Residency Requirements for In-state Tuition: A student must principally show domicile for 12 uninterrupted months in order to qualify for in-state tuition benefits. The application process can be confusing, especially in light of narrowed definitions of common words. Here is a little information on the requirements.

Domicile or Legal Residence: In order to satisfy the requirement for legal residence, as opposed to the more general term of residence, an applicant must establish North Carolina as a domicile, or legal residence. This means the individual must be physically present in the state and intend to remain in the state indefinitely. The student must satisfy that requirement for an uninterrupted 12 months prior to the application for in-state residency. For example, if a student from New York enrolls at UNC, the student is physically present in North Carolina, but only plans on remaining in North Carolina for the duration of the semester. That is a definite period of time and thus the student does not qualify for legal residence or domicile. 

12 Months of Uninterrupted Legal Residence: Students who want to apply to for in-state residency must prove domicile for 12 uninterrupted months before the application. Thus, presence plus indefinite intent must be proven in order to obtain in-state residency requirements.

Presumption of Parent's Legal Residence: Prima facie evidence of legal residency is that of a dependent student's parent's residency. A student must sufficiently allege independence if the student wants to defeat that initial presumption.

Intent to Remain Indefinitely Usually Requires Corroboration: While domiciliary intent takes into account statements of intent from the individual, administrative courts and federal appellate courts usually require additional facts to corroborate those statements due to the susceptibility of fickle self-serving intent. Factors courts sometimes look at when determining conduct that corroborates an intent to permanently remain in state are:

  • The registration of a motor vehicle
  • Whether the individual obtained a NC driver's license.
  • The filing of state income tax
  • The location of the individual's personal property
  • Prior domiciles
  • Whether the individual purchased real property and is responsible for its upkeep and maintenance, including those responsibilities related to compliance with property tax regulations.
  • The individual's citizenship or immigration status.

Constitutionality of Residency Requirements: Residency requirements often face criticism on several different grounds but the theme of equality threads them together. Durational residency requirements flirt with infringing upon privileges and immunities of citizenship, equal protection of the laws, and due process of the laws. The bottomline is that the state has to have pretty good reasons for imposing the requirements and those requirements must be sufficiently narrowed in scope to addressing those reasons for their imposition. Courts have historically upheld their constitutionality as long as appropriate limitations in scope and time exist. That's why there is a 12 month limitation. The repeated denial of residency, however, when objective facts point to intent to remain indefinitely, could threaten your constitutional rights.