Washington state’s professional licensing laws are out of whack and can discriminate against people trained out of state or the country.
LET’S say two immigrants arrive in the United States. One is a trained engineer. To work in Washington state, she must pass a test to receive a license to work.
The other is a trained manicurist. For her, the road to employment is much more difficult. Despite her experience, she must spend 600 hours in training. That costs up to $8,000, plus she must pay another $150 to take the test, a cost many immigrants simply cannot afford.
This absurd contrast, unfortunately, is not hypothetical.
I recently testified before the Legislature with two members of the Vietnamese community about House Bill 1361 — one an engineer, the other a cosmetologist — highlighting the high cost of Washington’s outdated occupational licenses. For skilled immigrants, it is more difficult to receive a license to be a manicurist than an engineer.
There has been a great deal of political grandstanding about immigrants. There has been less talk about how we help immigrants achieve the American dream — removing obstacles so they can share their talents and become self-sufficient.
There is bipartisan support for changing these outdated rules.
In 2015, the Obama White House released a report on the costs of occupational licenses. It noted, “lower-income workers are less likely to be able to afford the tuition” costs of receiving a license, “closing the door to many licensed jobs.” For immigrants, experience “acquired overseas does not count toward … licensing requirements.”
Those who can’t afford training have two choices. Many go into the black market, where they must charge low…