I am a cosmetologist moving to the United States this year. I would like to know how to get a license in <U.S. State>. Can you help me find information for out-of-country transfers?
Over the years I have helped thousands of cosmetologists, estheticians, and nail technicians get licensed in the United States, mainly Florida. However, today, I am looking to help those of you that are moving to one of the other 49 U.S. states and need to get a cosmetology-related license.
Moving to the United States with a foreign or international education is usually a little bit different than if you went to the school in the United States and are moving to another state. It often takes longer and requires more steps, more planning, additional costs, research, diligence, and patience.
I want to make your professional move to the United States as easy as possible. I am going to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about getting a hair, nail, or skincare license in the United States. I will give a few examples of how some states handle certain situations. That way you have some idea of what the process will look like and how you can get started with getting licensed.
As a reminder, I am not a state cosmetology board. And I am not a lawyer. These are just a few things I have learned over the years consulting many cosmetology colleagues. And sometimes, laws and rules change and may be different from the below information. If you have any specific questions, contact the board office of where you plan to move, or a U.S. legal professional.
Okay, let’s get started.
I am A Cosmetologist Moving to the United States. Where should I begin?
I always recommend starting with the cosmetology board website. It usually has applications, FAQs, and other information that is helpful for those looking to get licensed. I have included links to all of the board websites at the end of this article.
Will the state I am moving to accept my foreign cosmetology education or license from out of the country.?
Probably. Most states do accept foreign education or out-of-country licenses. However, some require additional information and processing time. Many required that you have been licensed in your current country for at least a year.
Here are some examples of how a few cosmetology boards address out-of-country license “transfers”:
Do I have to take a cosmetology exam?
Maybe. Again, it depends on the state. Some states may require applicants a written exam, others a practical exam, several require both a written and practical exam, and a few have no cosmetology licensing exams.
Most states use the NIC exam for their cosmetology license exam. You can learn more about that exam here: National Interstate Council Cosmetology Exam if you need to take an exam.
The State of Florida has its own cosmetology board exam. You can learn more about that exam here: Florida Cosmetology Exam
My transcript is in another language. What should I do?
I would not worry about this just yet, unless a state board has asked you to get this information. Not all of them will. Most will just need a verification of your license.
But if you are asked for this information and your education or transcript is in another language, you may need to have it translated. Some states will ask for your education, some will only require a copy of your current cosmetology license.
Also, there will be states that may ask you to have your education or transcript evaluated by an independent educational credentialing service. This can get pricey. But again, only a few states will require this step.
You may also be asked to talk or appear at a cosmetology board meeting to speak about your application.
Do I have to take any additional courses?
Probably not. But, there are a few states that are strict about the number of hours they require in certain areas. If you are deficient in some areas, the board may require you to go back to school and complete those hours before they issue you a license.
Florida requires all applicants complete a 4-hour HIV course. Here is an approved course: Florida 4 Hour HIV for cosmetology applications
I’m a barber in another country. Is it the same licensing process?
Typically, yes. Barbers sometimes share a state board with cosmetologists. Sometimes they do not. You will just need to look at the available boards and applications to see what you need to do to apply for your professional license.
There are many different license applications for cosmetology and barber boards. Some states will have restricted licenses, temporary licenses, master licenses, or instructor licenses.
I offer microblading and laser hair remover. Is this covered under the cosmetology board?
Some states allow cosmetologists to use straight razors like a barber, while others only allow safety razors. Cosmetologists are often able to offer skincare and nail services.
So, you may find that there are services you will no longer be able to perform once you move to the United States. It is important, SO IMPORTANT, to become familiar with the laws and rules of cosmetology in your state.
For example, in Florida, microblading requires that you get a tattoo license in Florida. And to perform laser air removal techniques there, you should look into an electrolysis license.
I’m an esthetician or nail technician in another country. Can I transfer my license to the United States?
Probably. Most states have a similar process for nail and skincare professionals. However, there are states that accept cosmetology education but do not accept out-of-country education for nail or skincare (esthetic) specialties. There are states that require 240 hours for nail licenses and others that require 800 hours. It really varies from state to state for nail and skincare licenses.
Tips For Getting Started
I know I said “maybe” and “probably” a lot in this article. And that is just because there really are a lot of unknowns with out-of-country licenses and dealing with so many different cosmetology boards.
This process will take time, money, and energy. I suggest you start as soon as you have confirmed your plans to move. Here are some suggestions on how to begin the process.
- Visit the state cosmetology board where you plan to move
- I have made a chart below with each state board website
- Look over the applications to see if you qualify
- Be sure to look out for an out-of-country applications
- Filling out the wrong application will cause licensing delays
- Contact the board office if you have questions about your situation
- They deal with similar situations all the time
- Be patient, but persistent
- It may take weeks, even months, to get licensed. But you should periodically check on the status of your application to see if there are any issues with it or delays.
- Look at other licenses you may need
- If you plan to open a salon, you likely will need a salon license too
- Here is an example of salon requirements for one state: Texas Salon Requirements
Last, but not least – Welcome!
I am excited to hear about your plans in the United States. Please feel free to share them below.