One of the biggest problems licensed professionals face is having a previous issue come back to haunt them when trying to get their license renewed or reinstated. Whether you work as a doctor, nurse, CPA, social worker, therapist, real estate agent, insurance broker, or in any other profession requiring a professional license—you know that your livelihood depends on your ability to get a license. If you have faced disciplinary actions or a license suspension in the past; if you simply allowed your license to lapse without renewing it; or even if you made an honest mistake on a license application; those issues can cause you to have difficulty getting a new license approved or renewed.
Perhaps you have experienced this issue already. Maybe your license was suspended a few years ago, but you've got your life back together and are ready to try again. Perhaps you have moved to a new state and didn't realize a dispute over your previous license was still on your record—or that the licensing board wouldn't check. Maybe you forgot to renew your license and are now facing an automatic suspension, costing you possibly years of waiting while trying to get by in the meantime. How can you regain your livelihood and your career when your past keeps throwing obstacles in your way?
Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a license defense attorney with extensive experience dealing with the state licensing boards in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. He has helped many licensed professionals overcome a wide range of past difficulties so that they can get back to work in their chosen professions. If you have recently had a license application or renewal rejected, or if you are concerned about how past issues will affect your application, the Lento Law Firm has compiled the following information to help you be informed and prepared for what is ahead.
What past issues could cause my professional license application or renewal to be denied?
State professional licensing boards have a responsibility to protect the public trust, so they vet all applicants carefully before deciding whether to issue a professional license. If they feel there is any reason why an applicant does not meet the standards of public trust, they may deny the application. For that reason, applications and renewals may be rejected for a wide range of reasons. Let's look at a few of the most common.
By definition, a criminal conviction represents a violation of public trust. Thus, licensing boards quite frequently reject applications due to criminal convictions, especially for felony offenses or if the conviction is related in some way to the applicant's line of work. (For example, if you are seeking licensing as an accountant but you were convicted of tax fraud, you will probably be denied a license.) In many states, DUI convictions may also disqualify you from certain types of professional licensing.
Previous disciplinary action
If you previously held a professional license and you were disciplined by the state licensing board, you might be denied renewal or reinstatement of your license. The board may opt to deny your application/renewal even if the prior discipline didn't involve having your license suspended or revoked—or even if the disciplinary action occurred with a license for a different profession.
Disciplinary action or revoked license in another state
For licensed professionals who have been disciplined or had their license suspended/revoked, one common tactic is to move to another state and attempt to get licensed there. However, this ploy rarely works. The licensing board will inevitably check public records and databases to see if you have been disciplined in another state, and they may decline your application if they see something they don't like—especially if you failed to mention it on your application.
Attempting to reapply during a probationary period
Some states have a time period in place during which you may not reapply for a license once it is expired, suspended, or revoked. (One common benchmark is five years.) In other cases, the terms of your disciplinary action may specifically state your license is suspended for a set period of time. If you attempt to reapply for a license during that time period, it will almost always be denied unless you can provide a good reason why your application should be considered. In addition, in some states, if your application was denied, you may have to wait a certain amount of time (for example—one year) before reapplying.
For many licensed professions, substance abuse may be grounds for suspension or revoking of a license—especially if you attempt to work while impaired. By the same token, if you have a record of substance abuse for which you have not received proper rehabilitation treatment, it could reflect badly on your application for a license or license renewal.
Failing to disclose key information on your application
Most license applications will ask about your prior experience, including any disciplinary actions or criminal convictions. You may be tempted to withhold any information that could look bad on your application. However, if you do withhold the information—or answer dishonestly—and the board finds out (which they frequently do), your application will likely be denied on the assumption that you intended to act fraudulently on your application.
Refusing to cooperate with prior investigations
When you are licensed as a professional, that license is a contract with the state—and with that contract comes an expectation (whether expressed or implied) that you will cooperate fully with any investigations into your conduct. If you have resisted investigations into your license in the past, the board may be hesitant to accept your application or renewal.
Failing to stay current with continuing education requirements
Many licensed professions require their licensees to take a certain number of hours of continuing education each year to keep up to date with changing practices, new technologies and research, etc. If you apply for renewal or reinstatement of a license without having kept current with these requirements, your application may be denied until you can provide proof that you've earned the required number of continuing education credits.
Failing to renew your license when it expires
In some states, like New Jersey, failing to renew a professional license may result in an automatic suspension of your license for up to five years. If you don't meet the requirements for reinstatement, your application for a new or reinstated license might be rejected.
Making a mistake on your application
Believe it or not, your application for a professional license can be rejected simply for failing to fill it out accurately—even if the mistake was unintentional. One of the reasons for this is that your application probably includes a sworn affidavit stating that all of the information in your application is accurate to the best of your knowledge. If a key piece of information is missing, for example, the board may err on the side of caution and assume you withheld it on purpose.
What can I do if my professional license application is rejected?
If your license application is rejected, it is not necessarily the final word on the matter. There are usually a set of steps you can take that may still enable you to get your license. Here are some things you can do:
- Find out the reason for the rejection. If the reason isn't stated explicitly, reach out to the board and inquire. It may be possible to resolve the issue and then reapply. For example, if you were rejected because your continuing education isn't current, you can take those courses to satisfy that requirement before reapplying.
- Appeal the decision. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York all have procedures in place for appealing the denial of a professional license application. In fact, Pennsylvania refers to the initial denial as a “provisional denial of license” to give you time to file an appeal before it becomes final. When appealing, you should be clear in your arguments as to why you are asking for reconsideration.
- Consult with a professional license defense attorney. Hiring an attorney can go a long way toward having your license denial reversed. A lawyer who has experience in professional licensing can appeal on your behalf and initiate other strategies for overcoming a license rejection. Your odds of a successful appeal go up considerably when you have an experienced attorney in your corner.
What does the appeals process look like when I appeal my denial of a license?
Each state has its own procedures for appealing denied professional licenses, but generally speaking, the process usually looks like this:
- You file the appeal, along with any supporting documentation, and request a hearing to review the board's decision.
- Depending on the specific licensing board and the state in which you're applying, you may be invited to an informal conference to discuss your license denial before a formal hearing is held. It may be possible to have the board's decision reversed at this informal conference.
- You attend a formal hearing to present your case to the board.
- A final vote is taken to determine whether to uphold or reverse the denial of your license.
My professional license was suspended or revoked. What is the process for having my license reinstated?
Each state has a process in place for having a license reinstated that was suspended, revoked, or allowed to expire. While the process may vary slightly from state to state or board to board, it usually follows a process similar to this one:
- Filling out an application for reinstatement of your license
- Submitting a written explanation as to why you are requesting reinstatement
- Paying any applicable filing fees and/or reactivation fees
- Providing a detailed work history of all jobs you have held while your license was inactive
- Submitting proof that you have completed any prescribed pre-conditions for reinstatement (e.g., continuing education, treatment programs)
- Agreeing to and fulfilling any prescribed Plan of Action that the licensing board may invoke as a requirement for getting your license back.
Hiring an experienced professional license defense attorney can streamline the reinstatement process for you. Your attorney can coordinate your paperwork and payment, follow up on the status of your request, and negotiate with the board when necessary for the best terms of reinstatement.
My professional license was suspended or revoked in another state. What can I do to obtain a new license in another state?
Having a license revoked/suspended in one state doesn't necessarily prevent you from being licensed in another state. However, it is an issue that may need to be addressed specifically with the licensing board of the new state where you are applying. The state board will likely check your record, and if there are recent disciplinary actions against you (like a revoked or suspended license), it may deny your application unless you provide a convincing explanation.
That being said, you might be able to get licensed in a new state under certain conditions. For example:
- If an acceptable amount of time has passed since your last license was suspended
- If you go through the steps to get your old license successfully reinstated before applying
- If you provide a compelling reason (preferably backed with documentation and evidence) as to why the board should consider your application and overlook your previous record
A couple of other tips that can improve your chances for getting licensed in a new state despite a previous license suspension/revocation:
- Be honest in your application. You will be asked if you have had a license suspended or revoked in the past. If you lie on your application hoping they won't check, chances are they will check—and they will almost certainly deny you a license on the grounds of providing false information.
- Have an experienced license defense attorney help you. Having a license revoked or suspended is a serious matter, and while it is not an insurmountable problem, your chances of getting a new license are much better with an attorney representing and advising you than if you try to go it alone.
My license application was rejected due to a prior arrest and/or criminal conviction. Is there anything I can do about it?
Yes, there is. While a criminal conviction could ultimately disqualify you from being licensed or having your license renewed, there are at least two ways in which you may be able to obtain a license despite having a criminal record:
- Hire a professional license attorney to file an appeal. A good attorney may be able to provide a compelling argument for the board to reconsider your license application.
- Attempt to have the conviction expunged, then reapply for the license. Under certain circumstances, a criminal arrest or conviction may be expunged from your record—at which point you are legally allowed to say you were not convicted of the crime.
How can a professional license attorney help me if I have trouble getting my license application or renewal approved?
Hiring a professional license attorney can greatly increase your chances of ultimately getting your license despite prior difficulties or denials of your application. A good license defense attorney will understand the administrative laws in your state and what the licensing boards are looking for. An attorney can help you in the following ways:
- Identifying any past issues that could result in a denial of your application
- Recommend strategies to resolve those past issues effectively so they don't interfere with your current application
- Coordinate the application or renewal process itself
- File an appeal on your behalf for a denied application and create a strong case for board reconsideration
- Act as your legal representative and advocate during board hearings concerning your license
- Negotiate with the board for the best possible terms of reinstatement of your professional license
Can I file an appeal for a denied license or seek reinstatement on my own without an attorney?
You are always within your rights to appeal on your own behalf or to represent yourself to the state licensing board when seeking reinstatement—but your odds of success go down considerably when you do so. Dealing with past issues or prior suspensions can be a complex and nuanced process, and without expert legal help and a clear strategy, you may have a difficult time convincing the board to reconsider their decision to deny you a license. Hiring a professional license attorney is not a requirement, but it does give you the best chance of getting your license approved, renewed, or reinstated if past problems are currently jeopardizing your approval.
It can indeed be challenging to be restored as a licensed professional once disciplinary actions or personal problems have caused your license to lapse or be suspended—but it is still highly possible to do so. Your past does not have to dictate your future. You may still be able to get your career back on track—but you'll need some help in doing so. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has successfully helped many licensed professionals who have either been under investigation or who are encountering problems getting re-licensed after having their license suspended or revoked. He knows what the state licensing boards are looking for, and he can provide expert guidance and legal representation to help you overcome the obstacles of the past.
Your career matters. If you're having licensing trouble in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or New York, you owe it to yourself to give yourself the best advantage when seeking a new license, applying for renewal, or looking to have your license reinstated. Call the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 to discuss your situation and explore your options.