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 (which varies from year-to-year, but is many thousands of dollars).

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.

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 (2022 update)

Fill out your Statement of Legal Residence on CalCentral (under MyAcademics). 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.

Details of the CalCentral form

As of 2022, the residency forms are on the bottom left of your MyAcademics page in CalCentral under “Status and Holds”. There you can submit the SLR. You will answer two sets of “Introductory Questions” and two sections labeled “Student Information”. For these you will give information on:

  • Your citizenship status and CA physical presence history.
  • Your voting history.
  • Any vehicle information (including CA drivers license)
  • Tax stuff (marital status, veteran status, income history, selective service…)
  • Previous education (college & high school) information.

Again, banking stuff does not appear to be necessary as of 2019.

The (old) 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, the department 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 SLR via CalCentral.

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 within a few days. After a few days, check CalCentral 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!

Keep in mind that the information here may not be complete - be sure to check the handbook

Handbook statement (2022)

California Residency is a classification for University tuition purposes. A California resident (defined by UC policy) is a financially independent adult who has lived in California for more than one year prior to the first day of instruction for the term during which they are claiming residency.

Students who do not meet these criteria or have not applied for Residency status are considered nonresidents and subject to nonresident tuition (NRT) as well as registration fees.

The department does not support NRT beyond eligible students’ first year, on the assumption that all eligible students (e.g. not international students) will apply for reclassification as a California Resident.

Continuing students eligible for California residency are strongly encouraged to begin establishing residency upon arrival in California. To gain resident classification students must submit a petition to their Home Campus Registrar’s office (at Berkeley online via CalCentral: showing that they have lived in California for more than one year.

Students should apply for California state residency as they approach the end of their first year in California. The process should be simple for most cases. But, it can be more complex in some circumstances. The process is done online via the “Statement of Legal Residence” or SLR. The process for state residency is described here. International students cannot apply for CA residency.

Students will need paperwork to verify their stay in California. Students should start collecting it as soon as they move to the area. Students can do this in a number of ways, or in all these ways: register to vote; get a driver’s license or state ID card; keep rental agreements and receipts, open a local bank account and keep those records, etc.

Applying for residency is SUPER important. If a student does not pursue residency, they may be liable for paying the difference in tuition costs starting in their second year. Out-of-state tuition is thousands of dollars more expensive than in-state.

Common documents needed with the petition for change classification are: • Documents confirming arrival in California prior to the start of fall semester of the previous year CA driver’s license or state identification card (if non-driver) CA vehicle registration CA Voter registration card CA bank statements Documents confirming prior summer whereabouts (e.g., job offer letters, summer session, registration, etc.) Prior year’s W-2 and State and Federal Income Tax Returns. Berkeley campus Personnel Action Notice confirming last Fall employment