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New Law in Washington State Allows Undocumented Immigrants to Apply for Professional Licenses and Certifications

Posted by Karol Brown | May 08, 2024 | 0 Comments

In a landmark move towards inclusivity and opportunity, Washington State has removed some barriers to professional licensing for undocumented individuals. House Bill 1889 (HB1889) eliminates U.S. citizenship requirements for certain professions. People can apply for professional licenses by using an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) when a Social Security Number is requested.

This legislation, signed by Governor Jay Inslee in March 2024, overcomes a significant barrier facing undocumented individuals when applying for professional licenses. Some licenses and certifications have uncertain citizenship requirements or questions that could reveal sensitive information. By removing these unnecessary barriers, Washington State aims to create a more equitable and inclusive environment where all individuals have the opportunity to pursue their chosen career.

This legislation impacts a significant portion of the economy, as approximately 22% of U.S. jobs require a professional license or certificate. Licenses were required for only 5% of jobs in the 1950s. Vague U.S. citizenship requirements for licensing often pose insurmountable barriers for undocumented individuals. These rules limited access by immigrants to higher-paying professions and economic mobility. These rules also caused critical shortages in professions like nursing and commercial driving that could be filled by people who are already living in the United States.

Washington State has now leveled the playing field by eliminating citizenship requirements for professions such as optometrists, private investigators, private security guards, bail bond agents, money transmitters, and currency exchangers. By clarifying licensing regulations and recognizing the talents and aspirations of all individuals, regardless of their immigration history, Washington State fosters a more inclusive and diverse workforce.

Moreover, this new law will generate economic benefits for Washington state. Access to licensed occupations means higher earning potential for undocumented individuals. Higher earnings leads to increased contributions to state and local tax revenue. Immigrants spending more money in Washington will inevitably enhance Washington's economy. Another benefit is relieving employee shortages in professions like nursing and optometrists ensures quality care for Washington consumers.

I'm proud of Washington State's legislature and Governor for supporting inclusive professional licensing. This law represents more than just badly needed legislative reform. It is also a testament to the power of collective action towards creating a brighter, more inclusive future for all.

About the Author

Karol Brown

Managing Attorney


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