Military Spouse License Transfer Options

Updated: August 10, 2020
In this Article

    Military spouses can have it tough as working professionals. Permanent change of station moves and other relocations can make staying credentialed and able to work a challenge. The requirements vary from state to state.

    Some states have reciprocity agreements that allow teachers or other professionals to work in a different state if they are already recognized in a different state; the policies regarding this vary greatly from state to state.

    There are too many occupations that require licensing and credentialing at the state level to list here. Ask any teacher, psychologist, or lawyer and you’ll soon learn that obtaining state credentials can be difficult enough on its own without having to worry about re-certifying all over again in a new state.

    Lawyers, doctors, and child care specialists all face issues related to moving across state lines and whether they can continue to do business in a new state with their old credentials.

    Do military spouses have license transfer options that can make the entire process less intimidating? The short answer is that it depends on the state you’re in, the laws of your state, and possibly even the laws of the state where you were previously credentialed.

    Military Spouse License Transfer Rights

    Some states have laws that require military license transfers, other states permit it, and in some rare cases state law may actually forbid such transfers.

    For the most part, though, spouses may have help from the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL), which publishes a database of states that accept transfers, those conditionally accepting them, and those states that have laws that exclude professions from interstate recognition of such licensure.

    The DoL official site states that it is government policy “to reduce employment barriers and enhance career opportunities for military spouses.” The site also adds that in “many circumstances” military spouses who need to re-certify due to permanent change of station moves could be eligible for reimbursement of up to $1,000 depending on the branch of service and other variables.

    The Department of Labor isn’t the only government agency working on this issue: the Department of Defense operates something called the DoD State Liaison Office, which since 2011 has worked with states to encourage these states to start or continue “licensure relief” for mil spouses.

    In early 2020, DoD officials came up with a standardized goal for all states offering such relief; the ability to transfer or have a spouse’s license recognized in another state within 30 days of the move.

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    The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act

    The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act contains language permitting each branch of military service to reimburse spouses up to $1,000 for expenses associated from relicensing after a PCS move that crosses U.S. state lines or sends the spouse to an overseas location. Each branch of military service has its own guidelines for this opportunity (see below)

    Where Transfers Are Possible

    Each branch of service has its own requirements, but state law and other guidelines may apply depending on when and where you claim these funds. The service requirements are as follows:


    The Army allows this program to operate “retroactively to the date of the National Defense Authorization Act” for 2018 and is applicable for active and reserve component forces. Army program guidelines allow the reimbursement of qualified relicensing costs of the spouse in cases that include but may not be limited to:

    • Soldier is reassigned on PCS orders, from a duty station in a different state, and
    • The movement of the Soldier’s dependents is authorized
    • Reimbursement of qualified relicensing costs may not exceed the cap

    Army program guidelines indicate that the military spouse “is not required to have held the license or certification in the immediately preceding duty station State.” This is possible as long as the spouse “held the license or certification at any prior duty station State, that prior duty station State will be considered the ‘original duty station’ for purposes of this policy.”


    The Navy will approve reimbursement when “The PCS movement of the member’s dependent(s) is authorized” and dependents “actually relocated” from one state to the military member’s new duty location.

    Spouses must have been employed in a similar profession requiring similar certification at transfer time and the Navy will only reimburse when the spouse is “required to obtain re-certification for the same profession” in the new state. Some reimbursements for orders issued on or after Dec. 20, 2019 may be capped at $1,000 but earlier claims (for PCS orders between Dec. 12, 2017 and Dec. 19, 2019, may be capped at only $500.

    Air Force

    The Air Force describes this transfer reimbursement option as a “total force program” for active, Guard, Reserve, etc. Military PCS orders dated on or after Dec. 12, 2017 are required and “must authorize movement of the Airman’s dependents at government’s expense.” Reimbursement is not authorized for:

    • Moves upon accession
    • Career Intermission Program
    • Military retirement
    • Separation from the armed forces.

    Qualifying relicensing expenses may be paid “after the date the member’s PCS/PCA orders are authenticated and within 24 months of the date the member’s PCS/PCA orders are authenticated.”

    Marine Corps

    The Marine Corps version of this program authorizes reimbursement for “qualified State relicensing and/or recertification costs of a spouse arising from relocation to another state due to a permanent change of station.”

    The reimbursement may not exceed $500 for each PCS move and qualifying fees include those that are “imposed by the State of the new duty station to secure a relicense or recertification to continue working in the same profession that the spouse of the Marine engaged in while in the State of the previous duty station.”

    The payment is authorized in cases where:

    • The PCS movement of the Marine’s dependents is authorized
    • The spouse is getting the same relicense/recertification for the same profession
    • Completion of relicense/recertification was successful

    Some circumstances are not eligible for reimbursement. These include any expenses related to non-PCS orders; any costs for unsuccessful license transfer or unsuccessful relicensure. You cannot apply for reimbursement for any expenses related to retirement or separation from the military.

    Coast Guard

    The U.S. Coast Guard policy includes allowing reimbursement for military spouse license transfer after PCSing to another state. This can happen for exam and registration fees imposed by the new state. According to the Coast Guard official site, these must be “fees that are imposed by the state of the new duty station to secure a license or certification to engage in the same profession the member’s spouse engaged in while in the state of the original duty station.”

    Furthermore, they must have been paid by the member or spouse after the PCS date on the official orders, and is declared retroactive “to all assignments with an effective PCS departure date after 12 Dec 2017”.

    How To Apply Or Learn More

    The government has set up an official site to help those who wish to apply for reimbursement for license transfers under the program.

    About The AuthorJoe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News

    Written by Team