Professional License for Immigrants

In a significant legislative move, the Washington State Legislature recently passed House Bill 1889 (SHB 1889). This bill aims to broaden access to professional licenses and certifications, regardless of an individual’s immigration or citizenship status.

Governor Jay Inslee signed SHB 1889 into law on March 13, 2024, marking a significant step toward inclusivity of immigrants in Washington state.

The new law will go into effect on July 1, 2024. Here are the essential details.

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Key Provisions of SHB 1889

  • Removal of Citizenship Requirements: SHB 1889 eliminates the previous barriers that prevented undocumented immigrants from obtaining professional licenses. Whether you’re a security guard, nurse, engineer, or any other licensed professional, your immigration status will no longer be an obstacle.
  • Equal Access to Opportunities: By granting professional licenses to all qualified individuals, regardless of their legal status, Washington aims to level the playing field. Undocumented immigrants contribute to the state’s economy, and this bill recognizes their skills and expertise.

“An individual who is not lawfully present in the United States is eligible for a professional license, commercial license, certificate, permit, or registration as allowed under Title 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1621. A state agency, regulatory authority, or disciplining authority shall not deny an application for a professional license, commercial license, certificate, permit, or registration solely on the basis of a person’s immigration or citizenship status if the person has met all other qualifications”, the law states.

Required Documents by SHB 1889

SHB 1889 strikes the requirement that applicants for professional licenses be U.S. citizens, allowing for the use of an individual tax identification number instead of a social security number (SSN). The bill also encourages qualified undocumented students to pursue their dream jobs by addressing the lack of clarity surrounding which licenses require an SSN.

To obtain a professional license under SHB 1889, applicants will need to provide the following documents:

  • Proof of Identity: Applicants must establish their identity through valid identification documents, such as a passport, driver’s license, or other government-issued ID.
  • Proof of Residency: While immigration status is no longer a barrier, applicants will need to demonstrate residency within the state of Washington.
  • Education and Training Credentials: Individuals seeking professional licenses must still meet the educational and training requirements specific to their chosen field. This includes diplomas, degrees, certifications, and any relevant coursework.

Professions Affected by SHB 1889

SHB 1889 covers a wide range of professions, ensuring that talented individuals—regardless of their background—can pursue their chosen careers. Some of the impacted professions include:

  • Healthcare Professionals: Nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and other medical practitioners.
  • Educators: Teachers, counselors, and administrators.
  • Construction Industry: Architects, engineers, contractors, and tradespeople.
  • Legal Professionals: Attorneys, paralegals, and legal assistants.
  • Business and Finance: Accountants, real estate agents, and financial advisors.
  • Technology and IT: Software developers, network administrators, and cybersecurity experts.
  • Transportation and Logistics: Commercial drivers, pilots, and maritime professionals.

Here is a more detailed list of some of the professions affected by the new law.

  1. Registered Nurses
  2. Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs)
  3. Physicians
  4. Dentists
  5. Pharmacists
  6. Physical Therapists
  7. Occupational Therapists
  8. Speech-Language Pathologists
  9. Clinical Psychologists
  10. Social Workers
  11. Veterinarians
  12. Optometrists
  13. Radiologic Technologists
  14. Medical Laboratory Technicians
  15. Paramedics
  16. Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs)
  17. Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs)
  18. Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs)
  19. Marriage and Family Therapists
  20. School Counselors
  21. Teachers (K-12)
  22. School Administrators
  23. Librarians
  24. Architects
  25. Civil Engineers
  26. Electrical Engineers
  27. Mechanical Engineers
  28. Surveyors
  29. Real Estate Agents
  30. Accountants
  31. Interior Designers
  32. Land Surveyors
  33. Environmental Scientists
  34. Geologists
  35. Graphic Designers
  36. Industrial Engineers
  37. Nutritionists
  38. Speech Therapists
  39. Medical Technologists
  40. Clinical Laboratory Scientists
  41. Phlebotomists
  42. Massage Therapists
  43. Estheticians
  44. Barbers
  45. Cosmetologists
  46. Court Interpreters
  47. Court Reporters
  48. Firefighters
  49. Emergency Dispatchers
  50. Paramedics
  51. Veterinary Technicians
  52. Physical Therapy Assistants
  53. Occupational Therapy Assistants
  54. Respiratory Therapists
  55. Radiation Therapists
  56. Medical Assistants
  57. Medical Billing Specialists
  58. Medical Coders
  59. Medical Transcriptionists
  60. Behavioral Health Counselors

Impact and Implications

The passage of SHB 1889 has several implications:

  • Economic Growth: By allowing undocumented immigrants to work in licensed professions, Washington can tap into a skilled workforce and boost economic growth.
  • Community Well-Being: Undocumented immigrants play vital roles in our communities. SHB 1889 recognizes their contributions and promotes social cohesion.
  • Human Rights and Dignity: Everyone deserves the right to pursue their chosen career path. SHB 1889 upholds human rights and dignity.

Washington’s SHB 1889 is a significant step toward inclusivity and economic empowerment. It sends a powerful message: Inclusion matters, and professional opportunities should be accessible to all.

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