Universal Licensure Recognition

Tatiana Follett, Zach Herman and Iris Hentze 3/2/2021

Occupational licensing laws require workers to submit verification of training, testing, and education—and often pay associated fees—before beginning a job in their chosen field. When implemented appropriately, this can help ensure qualified individuals are practicing in a given profession and increases overall public safety and welfare.  

However, because licensing laws are established independently by each state government, significant differences and disparities in licensing requirements often exist across states. The National Bureau of Economic Research has found that interstate migration becomes limited as occupational licensing laws require workers to reverify and test to practice each time they move to or wish to work in another state.  

What Is Universal Licensure Recognition? 

Universal licensure is a state recognizing when a person’s occupational license that was granted in one state is recognized as valid in another state. This process is not automatic. Most often, licensees must meet certain residency, testing, background check and other requirements, as well as pay all applicable fees in order to practice in the new state.  Currently, 11 states have enacted bills that require their occupational boards to allow individuals with out-of-state licenses to obtain a valid occupational license to practice, with some limitations.

With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, more states are looking at changing their occupational licensing requirements in emergency situations to better prepare for the high demand of certain professions. Current state legislation on the issue also aims at broadening universal licensure beyond temporary situations that focus on individual professions.  

Common Aspects Explained 

Universal licensing laws can still contain specifications about exactly how someone can transfer their licenses with them. 

Universal licensure laws, while allowing for people to bring their occupational licensing with them between states, still contain specifications licensees must meet to qualify. Qualifications can include: additional training requirements, substantially similar scope of practice, length of time applicant has had their current license, no active disciplinary proceedings or complaints, paying all applicable fees, or taking state exams. 

For example, Colorado’s enacted legislation from 2020 creates an occupational credential portability program allowing an applicant who is licensed and in good standing in another state to seek licensure through an expedited process for dozens of regulated professions in the state.

Out-of-state occupational licenses are not automatically recognized as a person moves, and workers must still put in a new application in the states that they move to. 

Workers who move to a different state must still apply for a license through the appropriate state licensing authority before being able to work. What is commonly waived is the requirement to duplicate training for a certain number of years that comes with most occupational licenses. The licensing requirements from the original state also might have to match the state where the individual is moving to. This is the case in Pennsylvania, where licenses from another state must have substantially similar requirements to those that are required by the occupational boards inside the state. 

Security paperwork and background checks do not move between different states. 

For example, Arizona, Idaho, New Jersey and other states that have passed this legislation still require individuals who work in occupations that require background checks to complete those background checks when applying for an occupational license. A criminal background can still disqualify an individual seeking to practice inside the state. 

Individuals with out-of-state licenses typically must pay the licensing fee or take the individual state licensing test when applying in a different state.   

Individuals who apply for licensure by this model must pay all fees relevant to that application. Some universal recognition laws also require that an applicant pass the state licensing exam to qualify. Test scores from one state to another are not guaranteed to transfer. 



Bill Description and Requirements 



HB 19-2569 

Occupational licenses shall be issued for applicants who pay all applicable fees and are residents of Arizona or are the accompanying family member of an active duty member, if: the person is currently licensed in another state for the same discipline and practice level, their license is in good standing, they have been licensed for at least one year  and have passed a criminal background check.  

Enacted. A.R.S. § 32-4302.  


AB 20-2185 

This bill would require each board within the department to issue a license to an applicant in the discipline for which the applicant applies if the person currently holds a license in good standing in another state in the discipline and practice level for which the person applies and if the person meets specified requirements, including that the person has held the license and has practiced in the licensed field in the other state for at least three of the last five years and pays all applicable fees.  



HB 20-1326 

Concerning an expansion of an individual's ability to practice an occupation in Colorado through creation of an occupational credential portability program. It would apply to most professions and occupations regulated by the division of professions and occupations within the department of regulatory agencies. Requires the director of the division and most regulatory boards and commissions within the division (regulators) to strive to reduce certification, registration, and licensure barriers for applicants. 



HB 20-1193 

An act relating to the deregulation of professions and occupations 



HB 20-773

A bill to be entitled an act to amend Title 43 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to professions and businesses, to provide for reciprocal licensing of professions, occupations, and trades for individuals licensed outside of the State of Georgia; to provide for definitions; to provide for exceptions; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.  



SB 20-1351 

(1) A licensing authority shall establish a procedure for the issuance to a person who: 6(a) Possesses current, valid, and unrestricted licensure in another state, district, or territory of the United States; and 8(b) Demonstrates competency in the profession or occupation through methods determined by the licensing board or commission. 



HF 20-2470 

S  20-2393 

A bill for an act relating to qualifications for holding professional licensure in this state, including the granting of licenses to persons licensed in other states and acquiring residence in Iowa, disqualification provisions for criminal convictions, the waiver of application fees, and licensee discipline, and including effective date provisions. 


A bill for an act relating to the granting of professional licenses, certificates, and registrations to persons licensed in other states, and including effective date provisions.  




HB 19-432 

A bill to require an occupational licensing authority to issue a license or government certification to an applicant who holds a license, government certification, or private certification or has satisfactory work experience in another state under certain circumstances. 



HB 21-1981 

The Universal Licensing Recognition Act provides for licensing and reciprocity agreements for certain licenses and requirements. 



HB 1263

The Universal Recognition of Occupational Licenses Act establishes a pathway for workers holding an occupational license in another state, working in a state where a license is not required or holding a private license, to obtain a Mississippi state license. 



HB 20-2046 

Provides that Mississippi occupational licensing boards shall issue a license to an applicant who establishes residence in this state if the applicant holds a current license in good standing from another state, has been licensed by the other state for at least one year and satisfies certain other conditions; provides that the license issued to the applicant will be in the discipline applied for and at the same practice level as determined by the occupational licensing board. Enacted


HB 19-105

A board shall issue a license to practice without examination to an applicant if the board determines that the original state’s license standards are substantially equivalent and is in good standing. This does not prevent a board from entering into a reciprocity agreement with another state.  


MCA § 37-1-304. 

Nebraska LB 21-263 Would allow licensees who have held their credential in another state for at least one year and who are in good standing with their home licensing board to be eligible to recieve a license in the state. The bill would require the applicant's home state license to have a similar scope of practice as what is required in Nebraska, determined by the licensing board. Additionally, the bill would also allow applicants with a military certification or experience to be eligible for a license.  Pending.

New Jersey 

AB 18-1531 

An act that allows for boards to issue occupational licenses to applicants who have paid the application fee and consented to a criminal background check, if: the state they received their original license from has requirements substantially similar to New Jersey’s, they have held their license for at least five years, and they are in good standing with the original state board.  


NJ Rev Stat § 45: 1-7.5. 


HB 19-1172 

An act providing for licensure by endorsement. Licensing board or commissions shall issue occupational licenses to applicants who hold a current license in a state whose licensing requirements are substantially equivalent to their own, have at least two years of experience, hold licenses in good standing, and pay any fees established by the board.  


P.L. 292, No.41. 

South Dakota HB 21-1077 Passed earlier this year, the legislation allows an applicants to be issued a license to practice in the state as long as they hold a license in good standing in another state, territory or country with substantially equivalent licensing requirements. Applicants must also be able to demonstrate competency in the profession or occupation to the licensing board, complete continuing education requirements and pay all applicable fees.  Enacted.
Utah SB 20-23 Utah passed universal recognition as part of it's Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing Amendments bill in 2020. The legislation allows the state to issue a license by endorsement to an applicant currently holding a license in another state, district or territory given that they meet certain conditions. These conditions include that the applicant must be licensed for at least one year, in good standing with their home licensing board and holding a license that encompasses a similar scope of practice as the license they are seeking in Utah.


Utah Code § 58-1-302 


HB 20-2354 

The department of licensing must establish procedures to expedite the issuance of professional licenses to a person who is licensed in another state that is substantially equivalent to those required in Washington and whose license is in good standing. Applicants will be granted a temporary license to keep practicing in the state while waiting for their application to be approved. 


West Virginia HB 21-2007 Would create a an application method for individuals who have been licensed in another state for at least one year and are in good standing to seek licensure in the state. Would prohibit certain applicants from having access to this process if they have ever had a license suspended or revoked in another state or if they have any pending investigations or disciplinary proceedings against them in another state. Would require occupational licensing boards to make a decision on an applicant within sixty days and would create an appeal mechanism for a person to appeal the board's ultimate decision. Pending.


SB 21-18 

Establishes a temporary license program for military spouses and outlines the requirements for temporary licensure.