Membrane proteins are the main gatekeepers of cellular state, especially in neurons, serving either to maintain homeostasis or instruct response to synaptic input or other external signals. Visualization of membrane protein localization and trafficking in live cells facilitates understanding the molecular basis of cellular dynamics. We describe here a method for specifically labeling the plasma membrane-localized fraction of heterologous membrane protein expression using channelrhodopsins as a case study. We show that the genetically encoded, covalent binding SpyTag and SpyCatcher pair from the Streptococcus pyogenes fibronectin-binding protein FbaB can selectively label membrane-localized proteins in living cells in culture and in vivo in Caenorhabditis elegans. The SpyTag/SpyCatcher covalent labeling method is highly specific, modular, and stable in living cells. We have used the binding pair to develop a channelrhodopsin membrane localization assay that is amenable to high-throughput screening for opsin discovery and engineering.