A new law is opening the door for immigrants with professional licensing and training from foreign countries to become licensed in Utah.

Gov. Spencer Cox recently signed SB35 into law. It allows nine state departments to issue licenses to individuals from other states and countries who can prove they have the necessary skills and experience.

Licensing law restrictions have previously been a barrier for both immigrants wanting to practice their chosen field in Utah and for different industries looking to fill labor shortages. In fact, more than one out of six Utah workers needs a license to legally do their jobs. Although the Beehive State requires more occupations to be licensed than the national average, a recent study found the state has had success in reducing burdensome occupational licensing practices.

Cox said by implementing SB35, Utah is leading the nation by removing licensing barriers that immigrants may face.

"Too many states are making it harder for those most in need who have amazing skills to actually enter the workforce. We are changing that here in Utah," he said during a ceremonial signing of the bill this week. "We need these wonderful people who are living in our state and have these skills and now we can utilize them."

SB35 offers two separate licensing paths. The first is for individuals holding a professional license from another state or country. In this case, state departments must verify one of the following:

  • That the person has at least one year of experience in that licensed occupation and that their education experience and skills demonstrate competency
  • That the jurisdiction that previously issued the person's license had licensing requirements that were substantively similar to those in Utah

The second option is for individuals who did not previously hold an occupational license but whose education and experience are substantively similar to the state's licensing requirements for a specific profession.

"When people come in from foreign countries, they often can't work in their chosen profession," said Margaret Busse, Department of Commerce executive director. "We're continuing to build up the capacity so we can get more of these folks through the system. We're really grateful that they can add to our workforce here in Utah through this process."

She added that SB35 builds on a law that was passed in 2022, SB43, that created a pathway for trained immigrants to obtain licenses and certifications from the Utah Division of Professional Licensing, which oversees the majority of professional licensing in the state.

SB35 will allow the following Utah departments to issue licenses to foreign and out-of-state transplants:

  • The Department of Commerce
  • The Department of Environmental Quality
  • The Department of Health and Human Services
  • The Utah State Office of Rehabilitation within the Department of Workforce Services
  • The Labor Commission
  • The Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division within the State Tax Commission
  • The Department of Public Safety
  • The State Board of Education
  • The Department of Transportation