NEW JERSEY – Governor Phil Murphy Tuesday signed legislation (S2455), which prohibits lawful presence in the United States as a qualification to obtain a professional or occupational license, provided that the applicant meets all other requirements for licensure. The bill impacts the roughly 500,000 undocumented residents in New Jersey, who will now be eligible for professional licenses such as nursing, counseling and cosmetology.
“New Jersey is stronger when everyone is given the opportunity to contribute and everyone is given a chance to live their American Dream,” Murphy said. “This law sends a simple, powerful message that immigration status can no longer be used as an excuse to discriminate among equally educated, trained, and qualified individuals. As we look toward our shared economic future, we must ensure that no one is left behind and everyone who puts forward the effort can succeed.”
Under the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), states may grant an individual who is not lawfully present in the United States eligibility for certain State or local public benefits, including professional and commercial licensure, through the enactment of state law.
“Today New Jersey is removing barriers that prevented talented, hardworking individuals from realizing their full potential as vital members of the state’s workforce,” Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said. “By welcoming all qualified individuals into our professional ranks, we not only benefit from their contributions to our economy, we are building and strengthening communities across our state.”
Applicants’ immigration status should have no bearing on their ability to obtain a professional or occupational license provided they meet educational and all other requirements,” said Paul R. Rodríguez, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “Eliminating the current residency requirement will allow prospective licensees who fulfill all other prerequisites to practice in their chosen profession.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear the critical role that New Jersey’s immigrant community plays in our essential frontline workforce,” Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson said. “It is past time for us to give these New Jerseyans the path to occupational and economic success this law will deliver. New Jersey has always been a welcoming state, and we will now be fortunate to benefit from the wide range of talents and expertise that all of our residents have to offer. The Department’s Office of New Americans looks forward to supporting community education and outreach efforts to immigrant residents who can benefit from this new law.”
“This legislation is a win-win for New Jersey workers and for employers looking to hire workers with specific training and skills,” Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said. “I’m proud to see our state leading the nation in prioritizing the economic stability of all families.”