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Recertification/Re-credentialing of Refugee Professionals

Published: June 18, 2012


Recertification or re-credentialing will allow internationally trained refugee professionals to return to their career of interest upon resettling in the U.S. However, becoming recertified in a regulated occupation requires significant financial, emotional, and time commitment.

For refugee professionals, the recertification process will vary by state and occupation. Other than a few federally regulated industries (e.g. aviation) individual states have their own set of occupational licensing and regulation standards for most professions. Contact information for various professional licenses in individual states can be found at the Employment and Training Administration’s Licensed Occupations* web site at

In general, there are four aspects of recertification that should be considered in order for refugee professionals to become licensed in the U.S. as they are described below:

  • Managing Expectations
    Refugee professionals may arrive in the U.S. with the expectation of continuing the career they had in their country of origin. Refugee professionals interested in reclaiming their careers will need additional training, education, and/or exams to become re-certified or re-licensed. Whether the refugee client decides to re-enter their career of choice, or they prefer to re-direct their career in the same industry but at a different capacity, various options should be considered as part of the long-term career planning. Refugee professionals may consider contacting their local refugee employment specialist or the One-Stop-Career Center for assistance. Locations of One-Stop-Career Centers can be found at
  • Job Preparedness
    In order to begin the recertification process, the job seeker must not only have higher education and relevant work experience, but is expected to be “job ready” in other ways. For example, the job seeker may need to learn how to write a resume, build his or her interviewing skills, become familiar with standardized tests, acquire computer skills, and learn the language of the chosen profession (e.g. medical vocabulary and acronyms), as well as the English language. Refugees begin work in the U.S. with entry-level employment. This first job is a stepping stone to self-sufficiency. Although finding employment in a related field may be beneficial if recertification is the goal, those having a job in an unfamiliar industry can also complete the recertification process. For refugees, job preparedness may also include English proficiency exams, such as the Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL) and orientation to the U.S. work culture.
  • Translation and Evaluation of Credentials
    During the recertification process certain documents (e.g. transcripts, license, certificates) must be translated and evaluated for their U.S. equivalence. Some states require evaluation of credentials from an evaluation agency, but others identify the specific source from which the translation and evaluation must be completed. Typically, the applicant is responsible for all fees and costs associated with the credential evaluation.
  • Additional Education, Training, Exams, and/or Experience
    Based on the credential evaluation and the state licensing requirements, the refugee professional applying for recertification may have to take additional courses and/or need to take standardized exams. Depending on the requirement, an apprenticeship, internship, training, and/or mentorship may fill the gap in education, language, or work experience.

Questions & Answers

Q: How long will it take for me to become recertified in my field?

A: The length of time required to complete a recertification process varies by occupation, state, and/or the individual refugee professional.

Q: How much does it cost to recertify my credential?

A: The cost of recertification depends on the occupation, state requirements, individual refugee’s professional background, and the resources/support services available in the community. For example, a medical re-licensing could cost over $4,000, including exams, fees required by the state medical board, in addition to expenses incurred during residency and other additional fees specific to the individual’s needs.

Q: Taking things step by step is key to continuing my process to recertification, but how can I get assistance beginning my long-term career planning in order to know which steps to take?

A: To learn more about the licensing process for a specific occupation, please contact the appropriate state licensing board at the Licensed Occupations data base: Click on your state, then click on your occupation. The result will include contact information for the state licensing entity for the designated occupation.

Q: A number of job preparedness skills (e.g. resume, interview, computers, etc.) are noted as necessary in order to obtain a recertification. Where can I find help with these skills?

A: Contact your local refugee employment specialist or the One-Stop-Career Center for assistance with job preparedness. Locations of One-Stop-Career Centers can be found at

Q: How much does it typically cost for translation and evaluation services? How long does it take?

A: The cost of translation and evaluation services as well as the turn-around time depends on the service provider and the type of translation and evaluation. Also, be aware that the requesting agency may work with a specific service provider or require that the applicant use an agency with certain credentials or association membership. Before any translation or evaluation services are sought, the state agency requesting such information should be contacted for detailed guidance.

How can I find out more?

Office of Refugee Resettlement
Administration for Children and Families
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Mary E. Switzer Building
330 C Street, SW
Washington DC 20201
Phone: 202.401.9246
Fax: 202.401.5772

* The license agency listed in “Licensed Occupations” should be contacted for the most up-to-date requirements and to verify any information.

Last Reviewed: May 15, 2018
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