By Patricia A. Harris, Esq., founder and CEO, LicenseSure LLC
This year’s hurricanes have devastated numerous areas throughout the United States and engineers will be needed to assess the damage, clean up and rebuild for years to come. These emergency conditions do not free engineers and engineering firms from having to meet local licensing and business authorization requirements. Below is an overview of the requirements for each impacted jurisdiction.
Engineering firms that plan to take on work in Texas must be qualified with the Secretary of State. Firms and sole practitioners must also register with the Texas Board of Professional Engineers (TBPE); this registration process is in addition to individual licensure in Texas. The TBPE requires that a firm have one full-time Texas licensed professional engineer on staff in order to register. Presently, the process of qualification with the Texas Secretary of State and registration with the TBPE may take up to six weeks.
Individual engineers can apply through December 4, 2017 for emergency temporary licenses to work in certain Texas counties impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Temporary licenses will be valid for a period of 90 days and will not be renewable. It is highly recommended that any engineer who foresees long-term work in Texas start the process for a standard license concurrent with applying for a temporary license in Texas. Those with temporary licenses can provide services only through businesses registered with the TPBE.
Engineering firms must qualify with the Florida Department of State and receive a Certificate of Authorization from the Florida Board of Professional Engineers (FBPE). While the two steps can be pursued concurrently in Texas, the Certificate of Authorization application asks for evidence that the firm has already registered with the Florida Department of State. The FBPE requires that a principal officer (e.g., President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer), director, manager or managing member of the firm be licensed in Florida.
Non-Florida firms can pursue a temporary Certificate of Authorization, which is valid for one project and a period of up to three months; although there is a small difference in the application fee, the Florida-licensee requirements described above are the same for a temporary Certificate of Authorization and a full Certificate of Authorization. Typically, the qualification and authorization process can take four to six weeks in Florida; assume it will be somewhat elongated due to limited resources at the FBPE and an increase in applications.
Florida also offers a temporary individual license, which is valid for one project and for a period of up to one year. The application process is the same as it is for a standard individual license, which has no limitation on projects and is renewable biannually.
In Puerto Rico, firms must register with the Departamento de Estado. There is no separate registration or authorization process for firms with the Puerto Rico Board of Engineers. Typically, business registration in Puerto Rico can be accomplished online but it is impossible to know at this point what the time frame for registration may be.
Although there is no registration process for engineering firms, the Puerto Rico Board of Engineers requires any individual who is offering or practicing engineering there to be licensed in Puerto Rico Individual U.S. licensees may apply for licensure by reciprocity.
U.S. Virgin Islands
The first steps in the U.S. Virgin Islands are to register the business with the Office of the Lieutenant Governor and to procure a tax clearance letter from the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Next, engineering firms are required to apply to the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs for a Business License. A firm must employ a USVI-licensed engineer in order to procure a Business License.
Individual U.S. licensees may apply for licensure by reciprocity. As of this writing, we are unable to estimate how long the business registration, business license or individual licensure processes may take in the Virgin Islands.
Whenever and wherever disasters occur, the spirit of the design professional typically shines brightly, but protect yourselves while protecting and assisting others. Business and compliance obligations cannot be ignored.
This article will be updated at www.licensesure.biz as conditions change.