Documents (plane ticket, credit statement, receipts, etc.)
  • Drivers License / ID
  • Federal Taxes
  • Presence Clarification (dates of arrival and travel)
  • State Taxes
  • Summer Documents (if you are out of CA for the summer after your 1st year, justify with a letter from the department)
  • Vehicle Registration (if applicable)
  • Voter's Registration
  • W2s (e.g. from GSI-ing)

Upload these on time and you should be fine. All the stuff below about bank accounts is not necessary to the best of 2019 knowledge.

The long version (mostly not wrong)

Step 1: Initial Measures

Residence Affairs insists that you demonstrate intent to make California your permanent home at least one calendar year prior to the beginning of the academic term for which you are attempting residency. This means that you must take certain measures more than one year before the start of your second-year academic term. For incoming fall students, the deadline is usually between August 20 and August 31. It is best to take the measures below as soon as you arrive.

  • Obtain a California driver's license or state ID card.
  • If you own a vehicle, register it in California
  • Close out-of-state bank accounts
  • Open bank accounts in California
  • Register to vote in California (you can do this at the same time you get your driver's license).

If you get your CA driver's license before the one-year deadline, it will double as evidence of your timely arrival. Otherwise, you should keep a travel record of your entry into the state. It is useful to save receipts of purchases made in California throughout your first year, so you can show your continual presence in the state if requested.

In addition to registering to vote, Residence Affairs may demand proof that you actually voted in California. Keep your ballot stub when you vote in November. This Wiki has a page with information on voting in the Bay area.

Step 2: Taxes

When you file your tax returns in April, you must classify yourself as a California resident for all income earned in California. If you did not earn any income outside of California during the year of your arrival, you can file a California Resident Income Tax Return (form 540/540A). If you did earn out-of-state income before you arrived, you can file a California Nonresident or Part-Year Resident Income Tax Return (form 540NR). On this form, your stated arrival date in California must precede the required date set by Residence Affairs (see Step 1 of this page). You must also file tax returns for those states where you earned other income. Finally, you should use your California address on your federal income tax return.

Information about filing California state taxes is available on the Franchise Tax Board webpage. Tax advice from Berkeley grad students can be found on this Wiki's tax page.

Step 3: Summer Employment and Financial Support

If you know your GSI or GSR positions for your first-year summer and second-year fall before you petition for residency, this information will help you on two fronts.

First, Residence Affairs will demand evidence that you are staying in California during the summer of your first year. Although they instruct you to spend as little time out of the state as possible throughout the year, they are mostly concerned with your summer whereabouts (still, it is a good idea to keep records of all travel outside California during your first year). Once you determine your summer funding, Dexter Stewart can provide a signed letter that declares your summer employment in Berkeley.

Knowledge of your second-year fall employment is related to Residence Affairs' financial independence requirement. One way to satisfy this requirement is to provide evidence of a 50 percent or greater GSI or GSR position for the term in which you expect to gain resident status. As with summer employment, Dexter Stewart or Andrea Martinez can provide a document that attests to your second-year fall funding.

Alternately, you can satisfy the financial independence requirement by providing copies of your parents' income tax returns, on which you are not claimed as a dependent. Check the Legal Residence Information webpage for other exceptional cases that satisfy the financial independence requirement.

Step 4: Submitting your Residence Classification Petition

During the summer before your residency status is evaluated (the summer of your first year), you must submit an online Residence Classification Petition via Bear Facts and deliver supporting documents to the Office of the Registrar, located at 120 Sproul Hall. Refer to this supporting document checklist to ensure that you include all necessary documents in the correct format. Petitions can be submitted as early as May 1, and no later than a deadline in late August. In May you should receive an e-mail that contains instructions and the appropriate deadline.

Petitions are evaluated on a first-come, first-serve basis, so if you submit yours early in the summer, it is possible that you will be granted resident status before the fall term even begins.

Step 5: Evaluation

The evaluation process to determine your residency status will happen one of two ways:

The Easy Way:

You will receive an e-mail notifying you that your status has been determined and will be posted on Bear Facts within a few days. After a few days, check your Personal Profile on Bear Facts to see your new status.

The Less Easy Way:

Residence Affairs will notify you that your petition has been rejected via email / CalCentral, or that they need more information from you. In this case you must submit additional documents clarifying why you deserve resident status. Reasons for an initial rejection and methods of resolutions vary widely from person to person. However, almost all students have attained resident status after submitting additional information.

Step 6+: The End

Once you have attained resident status, you do not need to re-apply. You are good for the remainder of your graduate career at Berkeley. Congratulations!