Can Contractors Work in Different States?

Can Contractors Work in Different States?

The opportunity to work in multiple states has apparent benefits, some of them potentially lucrative. Unfortunately, unless the two states have reciprocity agreements for licensing, these opportunities will be inaccessible to you. You should always seek contractor reciprocity before pursuing jobs in neighboring states (or beyond!).

If this all sounds a little alien to you, don't worry, you're in the right place. This guide will provide you with a brief introduction to reciprocity agreements, how you can qualify for them, and some of the many misconceptions regarding reciprocity.

Let's get into it.

Reciprocity Agreements Between States

Reciprocal agreements between states mean that each licensing board agrees to recognize contractors accepted by the other. However, this doesn't cover everything. Even if two states have a reciprocity agreement, that doesn't immediately mean that all contractors within each state can complete any work they want to. Limitations do apply.

For example, California has reciprocity agreements with Nevada, Arizona, Louisiana, and Utah. However, this doesn't mean that a licensed Nevada contractor can go to California and accept jobs of any kind. There is a specified scope to which contractors must adhere. If your specialty is landscaping, for instance, then you need to stick with that.

It is also important to note that states that uphold reciprocity agreements will not allow you to take a contract immediately, no question's asked. You will need to acquire the relevant license for the state where you wish to work.

A reciprocity agreement simply speeds this process up, as your original license will fulfill the requirements typically only met by college transcripts, proof of employment, and more.

Qualifying for Reciprocity

As mentioned above, you can't immediately accept jobs in a different state even if they have a reciprocity agreement.

However, it does speed up the process enormously. It essentially allows you to skip various steps that you would ordinarily need to complete simply by submitting your current state's license.

The expectations of each state are different, however. California, for example, requires you to have held your original state license for at least five years. Arizona requires contractors from outside of the state to complete a business management exam, even if the state has a reciprocal agreement in place.

In short, you need to do your research before making any assumptions about what reciprocal agreement means to you.

Can You Apply for a Reciprocal License in Multiple States?

In short, yes, you can. If a state has multiple reciprocal agreements with various states, you can apply for a license in each of those states. For example, as California has reciprocal agreements with Nevada, Utah, and Arizona, you can apply for permits in any of these states, provided one of them is a state you are currently licensed within.

Just remember that, even if you are currently licensed with one of the reciprocal states, approval for a new license isn't guaranteed. A complete exam is required in many states, such as Arizona and California, and a license will only be granted if you pass.

These exams can require significant study in preparation, so make sure you know what you are getting into before applying. You need to set the necessary time aside outside of your work.

It's also important to remember that each state possesses its own response to contractor licenses. Simply having reciprocity agreements doesn't necessarily mean you will be welcomed with open arms for contract work. Additionally, some states may offer reciprocity for particular contracts but not others. Let's look at that in closer detail.

Misconceptions About Reciprocity

Reciprocity agreements can get pretty confusing, so, naturally, you might have some preconceived notions about them that aren't correct.

It Immediately Guarantees Access

Just because your home state and another state have a reciprocity agreement, that does not mean you can start accepting jobs immediately. You need to follow the proper procedure for each state before beginning work.

The Application Process is Easy

If a reciprocity agreement is in place, the process is streamlined, but that doesn't mean it's immediately a walk in the park. If you need to sit an exam, for instance, then you need to take the time to study appropriately.

All States Have Some Kind of Reciprocal Agreement

While many states do have reciprocity agreements, plenty don't. An excellent way to know for sure is to use a contractor licensing map. Some states that offer no reciprocity include:

  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Illinois
  • Wisconsin
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Michigan

You Can Only Work in States with Reciprocal Agreements

A reciprocity agreement exists to make the license application process more manageable, but it isn't a gatekeeper. If you want to work in a state that does not possess a reciprocity agreement with your current licensed state, all you need to do is apply the traditional way.

If you meet the state requirements, you should be accepted. It may not be as streamlined as a reciprocal state, but it's still possible.


Getting licensed in multiple states beyond your own is a great way to open up the market. It provides you with access to jobs that would otherwise be unavailable and can play a significant role in growing your business. Don't let some of the more complicated details deter you.

If you feel like a new state license is appropriate for you, research the existing reciprocity agreements out there and shop our course offerings for licenses accepted in multiple states, such as the National NASCLA exam or National ICC exams.

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