On March 7, 2019, H.3263 (The Armed Service Members and Spouses Professional and Occupational Licensing Act) unanimously passed the SC House of Representatives. If passed by the Senate and signed into law, the new statute would allow military members and their spouses to work in South Carolina without actually holding a South Carolina occupational license. This exemption would apply only to those who have an existing license in another state and are in good standing with that state.
As it stands, there are three approaches states can take in helping military families obtain occupational licenses.
- Endorse an existing license from another state
- Expedite the process of obtaining a new license
- Issue a temporary license for those who don’t qualify for endorsement
South Carolina is one of 28 states that has passed legislation to implement, at least in part, all three of these approaches. Other states have implemented only one or two, but in the last couple of years, every state has implemented at least one of the above measures. Through this legislation, South Carolina would go a step further, exempting military spouses from licensure entirely in certain circumstances. In 2018, Utah passed a very similar bill, and Arizona is now considering one as well.
This legislation is especially relevant as South Carolina works to maintain its reputation as a military-friendly state. Not only is it home to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island where 17,000 recruits are trained each year, but South Carolina also has 7 other military installations. South Carolina actually ranks 8th in the country in terms of total active and retired military population, with 55,369 currently residing in our state. As military families continue to move into South Carolina, it’s important that we remove unnecessary barriers to their success.
The importance of this legislation becomes even more clear when one looks at the licensure numbers. The Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families found that 35% of military spouses are working in a field that requires a license.
Often, military families are given very little time to prepare for a move, which makes the licensing process even more challenging. A U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey in June of 2017 found that nearly half of military spouses had fewer than three months to prepare to move to a new state. It also found that 22% of military spouses, especially those with greater educational achievements, admitted that occupational licensing transfers were one of the greatest challenges in securing a new job.
Not only is licensing a time-consuming process, it can also be financially prohibitive. In an article published by the Army just a few months ago praising South Carolina’s process of expediting temporary and permanent licenses, they also noted the several fees associated with obtaining a new license, including application fees, home-state verification fees, and background check fees.
44% of military families say they are either living paycheck to paycheck or struggling financially. By exempting military members and spouses from these fees, South Carolina is making it even easier for our service members and spouses to live and work free from unnecessary government red tape.
H.3263, now in the Senate, will give military members and their spouses more opportunity to work in the job for which they were previously trained and continues to remove restrictions on when and where they can work.
It is exciting to see South Carolina lead the way in removing barriers to work for military spouses, giving them the flexibility they need to provide for themselves and their families.