Can I Get a Professional or Occupational License if I Am Undocumented

Obtaining a professional or occupational license requires that you meet various requirements, such as completing education, training, and testing. You must also meet certain eligibility requirements, such as passing a criminal background check. In some professions, your legal immigration status may impact your ability to obtain necessary licensing. Understanding the relevant eligibility requirements in advance can save you from embarking upon a lengthy and expensive education before learning they are ineligible for professional or occupational licensing. A professional license defense lawyer can help you explore the licensing requirements and whether your immigration status may affect the licensing process.

Work Authorization and Immigration Status

Undocumented immigrants, or individuals who have no legal immigration status, generally have no legal right to work in Texas or the United States. These individuals typically must have work authorization from the federal government, which they cannot obtain without some form of legal immigration status. Therefore, immigrants would be ineligible for professional or occupational licenses without work authorization. 

Federal Law and Professional and Occupational Licensing for Immigrants

Under 8 U.S.C. 1621, non-qualified immigrants are ineligible for professional and commercial licenses and various other federal and state public benefits. Non-qualified immigrants include Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, individuals with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and undocumented immigrants. On the other hand, qualified immigrants include legal permanent residents (LPRs), asylee holders, refugees, and other categories of immigrants. Due to this federal law, state licenses are only available for non-qualified immigrants if a state passes a law, engages in regulatory rulemaking, or issues policy guidance making non-qualified immigrants eligible for such licenses.

State Law and Professional and Occupational Licensing for Immigrants

Individuals who have a legal immigration status but who are not U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents may be able to obtain occupational or professional licenses in some fields in some states. As a result, various states have taken action to expand some or all professional and occupational license eligibility to certain categories of immigrants or, in the case of California, to all immigrants. However, in Texas, individuals who are neither citizens nor LPRs, even with work authorization, may not obtain most professional or occupational licenses.

The one exception to this general rule is the law license. Rule 2 of the Supreme Court of Texas’s Rules Governing Admission to the Bar of Texas sets forth the general eligibility requirements for bar admission. Section (a)(5) states that applicants must qualify under one of the following categories:

  • a United States citizen; 
  • a United States national;
  • an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence;
  • otherwise authorized to work lawfully in the United States, including in a period of Optional Practical Training; or
  • an Applicant who does not reside in the United States when the Application is submitted.

Under this rule, an individual with a valid work authorization document, such as an immigrant with legal status under DACA, could be admitted to the Texas State Bar as a lawyer. 

Some Texas professional or occupational licensing boards require that individuals provide proof of citizenship or legal permanent residency to be eligible for licensure. For instance, individuals who wish to obtain an Auctioneer or Associate Auctioneer license must be a U.S. citizen or LPR. 

Other licensing boards do not specifically state this eligibility requirement. However, the standard application used by many licensing boards regulated by the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation (TDLR) does ask for applicants’ Social Security Numbers. The application states that state law requires the submission of one’s Social Security Number for child support enforcement. 

At least one occupation that TDLR regulates provides a separate application for individuals who do not have a Social Security Number. Applicants for a Massage Therapist license can complete a general TDLR application certifying that they have no Social Security number. It is unclear whether the provision of this application indicates that some classes of immigrants may obtain Massage Therapist licenses. 


Navigating the complexities of professional and occupational licensing, particularly with immigration status, requires a thorough understanding of federal and state laws. While federal law, such as 8 U.S.C. 1621, generally restricts non-qualified immigrants from obtaining licenses, some states have enacted provisions to extend eligibility to specific categories of immigrants. However, the landscape remains largely restrictive in Texas, with most professional and occupational licenses reserved for U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. Exceptions exist, notably in the legal profession, where individuals with valid work authorization documents, like DACA recipients, may pursue admission to the Texas State Bar. The intricacies of each licensing board’s requirements underscore the importance of seeking guidance from a professional license defense lawyer who can navigate the nuances of eligibility criteria and advocate for individuals seeking to pursue their chosen professions despite immigration status limitations.

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We Will Represent Your Interests Before Your Licensing Board

We know the importance of obtaining your desired career and the necessary professional or occupational license. By tackling your eligibility questions before you apply for a professional or occupational license, we can help you determine the best path forward for you. The experienced occupational license defense lawyers at Bertolino LLP, will advocate to help you obtain the license you seek. Call us at (512) 515-9518 or contact us online.

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