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New Law Offers License Reciprocity for Active-Duty Military and Spouses

In August 2019, Illinois legislators passed House Bill 1652 in a unanimous vote. Signed by Governor J.B. Pritzker, this bill takes effect in January 2020 and will provide expedited license reciprocity for active-duty military service members and their spouses. Before the passage of this bill, military service members were subject to the same lengthy licensing process as all other licensed professionals in the state. Because of the frequent changes of location that many active military service members experience, this placed them and their partners at a distinct disadvantage when applying for and renewing professional licenses.

Starting in January, however, the Illinois Department of Finance and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) will offer an enhanced process that will provide reciprocity for professional licenses acquired in other states. This reciprocity will be available to active-duty military and their spouses only, a category that now also includes service members in the National Guard, Reservists, and the U.S. Coast Guard. 

HB 1652 revises Section 5-715 of the Illinois Administrative Code, “Expedited Licensure for Service Members and Spouses.” The changes allow each director of a department that issues occupation or professional licenses to issue expedited licenses to active-duty service members who meet specific requirements. For example, the applicant must already hold a valid license in good standing for their occupation or profession from another state or territory of the United States, must be assigned to a duty station in Illinois or have legal residence in Illinois, and must have completed an application submitted with all appropriate fees (20 ILCS 5/5-715). The directors are further authorized to issue expedited licenses even if the service member is not residing in the state at the time of application, as long as the other conditions are met. This will no doubt help many active-duty military service members obtain and renew professional licenses more quickly, enabling them to start or continue gainful employment in the state.

The bill will help military spouses obtain reciprocity for their professional licenses, as well. With the help of a military liaison, both service members and their spouses will be able to move through the licensing process more efficiently. It can be challenging for military spouses to find work each time they are relocated to a new base, with job searches lasting more than 24 months. Because active-duty service members often only stay in one place for 2 to 3 years on average, the difficulty finding employment can create significant hardships for military families. By allowing faster licensing procedures and reciprocity, Illinois legislators hope to decrease these lengthy unemployment periods and help members of the military and their spouses enter the workforce more quickly.

Another helpful addition to the licensing laws allow active-duty military service members and their spouses to place his or her license in inactive status should they relocate from the state. Upon their return to Illinois, the licensee would then reactivate the license instead of going through the entire application process again. The code guarantees license reactivation within 30 days of the receipt of a completed application, a far shorter time than other licensing processes would typically take. For the roughly 41,000 active-duty, reserve, and National Guard service members residing in the state and their spouses, this change will directly support higher rates of professional employment throughout the state.

According to media coverage of the bill, other states have watched in envy as Illinois legislators demonstrated their strong support for the changes with the unanimous approval of the bill. In a rare show of unity, the Illinois government has demonstrated its commitment to being a military-friendly state with more than just words. Instead, the new license reciprocity law sends a clear message that the state of Illinois values its military installations and is dedicated to the continued success of each of the state’s military bases.

The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact an attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.

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