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Vehicle License Fraud · Frequently Asked Questions

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Select a category of most frequently asked questions or browse the page of to view the answers:

If you have any additional questions about vehicle license fraud, please email us at LicenseFraud@wsp.wa.gov.


License Fraud Report Form

  • I have no idea if what I sent/phoned/emailed has been received by you.
    • Due to the number of complaints received, it is impossible to respond to each and every complaint. Each complaint is logged, and if circumstances warrant it, an investigation is started.


  • I have sent/phoned/emailed plates and I still see the out of state plates. Why?
    • Sometimes vehicle license investigations take time. Often, the investigation begins as a postcard send to the address where the vehicle is observed. An officer must see the vehicle being driven in the state in order to issue an infraction. Rest assured that every time an illegally licensed vehicle is driven the driver is subject to a $1,122 infraction. Sooner or later their luck will run out!


Non-resident Students & Military Personnel

  • I am a student from out of state. Do I need Washington license plates?
    • Generally, no, if you are attending school full time at a college or university in Washington accredited by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges or at a private vocational school [as defined by RCW 28C.10.020(7)], and maintain your legal home of record at a location outside the state of Washington. Additionally, the vehicle must be registered in the student’s or parent/legal guardian’s name in the state of the legal home of record. You must also carry documentation issued by your college, school, university, or vocational school that readily establishes your non-resident status.


  • My spouse is a non-resident student. Do I need Washington license plates?
    • No, the spouse of a non-resident student has the same licensing privilege as long as the vehicle is registered to your spouse, or to you and your spouse.
  • I am a non-resident student, but I also work in Washington. Do I need Washington plates?
    • No, employment incidental to full time student status is permitted.


  • I am a student from out of state, living in Washington, but attending school in Oregon. Do I need Washington license plates?
    • Yes. The law only provides for an exemption for students attending schools IN the state of Washington, and paying non-resident tuition.


  • I am active duty military. Do I need Washington license plates?
    • Vehicles owned by non-resident military personnel must be currently registered in the name of the military person at their official home of record. A vehicle licensed at the last duty station may be operated until the current registration expires, at which time the vehicle must be licensed in the military person’s home of record or the state of Washington. A spouse of a military person has the same licensing privilege of the military person as long as the vehicle is owned by the military person or jointly by the military person and their spouse, regardless of the spouse’s legal residence or employment.


Out of State Businesses & Workers

  • The vehicle is owned by an out of state business and I am allowed/required to drive it home to Washington. I can’t put Washington plates on the vehicle.
    • Business vehicles are potentially subject to use tax. Contact the Washington State Department of Revenue at 1-800-647-7706.


  • I am a resident of another state. I am temporarily working in Washington. Do I need Washington license plates?
    • As long as you maintain a physical residence in the other state, pay taxes in that state, maintain a driver’s license in your home state, and do not establish a residence in Washington, no Washington license is required.


  • I am an Oregon motor vehicle dealer. Can I use my Oregon dealer plate in Washington?
    • Yes, provided you are in compliance with the Oregon law that governs the use of your dealer plate.


I received a postcard from the WSP...

  • I received a postcard from the WSP. This isn’t my car. Should I be concerned that I’ve been a victim of ID theft?
    • You received the postcard because an out of state vehicle was observed driving one or more times in Washington or was observed parked at your residence. The WSP uses several methods to determine a local address for a registered owner of an out of state licensed vehicle. It could simply be that you have a similar name to the registered owner. Simply advise the WSP via e-mail at LicenseFraud@wsp.wa.gov that you are not the owner of the vehicle. If the vehicle was a short term visitor to your home, please let us know that as well.


  • I received a postcard from you, but I’ve never seen the car and know nothing about it. What do I need to do?
    • Simply e-mail LicenseFraud@wsp.wa.gov advising us that you do not know anything about the vehicle. We will update our records.


  • I received a postcard in the mail, or a flyer on my car, and registered my vehicle in Washington. How do I make sure I won’t receive any further postcards?
    • Simply e-mail your new Washington vehicle license number to LicenseFraud@wsp.wa.gov. Include the out of state plate number located on the postcard to ensure your case is properly closed.


  • I received a postcard in the mail, or a flyer on my car, and none of the questions above apply to me. What do I do?
    • Send an e-mail to LicenseFraud@wsp.wa.gov. Include your license plate number in the subject line and explain the circumstances. Please remember that the WSP does not give legal advice. We will help explain the law as indicated in RCW 46.16A and answer any questions you may have. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to comply with the law if you are required to.


Miscellaneous

  • I am only borrowing the vehicle from a person who lives out of state. Do I need Washington license plates?
    • Washington allows for a resident to borrow a vehicle that is licensed outside the state for a maximum of 10 days each calendar year. After the 10 days have elapsed, the vehicle may no longer be driven in Washington by the resident for the rest of the year.


  • Am I required to pay sales or use tax?
    • If you were a Washington resident, or became one within 90 days of purchasing the vehicle, you are required to pay tax on the vehicle.


  • I have two homes, one in Washington and one in another state. I spend half my time in Washington and half in the other state. Do I need Washington license plates?
    • Generally, yes. You are a dual resident which could require Washington license plates on any vehicle you own and operate in Washington. Refer to WAC 308-99-020 for further information on dual residents.


  • I am a Washington resident and I own the out of state plated vehicle, but I don’t drive it or it doesn’t run. What do I need to do?
    • As long as the vehicle is not being driven, it doesn’t require Washington license plates, but it does require a Washington title. Please note that before you can sell or junk the vehicle, you are required to obtain a Washington title.


  • I have friends and family who park their car at my house when they fly from an out of state airport, such as Portland International Airport. Is that OK?
    • Yes. As a reminder, a Washington resident cannot have use of the vehicle for more than ten days in a calendar year, but leaving the vehicle parked is acceptable.


  • I have friends and family visiting from out of state. How long can they stay without changing their license?
    • As long as they are visiting and not living with you. If they maintain a residence in another state, and are here less than 6 months they can retain their out of state plates. If they do not maintain a residence in another state, they become Washington residents and must obtain vehicle licenses within 30 days of establishing residency.


Further Assistance

  • I have read all of the FAQ’s and my situation isn’t addressed here. What do I need to do now?


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