New Jersey Lawmakers Pass Bill Allowing Illegal Immigrants to Obtain Professional Licenses

August 2, 2020 Updated: August 2, 2020

A legislation that would allow immigrants without legal status to obtain professional and occupational licenses has been passed in New Jersey’s state legislature and forwarded to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk.

The bill, which passed New Jersey Assembly after gaining bipartisan support in the Senate, is going to remove lawful presence as a prerequisite for anyone applying for professional and occupational licenses in the state. If passed, illegal immigrants residing in new Jersey would be able to obtain licenses as long as they meet all other requirements.

Democrat Assemblyman Gary Schaer, one of the bill’s sponsors, said removing barriers of legal immigration status would help address shortages of health care and essential workers amid the pandemic. “Our immigrant community has been indispensable throughout this crisis,” he said, reported “By lifting this obstacle we can utilize the abilities of every single resident.”

Opponents of the bill argued that such a measure would encourage illegal immigrants to compete for jobs against legal residents and lead to even more illegal immigration.

“We have rules and laws in this country and, if you come into the country illegally and you are in violation of the law, I don’t think we should be granting you licenses,” said Republican Assemblyman Harold Wirths, who voted no on the bill.

“Allowing those in the country illegally to get occupational or professional licenses takes jobs away from American citizens and legal immigrants,” The Federation for Immigration Reform, a non-profit organization that supports immigration restrictions, said in a statement. “Already there are more than 1.3 million unemployed individuals in New Jersey who are suffering as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns. Providing occupational or professional licenses to those in the country illegally incentivizes more illegal immigration.”

According to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, dozens of professions and occupations in the state are licensed, including accountants, architects, beauticians, court reporters, cosmetologists, doctors, dentists, engineers, home inspectors, nurses, optometrists, pharmacists, plumbers, psychologists, real estate appraisers, social workers, and veterinarians.

While federal law prohibits employers from hiring illegal immigrants, there is no law prohibiting someone who lives in the country illegally from starting a business or becoming an independent contractor. Such a person can run a fully legal business with an Employer Identification Number, which can be obtained after getting an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, which requires no document other than a birth certificate or an official foreign ID.