Final grade: B-

Exclusion Grade


Relevance Grade


Due Process Grade



  • Boards may only use directly related crimes and must consider evidence of rehabilitation.
  • Bans boards from using arrest and sealed records as well as vague, arbitrary standards like “moral turpitude” and “good character.”

Areas of Improvement

  • Strengthen safeguards for due process by requiring a petition process and placing the burden of proof on the state.
  • Extend state’s protections to health care workers.

Updated May 2021

Thanks to a series of reforms enacted in 2016 and 2017, Illinois now has one of the better legal environments for ex-offenders hoping to become licensed, earning a B- for its final grade. Those applying for a health care worker license who have been convicted of a forcible felony, however, face far fewer protections. Applicants must wait at least five years since their conviction date or three years since they were released from prison.

Illinois is also one of only a handful of states with reporting requirements for license applications by ex-offenders; its data is by far the most thorough. Originally limited to collecting data on just 22 licenses, the state expanded its reporting requirements to nearly 200 different licenses, certifications, registrations, and other credentials.

Between 2018 and 2020, 3,448 people with criminal records applied for an occupational license or similar credential. Licenses were granted to 2,398 applicants in more than 90 different occupations—an acceptance rate of 69.5%. Among ex-offenders who were granted licenses, nearly half of the licenses were issued by health-related boards, with private security and real estate accounting for the next most popular fields. People with criminal records typically accounted for 1-2% of all new licensees.

Encouragingly, the state recorded only 67 applicants who were “denied licensure in part or whole because of a criminal conviction,” a denial rate of just under 2%. The remaining applicants had yet to complete the licensing application process or their status was otherwise unspecified.   

Statute: 20 Ill. Comp. Stat. 2105/2105-131 to 205 (2020)

Overarching ban on blanket bans No
Ban on considering arrest records Yes
Ban on considering post-conviction relief records Yes, sealed and expunged records
Time limit No limit
Ban on vague, discretionary character standards Yes
Relationship between the crime and the license sought “The lack of direct relation of the offense for which the applicant was previously convicted to the duties, functions, and responsibilities of the position for which a license is sought”
Required factors for consideration
Rehabilitation Yes
Time elapsed since crime was committed Yes
Age when crime was committed Yes
Employment History No
Testimonials Yes
Due Process
Petition Process No
Burden of Proof Both unspecified
Right to appeal Yes
Written notice requirement Yes