New CA law allows broader access to professional licenses

A new law, introduced in California as SB 1159, will require the 39 licensing boards of the California Department of Consumer Affairs to accept federal taxpayer ID numbers instead of Social Security numbers as proof of identification by 2016. This means undocumented immigrants, who do not have access to Social Security numbers, will be able to apply for professional licenses in the state. This includes professions like accounting, therapy, speech and language pathology and more.

Some of the licensing boards have already made the move to use federal taxpayer identification numbers, including the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology. This has had a huge impact on the lives of immigrants who do not have Social Security numbers and who would like to work as stylists or barbers. Other boards that have taken the new guidance and acted on it immediately include those that license boxers, financial advisers, geologists, osteopaths and appliance repair technicians.

Critics are concerned these measures exist only as another way for state lawmakers to get around legislation preventing undocumented immigrants from working, but many people’s lives are already changing as a result of SB 1159. It represents another step in state-level immigration reform.