Licensure And Supervision Abroad
One of the most important issues to address with a prospective employer before accepting an international position is clinical licensure and supervision.
- For social workers looking at positions working with U.S. forces overseas, either a GS or contract: There are normally "status of forces” agreements in place that allow social workers to practice under an independent clinical license from any U.S. state or territory. Therefore, most of those positions will require proof of independent clinical level licensure in any state. However, not all contract employers are familiar with social work licensure, so it is important to ask about licensure requirements before accepting that position. Some employers have the ability to offer supervision to help assist new social workers in completing licensure requirements. In that situation it is important to find out if your state will accept the proposed supervisor, type of work and hours offered in an overseas location. Given the number of social workers working on bases and with the military worldwide, you should have social work colleagues who can be helpful and supportive. Do remember though that their license might be from a different state than yours, and you must follow the requirements for YOUR state license.
- For social workers looking at positions with non-governmental organizations (NGO): NGOs may also have agreements that allow social workers and other healthcare providers to practice under stateside licensure. Therefore most of these positions will also require proof of independent clinical level licensure, however, not all NGOs are familiar with social work licensure, so it is important to ask about licensure requirements and the availability of social work supervision before accepting the position.
- For social workers moving to another country and practicing under local licensure requirements: Just as social work licensure requirements vary from state to state in the United States, laws and practice standards vary greatly around the world. It's important to do your homework before moving to another country. Is there educational and/or licensure requirements or reciprocity? Will you be able to obtain a work VISA? As social work education has expanded throughout the world, there is a corresponding decrease in the recruiting of United States social workers for international work and thus the requirements for those positions may be increasing.
- For social workers wanting to put a license on hold while abroad: Many social workers have opportunities to live in a country for an extended period of time, or may choose to volunteer within a country or join the Peace Corps. In order to put a license on inactive status you must contact the state licensing board for your license. Most states licensing laws provide for some type of hold or inactive status and you need to comply with those requirements. It will be helpful for you to also know what you will need to do to reactivate your license when you return to the states, or if you decide to begin practicing while abroad.
- For social workers moving abroad but still working on obtaining their state license: Many social workers who are actively working on getting a state license end up having an opportunity to live or work abroad. In those instances, one can either try putting a license on inactive status (see above) or try to continue getting the hours and supervision needed in order to continue working on obtaining their license. The state laws and requirements for your license won’t change if you move abroad so your first step is to contact your state licensure board to make sure that you fully understand the requirements for your hours and supervision and that the state licensing board will accept hours and supervision obtained abroad.
- For social workers providing education or consultation without needing licensure: Before you travel to another country as an educator or consultant, check with the host country to find out their requirements for social work educators and consultants, as well as taxation and work VISA issues.
Supervision - For social workers in need of supervision while abroad: One should only need supervision if it is either required due to conditions of employment or if you are still working on obtaining a state license. Make sure that you know exactly what the supervision requirements are and exactly what standards your supervisor needs to meet. That means you will need to obtain very clear information for whom you need to contact. Additional resources include:
We suggest that you contact your state specific licensure board with questions about what to do in any of these situations. Remember, the licensing board and the state NASW chapter are different. We hope these links will help you find the correct contact information for whom you need to contact.