Protect Your Most Private Information

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Your home address is one of the most sensitive pieces of information you have. You don’t want uninvited visitors bothering you and your family at home. Even though lots of businesses want to get a hold of your home address for marketing purposes, there are a lot of ways to prevent revealing your home address without paying that extra $1 for your Cheerios. Using a P.O. box or other ghost address will usually cut it when you need to share your home address without disclosing where you and your family actually hang out.

One of the only times that you can’t use a ghost address is with a drivers license. A drivers license is an absolute necessity for most people and you can’t get one unless you reveal the place where you and your family lay your heads at night. Usually. There is one way to drive legally in the US without having to give away your most sensitive information. Use a foreign drivers license.

Revealing Home Address Is Not Safe

“But,” you say, “not just anyone can go look up DMV records.” “What is the harm,” you proclaim, “from sharing your home address with the government?”

Remember the geniuses you had to deal with the last time you were at the DMV? They are the ones protecting the vast amounts of information in their databases. A little bit of social engineering and, voila: data is easily compromised.

Plus, the bigger the stash of data, the bigger the target for identity thieves and hackers. DMV databases are ripe targets because they house so much important data. Yet the public is essentially forced to store their data in DMV databases and take that risk.

Foreign Drivers Licenses Are Legal

You can drive in any state with a valid drivers license from any other state. You can also drive with a valid drivers license from any other country. (Check Out California Vehicle Code Section 12502 (a)(1)). International drivers license certificates are not required and are really only suggested if your drivers license is from an obscure country. The other great thing about foreign drivers licenses is that you don’t have to reveal any information to the US government to get it. You might be able to find another country that requires less information, or stores less of it in vast electronic databases.

Get A Foreign Drivers License

Every country will have its own laws, but generally if you have permanent residence you can get a drivers license.

Avoid Having To Get A Local Drivers License

Here is where using a foreign drivers license can be tricky, but it is still doable. Most states make you get a license after residing there for just a few days or weeks. This doesn’t apply if you are NOT a resident of the state. If you are a temporary visitor to a state and have your permanent residence somewhere else (like another country) you will not have to get a local license, thereby allowing you to drive without complying with dangerous rules. (Check out California Vehicle Code Section 12505(c)).

People with multiple residences in multiple states have dealt with this issue often. Even though they may spend a few months out of the year at their winter home in Phoenix, a few weeks at their cabin in Montana, and the rest of the year at their permanent home in Lake Tahoe, NV, they do not need to get more than one drivers license. They get it in the place that is their permanent home. It is actually illegal to have more than one drivers license at a time. Using a foreign license is a similar concept on an international scale.

Show Permanent Residency Where You Want It

You are generally considered a resident of the place where you call home, the place where you intend to return. To demonstrate this very subjective standard, you can look at other factors to provide evidence of your permanent residence. Things like your voting registration, where your permanent home is, and several other factors could demonstrate adequate residency. (Check out California Vehicle Code Section 12505(a)).

Avoid Residency

Employees are almost always a resident of the place where they have a job. Either make sure you can work remotely, commute to the place where you work, or avoid being a regular employee. Also, avoid paying in-state tuition if you are a student, or if your kids are students.

There are dozens of other facts that could be used to show where your permanent residence is. The more factors that fall in the place where you wish to be a permanent resident, the better. The State Income Tax Optimization Guide has a comprehensive strategy for controlling where those factors appear and where they do not.

Time Is Not Critical

Many people think that the amount of time you spend somewhere is critical. I often hear the phrase 6 months and 1 day. This may be true in some places, but for the most part it is just a guideline and is not determinative. It can be helpful (or hurtful) but it isn’t everything. Just because you happen to spend more than 6 months in a particular place does not mean that you are a permanent resident there. If other factors line up heavily in favor of some other location as your permanent residence, the other factors will probably control.


Most of these rules are based on the rules of California. Most other places are not as strict. So if you have a valid foreign drivers license and avoid having to get a drivers license in the state where you happen to be driving, you can protect a very important piece of information… where your family actually lives. So go ahead and protect your family from the useless and dangerous requirement of disclosing your home address in order to drive by getting a foreign drivers license. For more tips on how to protect your important personal information sign up for the email list. For a comprehensive strategy to protect your privacy, check out How To Vanish the book.

Reprinted with permission from How to Vanish.

Bill Rounds, J.D. is a California attorney. He holds a degree in Accounting from the University of Utah and a law degree from California Western School of Law. He practices civil litigation, domestic and foreign business entity formation and transactions, criminal defense and privacy law. He is a strong advocate of personal and financial freedom and civil liberties.