Nonresidents stationed in Washington: Vehicles & boats

Nonresident military personnel

Military personnel temporarily stationed in Washington are presumed to be nonresidents unless they were residents of Washington State when inducted. Military personnel include:

  • Active-duty members of the United States armed forces:
    • Coast Guard (including personnel living in Washington who are on duty in the Portland area)
    • Army
    • Navy
    • Marines
    • Air Force
  • Members of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA).
  • Commissioned officers of the public health service.
  • Members of foreign military organizations assigned to Washington on official duty.

Types of plates you can use

Nonresident military personnel on duty in Washington may display any of the following:

  • Washington license plates.
  • Plates issued from their official home of record.
  • Plates issued from a foreign jurisdiction other than your official home of record, until the registration expires.

How to get Washington plates

  1. Meet all of the special requirements that apply to your vehicle.
  2. Complete a Vehicle Certificate of Ownership Application.
    • Include the scale weight of the vehicle (as shown on the title).
    • If the vehicle is truck, also include the Gross Weight (from the owner’s manual, NADA, Kelly Blue Book, or manufacturer’s website).
    • All registered owners must sign the application.
      • If you’re applying by mail, all the signatures must be notarized. You may have the signatures notarized by a notary public or an active-duty commissioned officer of the armed forces. If the commissioned officer’s signature, rank, and branch of service appear on the document as a notary, no further proof of their authority is needed.
      • If you’re applying at an office, all registered owners must sign the form at the office so the agent can certify the signatures.
  3. Include all of the following:
    • The title.
      • If you’re making payments on the vehicle, submit a copy of the title (front and back).
      • If the vehicle is less than 10 years old, complete the odometer reading on the title. If you don’t have the title, complete an Odometer Disclosure Form instead. You can get a form from any vehicle licensing office or car dealership, or by sending an email to titles@dol.wa.gov with the address where you want us to send it.
    • All applicable fees. Your fees depend on the weight of your vehicle, where you live, and the types of license plates you want. To find out the exact cost, please contact a vehicle licensing office or call us at 360.902.3770.
    • If the vehicle has been registered in another state and owned for less than 90 days, submit the:
    • If the vehicle is new (never licensed before) or was licensed in a foreign country while you were on active duty, submit the Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin (MSO) or Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin (MCO) with your application. For more information about importing a vehicle, see Customs inspections.
    • If the weight of the vehicle isn’t on the title, you may need to present a vehicle weight slip. Your local vehicle licensing office may be able to get the vehicle weight information for you. If necessary, you may weigh your vehicle at any scale house in Washington.
  4. Mail or bring your application, supporting documents, and fees to any vehicle licensing office.

Special requirements

  • If the vehicle is a 2009 or newer car, light-duty truck, SUV, or passenger van, it must meet California emission standards to be registered, leased, rented, licensed, or sold for use in Washington. For more information, see Clean Car emission requirements.
  • If you live in an emissions test area in Washington, you may need to have an emissions test on your vehicle. See Emissions testing for more information.
  • If the vehicle is a motor home, RV, or trailer, you may be required to present proof of sales tax. If you don’t have proof you paid sales tax when you purchased your vehicle, you will be required to pay use tax.
  • If any owners listed on the title are deceased or need to be removed due to divorce or other reasons, contact a local vehicle licensing office for further instructions.

Using license plates from your home state

If you’re a member of the military temporarily assigned in Washington State, you can keep your vehicle registration at your official home of record instead of getting Washington plates. This also applies to your spouse, as long as the vehicle is registered to you or jointly to both you and your spouse.

Licensing deadlines

If your vehicle was licensed… Deadline
At your last duty station. You may continue to operate it with the current registration until it expires. Then you must license the vehicle in Washington State or your home of record.
In a foreign country, and you’re returning to the United States. You must license your vehicle in Washington or your home state within 30 days of returning.
In your home state, and you’re staying in Washington after leaving military service. You must license the vehicle in Washington within 30 days of leaving the service.

Buying a vehicle while stationed in Washington

Sales and use tax

  • If you’ll be in Washington for more than 90 days, you must pay Washington state sales or use tax, even if you register the vehicle in your home state. You won’t need to pay taxes in your home state unless their tax rate is higher than Washington’s.
  • If you’ll be in Washington for less than 90 days, you may be exempt from paying sales or use tax. For details, see Tax exemptions.

Temporary permits

If you license your new vehicle in your home state, you may request a 45-day temporary permit so you can drive the vehicle in Washington while waiting for your out-of-state plates.

If you’re transferred out of Washington

If your vehicle is licensed in Washington when you’re transferred to another state, you’ll need to:

Related laws and rules

Explanation of abbreviations

  • RCW—Revised Code of Washington (Washington State laws)
  • WAC—Washington Administrative Code (Washington State agency regulations)
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