New Report: Congress and States Must Expand Job Licensing to Dreamers and Immigrants

WASHINGTON — Today, the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and ImmigrationNiskanen CenterFWD.usUnited We DreamCatholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.; and TheDream.US released a groundbreaking report that urges Congress and state legislatures to expand access to professional, business, and commercial licenses (also known as “occupational licenses”) to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, recipients, Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, holders, and all other immigrants with the ability to lawfully work. Over 1,100 different occupations require a license and approximately 25 percent of all workers nationwide are required to obtain a license in order to work in their occupations. And yet, federal and state laws prevent many immigrants — even those with legal permission to be in the country — from even applying for those licenses.

The report urges: (1) Congress to enact legislation ending the federal and state prohibitions on occupational licenses for DACA recipients, TPS holders, and all immigrants with work permits; (2) Congress and states to enact non-discrimination prohibitions for occupational licenses; and (3) states to implement other policies to increase portability and access to licenses.

Miriam Feldblum, Executive Director of the Presidents’ Alliance, stated, “Our higher education faculty and institutions invest years building and developing students’ knowledge base and skillsets, oftentimes for careers that require professional and occupational licensing. For our nation to receive dividends from the education of these talented scholars and hardworking learners, it is absolutely critical that they be allowed access to federal and state occupational licensing schemes. In doing so, our country will ensure that these alumni can contribute fully to their communities and states, and achieve economic self-sufficiency for themselves and their families.”

Kristie De Peña, Director of Immigration at the Niskanen Center, stated, “Americans and lawmakers alike should seek to capitalize on the skills, talents, and educational attainment of all productive and lawful workers, and not create artificial barriers to gainful employment. Congress and state governments must remove the onerous regulations that prevent certain immigrant populations from enhancing our nation’s productivity and economic efficiency, and allow them to grow and thrive in America.”

Ali Procopio, University Program Director at, stated, “Students strive for years to gain the skills and the building blocks they need to work in careers that they’re passionate about — such as in nursing, teaching, and engineering — and it makes zero sense to deny these talented, hardworking individuals the licensing that will help make those dreams a reality. Not only is empowering these students to reach their full potential the right thing to do, but our communities and our economy will see enormous benefit from helping them to contribute fully by extending appropriate professional and occupational licensing in fields that are frequently underserved.” 

Juliana Macedo do Nascimento, State/Local Policy Manager for United We Dream, stated, “Across the country, there are immigrants who are kept from earning a living for themselves and their families. These are people like street vendors, independent business owners, nurses, lawyers and teachers, who, because of their immigration status, are kept from from earning professional, commercial, and business licenses. That is wrong. States should work to ensure they are welcoming to all immigrants. Creating an environment where all immigrants are able to thrive and make a living for themselves by not restricting access to these licenses.”

Christy Williams, State and Local Advocacy Attorney for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., stated, “Eliminating barriers to occupational licenses for immigrants goes beyond expanding access to job opportunities. It is about protecting the inherent dignity that comes with reaching your career goals. Legislators should establish systems of support that empower immigrants to achieve the fulfillment and satisfaction of contributing their talents to the workforce.”

Gaby Pacheco, Director of Advocacy, Development, and Communications for TheDream.US, stated, “As the nation’s largest college access program for DACA recipients and other immigrants, licensing access is absolutely critical for our Scholars and Alumni to fully utilize their higher education degree. In a recent survey of our Scholars, 66 percent indicated they were studying in a career that would require licensure, including large numbers of Scholars seeking to fill the nation’s shortage of nurses, medical professionals, and bilingual teachers. Representing over 5,000 Scholars and graduates, we urge Congress to swiftly enact legislation to expand licensure to this cohort of students and young professionals. We have said time and again, what’s good for DREAMers is good for America and providing licensure will ensure that their contributions, and potential are fully unleashed.”

Download CLINIC's Resource: Professional and Occupational Licenses for Immigrants