Removing the Occupational Licensing Wall

Iowa, along with several other states, is considering occupational licensing reform. Reducing occupational licensing barriers will provide new opportunities for workers, attract new people to Iowa, and create a more competitive business environment. One aspect of occupational licensing reform is establishing reciprocity, or a universal licensing recognition, for out-of-state licensees. The Iowa legislature is currently considering reciprocity as part of a comprehensive occupational licensing reform package.


This past spring, Arizona became the first state in the nation to pass a universal licensing recognition for out-of-state job licensees, which made it more friendly for people and businesses looking to move to the state. The new “universal licensing recognition law makes it easier for people who are already licensed in another state to get licensed at the same level in Arizona.”


For those who relocate to Arizona, the state licensing boards will grant recognition for out-of-state licenses as long as individuals have been licensed for at least one year and are in good standing within their respective occupation. In addition, fees, as well as other requirements such as background checks, testing, or residency may apply. This ensures that public health and safety will still be protected.


Arizona’s universal licensing recognition is starting to pay off as new workers move into the state. The Goldwater Institute recently provided an overview of this success and reported that since the law took effect, 867 individuals have applied and, at this time, 751 have been approved. Some of the industry specific areas that are seeing the most activity include:


  • The Registrar of Contractors, which licenses the construction trades, had 237 applications and approved 231, the most of any licensing entity.
  • The Board of Cosmetology, which licenses hair stylists and beauticians, also has received 237 applications and approved 214 of them. No applications have been rejected, and 23 are pending.
  • The Board of Behavioral Health Examiners, which licenses mental health counselors, social worker and therapists, had the third-highest tally with 177 applications, 144 approvals and no rejections. The remaining 33 applications are pending.


Arizona is demonstrating that tearing down barriers to work is a win for everyone. Universal licensing recognition would help Iowa grow our workforce and make our state more competitive. The goal of public policy should be to remove barriers for all to succeed.