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Contractor’s Guide to License Reciprocity: Working Across State Lines
Last Updated Nov 16, 2023
For many contractors, growing a construction business means taking on jobs in different states. Whether it’s to take a one-off project or to establish a new business location, working in a new state can open more doors. With some U.S. states offering contractor license reciprocity, there could be a lot of opportunities to simplify the process depending on where your business operates.
Table of contents
What is contractor license reciprocity?
Contractor license reciprocity is when states recognize a license acquired in another state, without requiring the contractor to go through all of the steps to get a new license. Consider the way states treat your driver's license: You don't need to prove that you can drive in each state; each state recognizes the driver's license of every other state.
But getting a contractor license isn't always that simple. Depending on the state and the type of business you run, you most likely need to get a license to perform construction work in your state. Getting a license can be expensive and time-consuming, as some states require classes, years of experience, tests, and other stipulations to weed out unqualified license applicants.
Getting that contractor license is worth it — but it’s not something you’d want to do every time you perform work in a new state. For that reason, many states offer contractor license reciprocity. Instead of requiring a licensed contractor to go through the licensing process again, the new state recognizes the contractor’s license issued in another state. This saves the contractor time and money and allows them to get to work and expand their business faster.
How license reciprocity works
On paper, license reciprocity can sound like an open-border policy, but that’s not exactly the case. Contractors licensed in one state cannot take whatever projects they choose in another state, even if it offers reciprocity.
In most cases, a contractor will still need to obtain a license for the type of work they’ll be performing in the new state. Contractor license reciprocity simply streamlines that process. Instead of producing proof of employment, proof of apprenticeship programs, college transcripts, and other paperwork, the reciprocal state allows the license to fulfill those requirements. However, the main advantage to reciprocity is not having to pay for, take, and wait for the results of another trade examination.
Contractors will still need to pay the appropriate license fees and meet any bond requirements that might exist within the state.
Qualifying for reciprocity
The best way to look at contractor license reciprocity is as a shortcut — it's not an automatic entitlement. You still have to qualify for reciprocity from a state that offers it. You should also realize that while many states won’t require a trade exam, some do require business exams before you qualify for a reciprocal license.
Also, some states will require you to hold your license for a certain amount of time — Florida requires 10 years — before you qualify for reciprocity. They’ll also require your license to be in good standing with the licensing board.
In some cases (such as in California), contractors need to forward the reciprocity form to their original issuing board for review. This is worth noting as it could be another step to take before qualifying for a reciprocal license.
Reciprocal licensing in multiple states
Your company can carry as many licenses as you have the resources and desire to. For instance, if there are four states that recognize the license from your state, you can carry all four licenses as long as you pay the fees, fill out the required paperwork, and meet any bonding or exam requirements.
But just because a state doesn’t have a reciprocal agreement with your state doesn’t mean you can’t carry a license there. You’ll simply have to apply, meet the requirements, and take the full exam like any other contractor. Once you carry that license (through the typical route), you might qualify for licenses in states that have reciprocity agreements with that state.
It’s worth noting that getting a reciprocal license in one state does not automatically open the doors to obtaining reciprocal licenses in other states. For example, licensed electrical contractors in Oregon can receive a reciprocal license in Utah. That does not entitle them to apply for a reciprocal license in California through the reciprocal agreement between California and Utah. They will have to go through the same licensing process in those other states as any other contractors.
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State-by-state contractor license reciprocity
Each state takes its own approach to contractor license reciprocity. Some states accept licenses from contractors in neighboring states, while some states will accept licenses from states across the country. On the other hand, some states don’t recognize licenses from other states at all, neighboring or otherwise.
Also, understand that certain states will offer reciprocal licenses for certain license types, but not all. A state might offer a reciprocal license to electricians from a particular state, but not plumbing contractors from that same state. It boils down to the agreements between licensing boards, and many states have a separate board for each trade.
States with no reciprocal agreements
These states do not offer reciprocity to contractors licensed in other states:
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
All other states below have specific agreements with, or recognize licenses from, specific states.
Alabama has license reciprocity with a number of states for both General Contractors and electrical contractors. Plumbing contractors, however, will need to go through Alabama's licensing process. The Plumbers and Gas Fitters Examining Board does not provide reciprocity for plumbing contractors with any states.
- General contractors have reciprocity with Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee (learn more).
- Alabama offers electrical contractors license reciprocity with Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia (learn more).
Alaska only offers license reciprocity for electrical contractors. Other trades need to go through Alaska's full contractor licensing process.
- Alaska has electrical contractor license reciprocity with Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming (view details on the application.)
Arizona offers contractor license reciprocity with three neighboring states: California, Nevada, and Utah.
In Arkansas, reciprocity is available to general contractors and electrical contractors.
The Contractors Licensing Board State of Arkansas provides contractor license reciprocity with Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana (read more info from the ACLB).
Arkansas provides reciprocity for electrical contractors, but the availability depends on their classification. Master electricians only have reciprocity with Oregon. However, journeyman license reciprocity is available with Alaska, New Mexico, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Colorado.
California has reciprocal contractor license agreements with just three states: Arizona, Louisiana, and Nevada (learn more about California's requirements).
Colorado only offers license reciprocity for certain electrical contractors. The state doesn’t issue general contractor licenses, and no reciprocal agreements are unavailable for plumbing contractors.
Colorado provides license reciprocity for journeyman electricians with Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming (learn more).
Delaware has reciprocity for electrical and plumbing licenses from some states, reducing the examinations and paperwork required. Note: All contractors from Pennsylvania are ineligible to apply for any license by reciprocity, and must apply by examination.
Electricians can apply by reciprocity "if you hold a current license of the same type for which you are now applying that was issued by another state, U.S. territory or District of Columbia."
Delaware provides reciprocity for plumbing licenses with Connecticut, Iowa, and Maryland. Because the licensure standards in these states are substantially similar, no proof of experience is required. However, all applicants must meet the state requirements.
Delaware also has reduced licensing requirements for plumbing contractors from Alabama, Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. However, if you're applying from one of these states you must "submit proof of your experience under the supervision of a master licensee for at least seven years after licensure."
The state doesn't issue general contractor licenses, so there's no need for reciprocal agreements there.
In 2020, Florida passed new laws allowing all contractors that have been in business for at least 10 years — in any state — to apply for a reciprocal license, also known as "endorsement." They must be applying for the same or similar license in Florida that they hold in their home state.
Contractors without 10 years of experience may still qualify for endorsement in Florida, depending on the state they're licensed in. Florida offers reciprocity for a license from any state where the certification process is "substantially equivalent to the certification criteria that existed in [Florida] at the time the certificate was issued."
In Georgia, commercial general contractors can apply for reciprocity from Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee. They must hold a commercial contractor's license with a classification of “building construction,” obtained by state examination.
Residential contractors can apply from Mississippi, South Carolina, and Louisiana. Georgia requires a current active Residential Builders license obtained by state examination.
You can download an application for license reciprocity from the Georgia Secretary of State Forms page.
Idaho offers reciprocity to licensed journeyman electricians from Colorado, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. Master electricians only have reciprocity from Wyoming.
Contractors must have tested for the current license and held it for one year. In addition, they must show proof of four years of schooling and on-the-job training (learn more).
Idaho gives reciprocity to journeyman plumbers from Montana, Oregon, and Washington.
Iowa has electrical license reciprocity with Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin.
License reciprocity is available in Iowa to plumbing contractors from South Dakota who earned their license by passing a written examination. Download an application from the IDPH.
Kentucky has electrical license reciprocity with Louisiana, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia. There's no explicit license reciprocity for plumbers.
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Louisiana offers license reciprocity contractors in California, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. View the map.
Contractors with a license from states with reciprocal agreements are recognized without needing to take the Louisiana trade exam. They must be free of license violations in their home state within the past 3 years.
Electrical contractors from these states have license reciprocity in Maine: New Hampshire, Vermont, Idaho, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming (depending on classification for all states). View the application.
Maine doesn't have explicit plumbing license reciprocity, but a licensed contractor can apply for review.
Maryland has license reciprocity for electrical contractors from DC, Delaware, Virginia, and West Virginia. There's no license reciprocity for home improvement contractors or out-of-state plumbers.
Massachusetts recognizes electrical licenses from New Hampshire. The state doesn't have reciprocity for general contractor licenses, but licensed contractors can apply for review.
Minnesota has reciprocity for Class A journeyman electrical licenses from Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Class A master electricians have license reciprocity from Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska. Learn more from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, or download an application.
Mississippi has a variety of reciprocity agreements for contractors of all types from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Learn more from the Mississippi State Board of Contractors.
The Montana State Electrical Board offers reciprocity for residential electrician licenses from Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Minnesota, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. The Board will verify the license directly with the state.
Montana also recognizes electrical licenses from Alabama, Connecticut, DC, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Washington. Contractors must obtain license verification from their state for submission to the Montana Board.
Journeyman plumbers have license reciprocity in Montana if they're licensed in Oregon, Idaho, North Dakota, or South Dakota.
Nebraska has reciprocity for electrical contractors from Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. The state also recognizes municipal licenses from Fremont, Nebraska, and Hastings, Nebraska.
Nevada recognizes general contractor, electrical, and plumbing licenses from Arizona, California, and Utah.
New Hampshire Electricians' Board offers reciprocal licensing for electrical contractors from Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Utah, or Wyoming.
New Mexico offers electrical license reciprocity with Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. The state has no plumbing license reciprocity agreements.
North Carolina doesn't have full reciprocity for GCs, but exam waivers are available to contractors from South Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, Georgia, and Mississippi.
NC recognizes electrical licenses from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. Learn more.
North Dakota has electrical license reciprocity with Minnesota, South Dakota, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Utah, and Wyoming. Learn more.
Plumbing license reciprocity is available for contractors licensed in South Dakota, Minnesota, or Montana. Learn more.
Ohio has reciprocity for electrical licenses from West Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Tennessee. Reciprocity is only offered to those who have taken the state-recognized test. If you grandfathered in, you are not eligible to reciprocate.
The state offers reciprocity for plumbing licenses from West Virginia and Tennessee.
Oklahoma offers electrical license reciprocity to licensed contractors from Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas, or Wyoming. Read the guidelines.
Oregon has reciprocity agreements for electrical licenses from Arkansas and Utah. Learn more.
Plumbing license reciprocity is available for contractors licensed in Idaho, Montana, Arkansas, Maine, Utah, Washington, or Wyoming. Learn more.
South Carolina has contractor license reciprocity: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Utah — and the City of Reading, Pennsylvania (but not the rest of the state).
Contractors must have taken an approved technical exam. Licensees that were grandfathered or obtained through a waived exam from another state do not qualify for reciprocity.
South Dakota offers reciprocity for electrical contractors licensed in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, or Wyoming. Contractors must have earned the license by examination and must have held it for at least one year. Learn more.
Tennessee has contractor license reciprocity agreements with:
- Alabama (General, Electrical, Residential, and HVAC)
- Arkansas (Commercial/Residential Building only)
- Georgia (Commercial Building and Electrical)
- Louisiana (Residential, Commercial, Electrical and Mechanical)
- Mississippi (Residential, Commercial, Electrical, Mechanical)
- North Carolina (Residential/Commercial Building, Electrical)
- Ohio (Electrical, Plumbing, HVAC)
- South Carolina (Commercial Contractors Licensing Board)
- West Virginia (Residential, Commercial, Industrial Building, Electrical, Mechanical, Masonry)
- NASCLA (National Commercial Exam)
Texas has reciprocity for electrical licenses from different states, depending on the license type.
- Master Electrician: Louisiana (state contractor’s license) and North Carolina (master electrician or unlimited electrical contractor)
- Journeyman Electrician: Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming
While Utah doesn't have specific reciprocity agreements, they do recognize licenses from certain states.
Utah allows out-of-state contractors with one year of licensed experience to opt out of the licensing exam.
Electrical contractors from any US state who have held a license for at least a year and are in good standing may qualify for licensure by endorsement in Utah. Contractors from states where Utah deems the licensing process equivalent have fewer requirements. Learn more:
Vermont has electrical license reciprocity for master electricians and journeyman electricians from Maine and New Hampshire.
Virginia has reciprocity for electrical contractor licenses from Alabama, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Maryland, West Virginia, or North Carolina. Anyone applying by reciprocity or by examination exemption must submit a complete application along with verification of licensure from the out-of-state board. Learn more.
While Virginia doesn't have plumbing license reciprocity agreements with other states, they do have an agreement with the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.
Washington only has plumbing license reciprocity for journeyman plumbers from Idaho. Other out-of-state plumbers can present a license or show equivalent military experience for consideration. Learn more.
West Virginia has several license reciprocity agreements with Ohio, Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina, varying by trade. Learn more.
The State of Wyoming offers reciprocal licenses to journeyman electricians from Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, and Iowa.
A reciprocal Master Electrician license is only available to contractors from Idaho, South Dakota, and Iowa. Learn more.
Tom Scalisi is a writer with over 15 years of experience in the trades. He is passionate about educating contractors and specialty contractors about the best practices in the industry. He has seen first-hand how education, communication, and preparation help construction professionals overcome challenges to build a strong career and thriving business in the industry.View profile
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