Improving Professional License Transfers for Military Spouses
Update: 7/21/2023: In early 2023, President Joe Biden signed legislation mandating interstate license transfer standards for military spouses. However, six months later at press time, the Department of Justice felt the need to send formal reminders to state governments; these nudges were designed to help states move forward with recent DoD license transfer policies for military spouses associated with permanent change of station moves.
A Military.com report on this issue notes that the implementation of certain rules signed into law by the President on January 5, 2023 must be heeded, but a lack of awareness of the new law is responsible for slow and spotty implementation.
Typically, military spouses seem to encounter trouble with the license transfer issue because the appropriate agencies aren’t always aware the law was passed. If this is true in your case, or you aren’t sure of your rights or responsibilities under the laws discussed below, contact your gaining base’s Legal Office for assistance.
The Legal Office cannot represent you in civilian affairs but can advise you about your rights and obligations under the law as a military spouse.
License Transfers for Military Spouses: How to Improve
In February 2020, the Department of Defense provided a report to Congress titled Military Spouse Licensure: State Best Practices and Strategies for Achieving Reciprocity. This report discusses paths to improvement for states’ licensing practices. The long-term solutions outlined in this report include the full implementation of interstate compacts.
Military Spouse Residency Relief Act
While it’s obvious where you physically live, navigating residency and domicile can be complicated for military spouses. Where you claim residency and domicile can impact the process of renewing or transferring licenses.
The Military Spouse Residency Relief Act is a 2018 Amendment to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act designed to allow military spouses to choose to establish residency in the same state as their active duty service member or to establish residency with each PCS. Your state of residency, however, could influence the cost and eligibility of licensure in some states.
Transferring a license or certification to a new state often requires licensing fees. Military spouses arguably go through the rigmarole of license transfer more frequently than civilians holding the same licenses. As of 2018, military spouses are eligible for up to $1,000 in reimbursement for licensure and certification costs resulting from PCS moves.
Many states support military spouses through expedited applications, issuing temporary licenses, or recognizing existing licenses from other states. The US Department of Labor provides a Military Spouse Interstate License Recognition Options map that provides an overview of the rights of military spouses in all 50 states.
Agreements that Improve License Transfer Processes
Eliminating barriers to licensing transfer has important benefits for military spouses – reducing costs and limiting periods of unemployment. It also has benefits for the general public. Many career fields that meet the needs of the community – like healthcare – suffer from a shortage of qualified workers in that field. Expediting licensure processes and eliminating barriers improves the number of qualified people in the workforce.
Attorneys can connect through the Military Spouse JD Network, which supports spouses in the legal profession through advocacy, education, and through networking. Attorneys are required to hold a separate license in each state – a process that can take up to a year and cost thousands of dollars.
- There is progress to be made: many military spouses have passed 3 or 4 different bar examinations.
It should be noted that DoD spouse license policies typically do not apply to the legal profession, at least where lawyers are concerned.
The EMS Compact has been planned since 2012 and requires expedited licensure processing for veterans, active duty military members, and military spouses who hold emergency medicine certifications (EMR, EMT, paramedic).
- There is still room for improvement: not all states currently participate.
The Nurse Licensure Compact allows licensed nurses to continue practicing in other states – including practicing telemedicine – without having to obtain additional licenses. This agreement has been supporting healthcare improvement for over 18 years.
- There is still room for improvement: not all states are members of the compact.
The Physical Therapy Compact makes physical therapists and physical therapist assistants eligible to work within multiple states. Several states waive fees for active duty military, veterans, and spouses.
The Interstate Medical Licensure Compact expedites licensure for physicians already practicing medicine and allows them to practice in multiple states.
- There is still room for improvement: not all states participate in the compact.
The Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact was developed primarily to promote the use of telepsychology. It is not yet fully operational, but when it is, it will decrease barriers for those in the field of psychology.
The Bottom Line
The employment landscape for military spouses who hold professional licenses is improving. But there is progress to be made. These compacts are not perfect. If you are preparing to PCS, contact the licensing board in the state you are moving to for specific details about your rights as a military spouse in that state and license transfer requirements.
A military spouse and attorney co-founded MissionLICENSE. This organization supports and advocates for military spouses in navigating licensure transfers from state to state in any profession. If you aren’t finding the answers you need, perhaps this organization can support you in successfully transferring a professional license.
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- OCONUS Jobs for Healthcare Professionals
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- Spouses Reimbursed for Licensing & Certification Fees
- Military Spouse Employment: Most Common Struggles
- New Virtual Paid Fellowship for Veterans and Military Spouses