Military Spouse Licensing Relief Act
Update: 7/21/2023: When President Joe Biden signed legislation mandating interstate license transfer standards for military spouses, it was done with the understanding that the law would be implemented within a reasonable time after passage.
However, at press time, the Department of Justice issued formal reminders to state governments; these were designed to help states move forward with recent DoD license transfer policies for military spouses associated with permanent change of station moves.
DoD official sites, including Military OneSource, note “Because of the delays and expense involved in re-licensure, many states have implemented or are in the process of implementing license portability measures for military spouses that may include expedited applications, temporary licenses, or license reciprocity.”
Visit the Department of Labor Military Spouse Interstate License Recognition Options for up-to-date information in your state.
Military spouses seem to have issues with the license transfer process because state agencies aren’t always aware of the new requirements or the law that was passed. If this applies to you, 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.
Military Spouse Licensing Act: What You Should Know
In the first week of 2023, the President signed the Military Spouse Licensing Relief Act into law, as part of the Veterans Auto and Education Improvement Act of 2022. This move was meant to help military spouses to transfer professional licenses when following a spouse to a new military assignment.
The act was not just a major step forward for military spouses but also an important milestone in federal law itself.
Some sources report this is “the first time” a new federal law requires states to accept licenses from outside their jurisdiction. And this law isn’t just meant for spouses, it also protects the service member.
Pro Licensing: Typically an Issue for the States
According to the United States Department of Labor official site, “Generally speaking, licenses are state-specific and each state has their own licensing requirements. Laws vary by state and before you can establish yourself in a new state, you should understand the laws of the state in order to get your license there.”
Why was this Act necessary? There have been moves over the years between individual states to improve professional license reciprocity, but there have been many problems along the way and until the advent of the ederal law, this reciprocity has not been standardized.
According to DoD sources, there are more than 130 thousand active-duty military spouses who need licensing and/or reciprocal licensing options such as the ones found in the law. Nearly 40% of all military spouses could benefit from these changes.
What did the Law Change?
There are now basic minimum standards if you want to transfer a license to another state. For example, you must be in good standing with your current license, and the new state should accept a license that is similar in scope to those required in the gaining state as long as you have used that license in the last two years before relocating.
Exclusions to the Law
As the Act is written, if a given state has an existing agreement with other states for occupational license transfers that existing compact may take precedence over federal law depending on circumstances.
That’s not the only exception to the law; licenses may transfer for a variety of occupations, but there is one profession excluded by name–those with licenses needed for a legal practice are NOT covered by the Military Spouse Licensing Act.
Family advocates say the provision is good news for military families, but they also have many questions, such as how states will implement the law.
How to Apply for a Professional License Transfer
If you are a military spouse, you should begin looking into your professional license transfer options the moment you know there are PCS orders to a new location.
The first thing to do is to contact your current licensing board to discuss any requirements it may have to transfer your credentials and ask about any future requirements should you return to the state your license was originally issued in.
Next, contact the equivalent of that board in the state you are moving to and ask what may be required from you to transfer a license.
For example, can you start the transfer process before you move to the state? How long (if at all) must you live in the new state before you can apply for a license? You may or may not be subject to residency requirements, or you may need specific documentation to apply.
Find Your Licensing Board
You can use an online resource such as the U.S. Department of Labor-sponsored CareerOneStop, which has a licensing board locator tool.
When you find the board you need, contact them, identify yourself as a military spouse seeking reciprocal licensing information between that state and the state you are in, and be sure to ask what specific programs are offered for military spouses seeking a new or transferred license in the new state.
About the author
Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.