Sometimes, your name just isn’t enough. In fact, even your passport might not be enough.
For some important official tasks, like opening a bank account or registering at the DMV, you may well be asked for proof of address, otherwise known as proof of residence.
In this article, we’ll explain what that means, and give you some pointers on the best ways to make sure you can provide it.
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Proof of address is exactly what it sounds like: it’s something that proves where you live. It’ll generally take the form of a document from a reputable service that’s recently been sent to your home address – proving that’s the address you actually use.
Banks and other organizations often ask for proof of residence as a security measure. It helps them confirm that you’re telling the truth about who you are and where you live. It could also serve as evidence that you’re a resident in the USA, or in a particular state. At the DMV, for instance, that’s an important consideration.
Proof of address is not the same as proof of identification (ID). Your passport, for instance, doesn’t have your address on – so it’s proof of ID, but not proof of address.
Typically, you might be required to show both proof of ID and proof of address. And potentially, you’ll be asked for two different pieces of proof of address.
Many banks and so on have a list of exactly which documents count as proof of address. These may include the following:
- A utility bill – electric bill, water bill, etc.
- A credit card bill or statement
- A bank statement
- A one-off bank letter
- A social insurance statement
- A paycheck
- A letter from a public authority, e.g. a court
- An insurance policy for your car or home
- A rental or mortgage contract or statement
- Your car’s registration
- An official change of address form
- A DD214 – official documentation that you’ve left the military
- An official letter from your employer or school, on which your address is confirmed
- Confirmation of voter registration
Bear in mind, that’s just a selection of some options. Different organizations will have different rules: they’ll likely only accept some of those listed above, and they may accept others that aren’t on the list. Look out for arbitrary-sounding rules, too – for instance, they might accept utility bills not including mobile phone bills, or only certain types of insurance documents.
Rules also differ about how old these documents can be. For instance, they might need to be less than a year old, or less than three months. And these rules might differ depending on the type of document.
You’ll need to check the precise rules of the organization that you’re dealing with, but here are a few points to bear in mind about what not to do.
- Your proof of ID often won’t be accepted as proof of address, even if it does have your address on it. They’ll often want to see a separate document.
- Any proof of address that’s very old probably won’t be accepted.
- Documents that prove you live at a different address likely won’t be accepted – which, to be honest, is fair enough.
- It’s possible some organizations won’t accept photocopies or printouts – better to take the original if you can.
In general, anything that’s not on an official list might get rejected. So it’s best either to check in advance, or to turn up with multiple documents that you think might satisfy them – say, four or five – and then just let the officials pick their preferred ones.
Chances are, you’ll already have some proof of address, even if you don’t realize. Now’s the perfect time to go through all that unread mail.
Of course, things may be harder if you’ve recently moved, or you’re in the process of doing so. That’s just one reason why it’s important to notify everyone of your change of address as soon as you can. Don’t forget to inform your bank, your insurance providers, and so on.
Assuming that you’re all up to date notifying everyone of where you now live, here are some tips for getting hold of the right paperwork.
Here are the types of proof of residence that you’re most likely to have lying around your home, in your mailbox, or hiding under the doormat.
- Utility bills
- Bank statements
- Credit card statements
That might prove harder if the bills aren’t in your name, and/or if you don’t work. In which case, take a look through your records for some documents that you’ve hopefully kept on file:
- A rental contract
- Documents about insurance policies – e.g. medical or car insurance
- Documents from your school or a public authority
It’ll probably take a bit longer, but another option you have is registering to vote – you’ll then get an official letter through the mail that you can hopefully use to prove where you live.
One more option is the speedy method explained below.
If you can’t find any proof on paper, you can probably get hold of an official document online through a service you’re already registered with.
Here’s one option. Your bank might not send you paper statements each month, but the chances are good that you can now get a PDF statement through online banking. Do that, print it off, and hey presto – you’ve got your proof of address.
Before doing this, however, it’s worth checking that a printout will be accepted.
If you do need an original paper copy rather than a printout, you might well still have the option online to request a paper statement. So you can do that instead, and then just wait patiently for a couple days while it wings its way to you.
Getting hold of proof of address can be surprisingly difficult, especially if the list of accepted documents is short. But, so long as you really do live where you say you do, it’s bound to be possible. Good luck!
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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