Comparing Universal Licensure Recognition and Interstate Compacts

In recent years, states have worked to reduce barriers to interstate mobility for licensed professionals through interstate licensure compacts—statutorily enacted agreements among states allowing licensees to practice across state lines—and universal license recognition laws, in which a single state determines its unique process to grant a license by endorsement to a license holder from another state or territory. These policies help to solve similar problems, but there are several major differences. Notably, compacts are tailored to a particular profession and allow licensees to engage in interstate practice in all compact member states, whereas universal recognition laws attempt to account for most or all professions a state regulates, but only with regard to practice within that state’s borders. The following resource provides a summary comparison of some of the benefits states may realize from each policy.

New Study: Stringent Occupational Licensing Hinders Teacher Mobility, but not Out-of-State Teacher Quality

The Effect of Occupational Licensing Stringency on the Teacher Quality Distribution,” a recent study sponsored by the National Bureau of Economic Research, finds stricter licensing laws diminish teacher mobility but does not meaningfully affect the quality of teachers coming from other states. The study’s findings may be particularly illuminating for states with teacher shortages, where improving pathways for out-of-state teacher licensure recognition can be useful strategy to increase teacher mobility without harming public welfare.

The study additionally found that increasing the stringency of teacher licensing, especially through more rigorous academic coursework, for in-state candidates can discourage lower quality teachers but does not affect the overall average teacher quality. The increased stringency does not disproportionality affect high-poverty districts or teacher candidate diversity either.  

This study analyzed 37 distinct dimensions of teacher certification, accounting for changes over the time period 1991 to 2007, with a sample of 26,280 teachers. Teacher quality was measured primarily on the competitiveness of the undergraduate institutions where they completed a bachelor’s degree. From the data, teacher migration within a state (or teachers moving across district lines) was found to be 23% and cross-state migration to only be 2%, a sharp contrast. The fact that increased stringency in licensing can decrease cross-state migration even further suggests a significant challenge for states to address in order to attract more teachers.

Hindered teacher mobility can contribute to teacher shortages seen across the U.S. States having trouble finding teachers within their borders may be able to attract workers from other states. However, differing state licensing processes may deter teachers from investing time in going through a process they have already completed.

Teaching is an especially interesting profession to study the effects of licensure on mobility due to the substantial variance in state-regulated licensing processes. The requirements diverge depending on the student age group and content area, further complicating teacher mobility. For example, Arizona uniquely requires all teachers applying for licensure to take coursework on the Arizona and U.S. Constitutions. These often complicated and cumbersome structures, as well as pension concerns, make it very difficult for teachers to transfer a license across state lines and therefore such transitions are very rare.

Despite these issues, many states worry that more lenient licensing laws could lead to diminished public benefits by affecting the quality of incoming teachers. This question encompasses what is often the core debate when it comes to occupational licensing policy: balancing public protection with the resulting economic burden of regulation. This study, however, provides evidence that for the teaching profession, the quality of services provided are not diminished when schools hire out-of-state teachers.

Some states have worked to make it easier for teachers to move across states, such as the 47 states that have joined the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) Interstate Agreement. However, this Agreement only standardizes two requirements: earning a bachelor’s degree and completing an educator preparation program. Other developments include the recognition of National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) certification as a pathway for licensure in 32 states – though the effectiveness of this is unclear considering the rigorous process of National Board certification alone. For example, the process is burdensome, often taking between one and three years and costing the applicant around $1,975.

For more information on teacher licensure mobility, CSG recently published a white paper, “The State of Teacher Licensure and Mobility,” covering the inconsistencies in the licensing processes across states, including state-specific assessment and coursework requirements. CSG also facilitated a teacher licensure webinar series to foster a productive conversation among policymakers, researchers and teachers about the best practices for constructing licensing processes that attract teachers. The series include sessions on the importance, barriers, and logistics of interstate mobility for teacher licensure.

Comparing Universal Licensure Recognition Policies

As states seek ways to improve occupational licensure portability for out-of-state workers, “universal licensure recognition” laws have gained popularity. Since 2019, eight states have either implemented new or reworked existing license portability policies that may be defined under the universal licensure recognition model. The model generally sets less restrictive and more uniform licensure portability standards across most or all licensed occupations within the state.

While these universal license recognition laws do not provide for “true reciprocity” (instantaneous recognition of another state’s license) and may still require an application process and discretion by the licensing board, they have the intended effect of lowering the threshold for license portability in a state and reducing time to licensure. States also may particularly benefit from the policy’s ability to be enacted unilaterally over a short period of time and the opportunity to set alternative pathways to licensure.

Universal licensure recognition policies are not new. Several states have previously enacted policies allowing for broad licensure recognition for out-of-state workers and more commonly, for military members, veterans and their spouses. However, there has been a renewed effort by states, starting with Arizona and Pennsylvania in 2019, to evolve the construction of these policies under the brand of universal licensure recognition and allow for a wider access to practice than a state’s general policies or statutes may otherwise afford.

The Council of State Governments (CSG) has identified 12 states that have enacted some type of universal recognition policy for out-of-state licensed workers. Because these policies vary in design and scope, CSG has analyzed their similarities and differences to assist states in understanding the specific nature of the policies as states seek to refine their existing licensure rules.

States with Universal Licensure Recognition Policies*

*States that enacted policies in 2018 or earlier may exhibit fewer common characteristics than policies enacted 2019 or later.

Common Universal Licensure Recognition Policy Features

“Shall Clause”

Universal licensure recognition policies stipulate that the proper licensing board/authority “shall” implement the policy or issue a license under the policy, with some exceptions. Twelve states have “shall” clauses in their universal licensure recognition. Nevada and New Hampshire exempt a licensing authoring it there is an existing licensure recognition policy in effect for the occupation in question.

Four states require at least one year of experience.

Three states do not require any minimum amount of experience.

Three states allow the licensing board/authority to determine the minimum experience necessary (if any).

Two states require that an applicant have practiced in the profession within a certain amount of time preceding the date of the application:

New Jersey mandates that an applicant have “practiced in the profession for which licensure in this state is sought, within the five years prior to the date of the application.”

Pennsylvania states that an applicant must “demonstrate competency in the profession or occupation through methods determined by the licensing board or commission, including having completed continuing education or having experience in the profession or occupation for at least two of the five years preceding the date of the application under this section.”

Scope of Practice and Practice Levels

Some states include language mandating the license held by an out-of-state applicant be equivalent in the level of practice and/or scope of practice.

Seven states include scope of practice and/or practice level equivalency requirements. Idaho allows an applicant the ability to receive a limited license if the scope of practice comparison contains additional training requirements.

Five states do not specifically address scope of practice or practice level comparisons   

Equal/Substantially Equal Requirement

Seven states stipulate the requirements for licensure in the applicant’s “originating” state license must be equal or substantially equal to the “destination” state’s licensure requirements (i.e. the state with the universal licensure recognition policy). Discretion for what constitutes “equal or substantially equal” may be left to the licensing board/authority.

Additional Required Examination (ARE)

Seven states specifically allow licensing authorities to require additional examination (such as a jurisprudence exam) before a license is granted.

Applicable Occupations/Professions

Six states apply universal licensure recognition policies to all licensed occupations/professions, while six others make the policy specific to a certain authorizing title and/or exempt certain occupations.

Ten states exempt reciprocity agreements and/or interstate compacts.

Two states do not have language in their policies which specifically exempts reciprocity agreements and interstate compacts.

Residency Requirement

Two states specifically require that an out-of-state licensee establish residence in the new state to receive licensure.

Universal Licensure Recognition Policy Comparison Chart

StateYearBill/Statute“Shall” ClauseMinimum ExperienceSOP*/Practice LevelEqual/Similar RequirementsARE*Applicable ProfessionsExemptionsResidency
AZ2019HB 2569Yes1 yearPractice Level EquivalencyNoYesTitle specific,
with exemptions
CO2020HB 20-1326YesOther2N/AYesYesTitle specific,
with exemptions
ID2020SB 1351YesOther2SOP Equivalency3NoYesAll licensed occupationsYesNo
IA2020HF 2627Yes1 yearSOP EquivalencyNoYesAll licensed occupations,
 with exceptions
MO2020HB 2046Yes1 yearPractice Level EquivalencyNoYesAll licensed occupationsYesNo
MT2019HB 0105YesN/AN/AYesNoTitle specificYesNo
NV2017SB 69Yes1Other2N/AYesYesAll licensed occupationsYesNo
NH2018SB 334Yes1N/ASOP EquivalencyYesNoAll licensed occupationsYesNo
NJ2013AB 1545YesOther2SOP EquivalencyYes4YesTitle specific,
with exemptions
NM2016SB 105YesN/AN/AYesNoAll licensed occupationsNoNo
PA2019HB 1172YesOther2N/AYes4NoAll licensed occupationsYesNo
UT2020SB 23Yes1 yearSOP EquivalencyNoNoTitle specificYesNo
Updated 12.15.20
*SOP (Scope of Practice); ARE (Additional Required Examination)
1 May include some exceptions
2 Policy includes some other criteria for experience or is determined by the individual licensing authority/board
3 Limited license available
4 Additional pathways to licensure recognition available

State Outlook: Occupational Licensing Policies in the COVID-19 Era

As the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread quickly throughout the United States, it became readily apparent to state leaders that health care workforce capacities might be overwhelmed. Many states provisionally amended occupational licensure policies to reduce regulatory burdens and increase the capacity of hospitals. Non-health care occupations also were temporarily relieved of certain licensing requirements, especially those reliant on in-person services such as continuing education. All 50 states and Washington D.C. passed some licensure streamlining actions in 2020, typically through executive orders and administrative rule changes. These changes are analyzed in a recent policy report by The Council of State Governments (CSG) researchers: “Assessing COVID-19 Occupational Licensing Policy Actions”.

Continue reading “State Outlook: Occupational Licensing Policies in the COVID-19 Era”

Sunrise Review Processes by State

As states assess ways to improve the occupational licensure policy process, the use of “sunrise reviews” has garnered renewed interest. A sunrise review is a specific, data-informed analysis completed before proposed regulations are considered by a state legislature. The result is better information about the proposed benefits, and potential drawbacks, of the considered regulation. For occupational licensing policy, this review allows states to consider the economic and public safety effects that licensure affords. The Council of State Governments (CSG) has identified 14 states that maintain a process for occupational licensure sunrise reviews: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

Sunrise review processes vary from state-to-state, according to types of occupations included, standards for licensure, requesting entities, application contents, report authors, report contents and process timeline. This policy brief examines and compares these policies to inform states considering implementation of sunrise processes.

Occupation Type

  • Eleven states have sunrise processes that are inclusive of any occupation proposed for licensure (with Arizona alone having separate processes for health and non-health occupations).
  • Nebraska, Virginia and Washington utilize such processes for only health occupations.

Standards for Licensure

  • Eight states specify their standards for licensure in the sunrise statute while five states do not -standards usually include some criteria for maintaining the public’s health, safety and welfare.
  • Ohio and Minnesota note how the regulation will increase economic opportunities and promote competition.

Requesting Entity

  • Eight states specify the use of an “applicant group”, usually defined as a business, professional group, organization, individual or other interested party, to originate the process. Non-state entities typically must complete an application to be used for consideration in the sunrise review process.
  • Minnesota and Florida simply list the “proponents of the bill” as the requesting entity.
  • Other states originate the process when legislation is introduced or allow for a directed review from a state entity.
    • Hawaii refers pertinent legislation to the state auditor.
    • In Ohio, the sunrise review process is automatically enacted when any legislation proposing to change occupational regulation is introduced.
    • Nebraska allows the Director of Public Health and the Chairperson of the Health and Human Services Committee to initiate a review at any time.

Application Contents

  • Eleven states utilize an application process either before or in conjunction with the sunrise review.
  • Nine states require a description of the occupational or professional group that has applied for regulation.
  • Most states require some statement of the problem and why the proposed regulation, revision or change in scope of practice is necessary, as well as what efforts already have been made to address the problem.
    • West Virginia requires a statement about the funding mechanism from which the proposed regulation will be paid.
    • Idaho requires the application include a draft of the proposed legislation.

Report Contents

  • A core function of sunrise review processes is an analysis of the proposed regulatory change.
  • Reports usually include analyses of:
    • relevant resources,
    • costs and benefits,
    • potential threats or harm to the public,
    • other means by which the public might be protected, and
    • previous efforts to address the issue.
  • If applicable, content from sunrise applications may be used in the review.

Report Author

  • Common committees or offices that create these reports are specific to occupational licensure. For example:
    • the Occupational Regulation Review Council in Georgia,
    • the Office of Professional Regulation in Vermont, and
    • the research division of the Legislative Auditor in West Virginia.
  • Three states require the applicant groups also to complete the report while most others employ the use of a research committee or state office for that task.
  • Arizona, Colorado and Florida simply assign “the appropriate legislative committee” or “the state agency proposed to have jurisdiction over the regulation” to complete the report.
  • Ohio and Hawaii assign the report to a specific person or position (e.g. the State Auditor and the Director of the legislative services committee, respectively).

Report Reviewer

  • The reports are submitted to just the legislature in four states, while others employ varying review processes.
    • In Virginia, reports are submitted to the Board of Health.
    • In Colorado, reports are submitted to both the requesting occupational group and the General Assembly.
    • In Idaho, reports are submitted to an occupational and professional licensure review committee created for the purpose of sunrise review processes.
  • After reviewing these reports, the chosen state entity may make recommendations to the legislature about the proposed regulation.

Timeline for Report

  • States set different timelines for reports based on the calendar year, legislative process or other factors. Four states list specific dates, while six states identify a period of time after the application is first presented by the applicant group.
    • Ohio only requires the report be completed in “a timely manner.”
    • Arizona has two different deadlines: November 1st for health professions and September 1st for non-health professions.

Sunrise review processes differ most in terms of smaller details like the timeline for reports or who can author reports. The broader components of the review process, such as the report contents or standards for licensure, are fairly consistent and provide a framework for states considering a sunrise review process. A summary of each state’s process may be found in the following CSG resource.

Comparing Military Fee Waivers for Licensed Occupations

Comparing Military Fee Waivers for Licensed Occupations

Military service members, their spouses, and veterans, are among those disproportionately impacted by occupational licensure policy.  With frequent interstate relocations and a propensity for employment in licensed occupations, this population is particularly affected by licensure fees, which must be paid to keep a license active or upon each relocation to a new state.

The adverse impact is exacerbated by the potential for required licensure in multiple states over a career in a licensed occupation. Even if states offer less restrictive license portability policies or expedited licensure, fees remain a barrier.

In response, states have made strides to address fees, with 22 states implementing some form of occupational license fee waiver for the population group. However, the policies include certain differences in design and features.

Covered Applicant Type (Active Duty Military Members, Veterans, Military Spouses)

  • Seven states waive fees either for active duty members and veterans.
  • Seven states waive fees for active duty members, their spouses, and those with past military service.
  • Five states waive fees only for active duty members and their spouses.
  • Three states waive solely one applicant type.

Current or Relocating Residents

  • Thirteen states have some form of waiver for current residents and those relocating to the state.
  • Seven states’ fee waivers cover only current residents.
  • Texas and Arkansas cover only military members and spouses in the process of relocating to their states.

Initial and Renewal Fees

  • Eleven states’ fee waivers cover both the initial and renewal fees.
  • Six states cover renewal fees or prevent fees from expiration. In the case of Georgia, this is more specific, with the waiver covering renewal fees if the license lapses while the individual is serving out of state.
  • Five state policies cover only the initial licensing fees.

Additional Approaches

Beyond the trends outlined above, there are unique policies that provide supplemental support to military members, their spouses, and/or veterans:

  • In Oregon, the statute establishes a veteran’s assistance emergency fund that can be used for a variety of needs including emergency housing and food, employment assistance, and professional licensing costs. This fund can be utilized by those with past military service and some Oregon National Guard members.
  • In Virginia, a state with a large military presence, the statutory solution is to prevent any expiration (and therefore reinstatement costs) of licenses during any period of service. This applies to the spouse of the service member as well, as long as the spouse accompanies the service member outside the United States.
  • In some states, the fee waiver statute focuses on specific occupations with beneficiaries including teachers in Ohio and lawyers, healthcare professionals, and realtors in Nebraska.

Federal Policies

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 allows each service branch to reimburse spouses up to $1,000 for state re-licensure and certification costs resulting from relocations or permanent change of station, including moves stateside from outside the contiguous United States.

Licensing Fee Waiver Policy Comparison Chart

Below is the summarized data of state military fee waiver policies

  • The Active, Spouse, and Veteran columns represent which subsets of the military population are covered by the waiver in that state.
  • The Waiver Type column describes whether the waiver covers relocating residents, current residents, or both.
  • The Initial and Renewal columns indicate whether the waiver covers the initial licensure fees or the fees for a license renewal.
  • The Covered Occupations column describes what licensed occupations or licensing departments are covered by the waiver. 
StateActiveVeteranSpouseWaiver TypeInitialRenewalCovered OccupationsLink
FloridaYesYesYesAllYesYesFlorida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Occupations32.455.02
GeorgiaNoYesNoCurrent3NoYesAllGA SOS
MichiganYesYesNoCurrentYesYesAllMI LARA
NebraskaYesYesYesAllYesYesNebraska Department of Health and Social Services, Occupations, Lawyers, Realtors, TeachersNE VA
North CarolinaYesYesYesAllYesNoAll93B-15.1
North DakotaYesNoYesCurrentNoYesAll43-51-11.1
OhioYesNoYesAllYesYesTeachersOH DOE
OklahomaYesNoYesAllYesNoAllSB 670
South DakotaYesYesYesAllYesYesAll36-1-1
UtahYesNoYesAllYesYesUtah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing Occupations58.1.301
West VirginiaYesNoNoAllYesYesAll30.18.1
WisconsinYes1NoYesCurrentYesNoAllWI Act 209
1 Waiver covers National Guard and Reserve service members.
2 Statute establishes an emergency fund to assist veterans in covering licensing fees.
3 Waiver covers licenses that expired while serving out of state.

U.S. Air Force to Evaluate State Occupational Licensing Policies for Future Basing Decisions

In February, the United States Air Force released new criteria-based framework for its basing decision evaluation process that assesses state occupational licensing policies for supporting military families. The initiative by the Air Force is part of a larger trend by state policy makers and the departments of the military to facilitate interstate migration by military families and lower barriers to employment caused by occupational licensing.

Continue reading “U.S. Air Force to Evaluate State Occupational Licensing Policies for Future Basing Decisions”

Occupational Licensing – State COVID-19 Responses

  • The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in shortages of qualified, licensed health care and other related professions that are needed to support state and local responses.
  • States have been enacting measures to modify existing licensing regulations that remove barriers that may prevent an individual to assist in response efforts.
  • Many states have been granting temporary licensure for out-of-state professionals or those that are otherwise retired, still in training, or have lapsed licenses.
  • Certain health care practitioners in some states are being granted expanded scopes of practice.
  • Other states are removing barriers to allow for greater use of telemedicine services.
  • States are also waiving or suspending certain requirements related to the maintenance or attainment of licenses where they might require physical travel, interactions or might otherwise be difficult to achieve during the crisis.
Continue reading “Occupational Licensing – State COVID-19 Responses”

Wisconsin Considering Sunrise Legislation

Legislation recently introduced in Wisconsin could change the way the state studies proposed occupational licensing regulations. Sponsored by Senator Chris Kapenga and Representative Rob Hutton, Senate Bill 541 calls for the establishment of a sunrise review process that would formally require certain information to be collected and analyzed during the legislative process.

Continue reading “Wisconsin Considering Sunrise Legislation”

Consortium States Present Occupational Licensure Reform Successes at Washington D.C. Briefing

On November 13th, The Council of State Governments, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Governor’s Association, and representatives from the states participating in the Occupational Licensing Policy Learning Consortium were on hand to share some of the successes stemming from the multi-year, Department of Labor funded project. The event saw over 60 individuals in attendance, representing a variety of public and nonprofit policy organizations.

Continue reading “Consortium States Present Occupational Licensure Reform Successes at Washington D.C. Briefing”