Despite Gains, Military Spouses Still Face Hurdles in Transferring Professional Licenses

Despite Gains, Military Spouses Still Face Hurdles in Transferring Professional Licenses

Despite significant progress nationwide to ease the requirements for military spouses to gain professional licenses or credentials needed to continue their careers after moving, the occupations covered vary by state and the process is far from standardized.

“They’re not all created equal, and they don’t cover every single profession,” Katie Savant, a government relations strategist for the National Military Family Association, said of the changes states have made to benefit military spouses.

“And just because the law is on the books doesn’t mean that the regulatory agency that is responsible for the law is aware of it,” Savant told “We receive calls and emails from spouses all the time that say, ‘I know a law was passed but I don’t know how to access it.’”

Last month, New York became the 50th state to approve legislation to address the issue of license portability for military spouses. The measure will allow military spouses to receive a temporary six-month permit if they already have a license from another state, and a six-month extension to receive a New York-equivalent license. The bill is expected to aid in more than 50 fields, including medicine, architecture, accounting and social work.

States have come a long way over the past decade to help military spouses sustain their careers, but rules remain inconsistent across the nation.

Alaska’s temporary, 180-day courtesy license to spouses certified in other states, for example, does not apply to teachers or lawyers. Laws in Colorado allow for 90-day transitional licensing for military spouses previously certified as teachers, and a one-year license waiver for other professions. But engineers, surveyors, architects, real estate agents, attorneys and other fields are not covered, according to the story.

“Great work has been done,” Savant said. “We’re thrilled that there happens to be something for spouses, now we just want spouses to be able to access it and use it — and since it doesn’t look the same way in all 50 states, that can be difficult.”


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