By Sabrina Barr
On January 1, 2021, AB 2113 (Low) (Chapter 186, Statutes of 2020) took effect. The bill adds section 135.4 to the Business and Professions Code to require any board within the Department of Consumer Affairs, including the Contractors State License Board (CSLB), to expedite the licensure process for any applicant who is a refugee, has been granted asylum, or who has certain types of special immigration visas. Prior to the effective date of this bill, the Business and Professions Code simply prohibited denial of licensure based on immigration or citizenship status.
According to the author, this law is vitally important because California is a state that frequently provides safe haven for immigrants and refugees, but that these families often struggle to rebuild their lives once in the state, and that the challenges they face have only been worsened by the global pandemic. In response to this issue, this new law allows refugees, asylees, and special immigrant visa holders to apply for expedited professional licensure. In this way, these groups of people can more easily pursue sustainable careers as they rebuild here in California.
On January 11, 2021, CSLB issued Industry Bulletin #21-01, informing license applicants of the new change. The Bulletin clarifies that under the new law only sole owner entity applicants are eligible for this benefit if they meet the criteria outlined by the law and included in the bulletin. In order to meet the criteria required, an applicant must fall into one of three categories: 1) the applicant has a special immigration visa and was granted status pursuant to the specific sections outlined in the bulletin, 2) the applicant was granted asylum by the Secretary of Homeland Security or the Attorney General, or 3) the applicant was admitted to the United States as a refugee.
Additionally, the bulletin explains that even if an applicant qualifies under the new law, in order to receive the benefits therein, they must attach evidence of their status as a member of one of the above-mentioned groups. Acceptable Evidence includes: Form I-94; a special immigrant visa that includes “SI” or “SQ”; Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551) with a category designation indicating that the person was admitted as a refugee or asylee; or an order from a court or other documentary evidence that provides reasonable assurance that the applicant qualifies for expedited licensure.
The Board also noted that the new law does not guarantee licensure, but only grants an expedited review process, and that if applicants have any questions, they should contact the Board at firstname.lastname@example.org.