Moving to Iowa: Checklist & Tips

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You’ve finally decided to take the plunge and move to Iowa.

Whether you are moving for a job, family reasons, or just because you have always dreamed of living in Iowa, it is important that you know what lies ahead.

This article aims to provide all the answers about how to do just that!

Follow this checklist and tips as we walk through all the steps from when you first decide on an apartment (or house) until your last day in your old home state.

Here is a quick preview:

  • Find out the information you’ll need to update during your move. 
  • Learn about some of the unique features of life in Iowa.
  • Figure out what costs will increase when living there.

How to Become a Iowa Resident

One of the first steps to making another state your home is establishing residency in your new state. 

This will allow you to get a driver’s license, register your vehicles, and get access to local perks and discounts like Iowa-resident access to certain parks and in-state tuition at colleges and universities.  

In general, you can establish residency in Iowa by:

  • Renting or buying a house or apartment.
  • Being employed within Iowa.
  • Being registered to vote in Iowa.
  • Having a business located in Iowa.
  • Having children who attend an Iowa primary or secondary school.

Essentially, anything you do that demonstrates that you are in Iowa to stay will begin to establish you as a permanent resident. 

For many tax and legal purposes, the state of Iowa will consider you a resident if you spend more than 183 days or 6 months out of a 12-month period there. 

To receive in-state tuition, you may need to meet some other requirements depending on the institution. In addition to establishing residency with some of the criteria above, you’ll typically also need:

  • Your Iowa driver’s license.
  • To have lived there for at least 12 months.
  • Have financial independence.

Requirements may vary by institution.

Once you make the move to Iowa as your permanent home, you’ll typically be able to take the next big steps immediately – such as applying for a driver’s license and registering your car (more on that below).

Iowa Moving Checklist

There’s a lot that goes into moving to a new state, and that’s after you’ve taken care of all the packing, cleaning, lifting, moving companies, rental agreements, mortgages, jobs… (the list goes on – yeah, it’s a lot!)

Well, after the fun part is taken care of, there are a few more things you’ll want to make sure you check off your list when moving to Iowa.

We’ve detailed them for you below. The checklist includes:

  1. Updating your address.
  2. Getting your Iowa driver’s license.
  3. Registering your car.
  4. Getting a new car insurance policy for Iowa.
  5. Registering to vote.
  6. Getting health insurance.
  7. Getting the other insurance policies you may need.
  8. Taking care of your financial details – banks, loans, investments, etc.
  9. Enrolling your child in your new school district.
  10. Preparing for Iowa taxes.
  11. Getting a license for your pets and finding a local veterinarian.
  12. Set up your utilities.

It might sound like a lot. But that’s one of the reasons why we created Relocalate.com – to make all the things that go along with moving much easier. 

Below, you’ll find the specific details, tips, and links to make each of those tasks a breeze. 

Before you know it, you’ll be kicking off your shoes and feeling like an Iowa local.  

1. Update your Address with the USPS

The first step to take is updating your address with the USPS and forwarding your mail. 

Luckily, this is an easy one. You’ll need to:

  • Visit the official USPS Change-of-Address website at: https://moversguide.usps.com/mgo/disclaimer 
  • Enter your contact information.
  • Select a date to start forwarding your mail. This can be no more than 30 days prior to or 3 months after today.
  • Provide your old address and your new address.
  • Provide a credit card for the $1.05 fee to verify your identity. (If a website is asking you to pay more than this, it’s a scam – run away!)

You’ll receive a confirmation email and letter once you’ve set it up. 

After that, most of your mail pieces will automatically forward for 12 months. That should give you plenty of time to update your address with any friends, family, or businesses who still have your old address on file. 

While it’s on your mind, you should also take the time to update your address with any subscriptions you have like magazines, pet food, and meal boxes, as well as your saved address for shipping from online stores like Amazon. These types of shipments and packages will typically NOT be automatically forwarded. 

2. Transfer an Out-of-State Driver’s License to Iowa

The next big step is surrendering your out-of-state license and applying for your Iowa license. 

When you move to Iowa, you’ll need to apply for a driver’s license upon becoming a resident.

To do so, you’ll need to visit your local driver’s license office and:

  • Complete an application for a new Iowa driver’s license.
  • Provide proof of your identity and citizenship/legal presence – (this can usually be your VALID driver’s license from your previous state. 
  • Provide proof of your address and residency in Iowa. Which typically includes 2 documents, such as:
    • Lease agreements or mortgage statements.
    • Bank statements.
    • Utility bills. 
    • Pay stubs. 
  • Pass an eye exam. 
  • Pass the driver’s license written exam. 
  • Take a new picture. 
  • Pay the application fees.

In most cases, you will not need to take the road test. So take a deep breath – you can stop worrying now. 

In Iowa, Driver’s license transactions are handled by the Motor Vehicle Division, or MVD.

For official information, online services, and to find your local office, visit their website at: https://iowadot.gov/mvd

3. Register & Title your Car in Iowa

Along with getting your Iowa driver’s license, you’ll also need to transfer your vehicle registrations and titles to Iowa.

When you move to Iowa, you’ll need to register your vehicle upon becoming a resident.

To do so, you’ll need to:

  • Visit your local DMV office.
  • Complete an application for a new vehicle registration/title. 
  • Provide your proof of ownership documents (e.g. your previous state’s registration and title).
  • Pay the registration fees and taxes. 
  • Pass any required VIN inspections, vehicle safety inspections, and emissions tests. 

After that, you’ll be able to swap out your old license plates for your brand new Iowa plates. 

Be sure to check with your old state’s DMV to see if you’ll need to send back your license plates. 

While you’re at it, it’s also worth submitting a Change of Address notification to your old state DMV to inform them that your vehicle is no longer registered there. Alternatively, you can typically let them know if they send you another renewal notice.

In Iowa, vehicle registration and title transactions are handled by the Motor Vehicle Division, or MVD.

For official information, online services, and to find your local office, visit their website at: https://iowadot.gov/mvd

4. Update your Car Insurance Policy

One more thing to do with your car when moving is updating your insurance policy

Each state has slightly different requirements when it comes to car insurance. 

Which means, your old policy may not cut it or cover you if you get into an accident in Iowa. You are required to hold a car insurance policy for the Iowa in which you live and drive your vehicle.

In Iowa, the minimum car insurance requirements are:

  • $20,000 bodily injury liability per person
  • $40,000 bodily injury liability per accident
  • $15,000 property damage liability per accident

Depending on your driving habits, the drivers listed on your policy, and the type of car you drive, you’ll probably want to opt for some additional coverage beyond the minimums

Hold on there – it’s not as bad as it seems. This is actually a really great opportunity to compare quotes and save money

In general, you should schedule your new policy to kick in once you’ll start driving in your new state permanently. 

Once you know your moving date, shop around for quotes from different providers to see who can offer you the best rates. You can even get started here at Relocalate.com!

5. Register to Vote in Iowa

Next up – voter registration!

Sometimes you’ll have the option of doing this when you apply for your Iowa driver’s license or update your address. 

If not, you’ll want to make sure to register ASAP so that you’ll be eligible to vote in any upcoming elections. 

To get started on your voter registration application, find information about your local polling places, districts, and representatives, visit the official Iowa voter website at: https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/voterinformation/uocava.html

6. Update your Health Insurance and Find Healthcare Providers in Iowa

When you move to another state, you’ll need to update your health insurance and find new healthcare providers – doctors, dentists, optometrists, oh my!

Moving to a different state qualifies you for a Special Enrollment Period. This means that you’re able to change and update your health insurance plan outside of Open Enrollment. 

If you haven’t already done so through your employer, you can search for and update your health insurance coverage on the official Iowa health insurance website at: https://www.healthcare.gov/

You may also want to check in with your current doctors about getting copies of your medical records or finding out what will need to be done to get your records to your new providers.

7. Update Any Other Insurance Policies

More insurance… yeah, it’s a lot. But, when you need it, you’ll be glad you have it. 

Along with your car insurance policy and health coverage, you’ll also want to be sure to compare quotes and update any other policies you had or will need, including:

As with your car insurance policy, it’s definitely worth comparing quotes to get the best rates before you switch. 

Plus, if you need different policies, you may be able to get a deal when you bundle. This is a great way to save some serious cash – which is always a plus during a move. 

8. Update Any Banking, Loan, and Financial Information

Next up – and highly important – is your finances. 

When you move, you’ll definitely want to make sure to update your address with your:

  • Bank. 
  • Investment companies. 
  • Lenders.
  • Credit cards.

While your USPS mail forwarding will send any important documents from these institutions from your new address, you should be sure to update the address they have on file as soon as possible. 

9. Find your Child’s Iowa School District and Get them Enrolled

If you have children, you’ll want to get them ready for school. Before you move, inform your previous school district that you’ll need copies of your child’s school records and transcripts

You’ll also need to be prepared to submit your child’s vaccine records to the new school

Once you get settled, you’ll be ready with everything you need for the new school district to get them started. 

You can find out more about which Iowa school districts you need to contact on our city-specific moving guides.

10. Get Ready to File a Tax Return in Iowa

State Taxes – definitely not something anyone looks forward to, but an important thing to think about and prepare for when you move nonetheless. 

In Iowa, there is a progressive state income tax ranging from .33% to 8.53% across 9 tax brackets.

The highest tax rates come into effect at income over $75,420.

For more information about paying taxes and filing returns in Iowa, please visit the official state tax website at: https://tax.iowa.gov/

Remember, when you move to a new state, you’ll typically need to file a state tax return for your old state as well

In most cases, your tax liability will be split between each state by the percentage of the year you spent there. Talk to a tax professional if you have questions about your specific situation. 

11. Register your Pets & Find a Veterinarian 

Don’t forget your fur babies when you move! Moving can be just as stressful and exciting for your pets as it can be for you. 

Along with making them feel comfortable during the move and in their new home, there are also a few pieces of admin you should take care of. 

First, you’ll want to check with your new city or county if you’ll need to license and register your cat, dogs, and other animals. Be prepared to submit proof of vaccinations and pay a licensing fee if a pet license is required. 

Next, you’ll want to find a local vet. Before you move, it’s also a good idea to speak with your previous veterinarian office for copies of your pet’s medical records. This can make the transition to a new office much easier. 

And while you’re at it, it’s a great time to consider a pet insurance policy to cover any emergencies and standard procedures throughout the year. 

12. Utilities

Last on the list, but certainly not least – is making sure you’ve coordinated all of your utility services. 

This includes:

  • Gas and electricity.
  • Water.
  • Trash services.
  • Internet.
  • Cable.
  • Phone services.

Before you move out, notify your current utility providers of your end of service date and pay your final bill.

Before you move into your new home, be sure to contact your local utility providers to set up an account to make sure you have service when you arrive.

What to Expect when Moving to Iowa?

Once you’re settled, you’ll be able to get to know your new home a little better. Here is some information about Iowa to get you started!

Iowa is a Midwestern state that you’ll find in the center of America. 

It has an average population density of 15 people per square mile, which makes it quite rural! 

The cost for living there is about 13% cheaper than the national average. 

You might hear some funny sayings from people as they get to know your accent and dialect – but don’t let this scare you! 

You will fit right in with these Iowans because no one can argue that Iowa’s vast farmland, low crime rates, and affordable housing aren’t worth every minute spent exploring them! 

It just takes some time to adjust to all the new surroundings. But once you do acclimate yourself, you’ll feel right at home.

Read more about living in Iowa.