Virginia Enacts Universal Recognition for Out-of-State Licenses

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · March 3, 2023

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Friday signed legislation that will recognize many out-of-state licenses, a reform that will let experienced workers operate freely in Virginia without having to complete duplicative training or tests. With the governor’s signature, Virginia is now the 20th state that has enacted some form of universal license recognition.

“Workers don’t lose their job skills when they cross state lines, but occupational licensing laws often treat them like they do,” said Institute for Justice Legislative Counsel Jessica Poitras, who testified in favor of the bill. “By making it easier to move to Virginia, universal license recognition will eliminate outdated barriers to interstate mobility and expand economic opportunity.”

Patroned by Del. James Morefield and Sen. Ryan McDonald, HB 2180/SB 1213 will require the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation to recognize licenses issued from out-of-state. To qualify, an applicant’s license must have a similar scope of practice to Virginia’s and be in good standing in their home state. Applicants also need to be licensed for at least three years. Inspired by model legislation developed by the Institute for Justice, the new law will cover 85 different occupations licensed by the state.

Meanwhile, if an applicant comes from a state that does not license the occupation, they can still become licensed in Virginia, so long as they have at least three years of experience working in that occupation. The Department is expecting at least 500 applicants per year will benefit from universal license recognition in Virginia.

However, licenses governed by the Virginia Department of Health as well as certain “professional services” performed by an independent contractor will not be covered by universal recognition. Although the newly signed reform will not apply to every license, Virginia’s system of universal recognition avoids many of the shortcomings found in other states.

Applicants, for instance, do not have to be residents to have their licenses recognized in Virginia. Nor is universal recognition limited to licenses with “substantially similar” requirements—a provision that effectively punishes states with less burdensome regulations. That’s especially important since Virginia has the third worst licensing laws in the nation, according to a recent report by the Institute for Justice, License to Work.

“Virginia’s universal recognition law is a common-sense reform that other states should adopt,” Poitras added. “But it’s only a first step. Virginia still burdens far too many workers with unnecessary licenses. IJ will continue to fight for economic liberty in Virginia, both in the statehouse and the courthouse.”