by Conor Norris and Edward Timmons
From pristine beaches to rolling hills and picturesque mountains, Virginia has a lot to attract residents. Combine that with a strong economy and Northern Virginia’s close ties with Washington, D.C., Virginia should be an attractive destination.
But surprisingly, that’s not the case. Despite strong economic performance and a high quality of life, more people are leaving Virginia than moving into the commonwealth. There may not be one silver bullet to reverse this trend, but the legislature just took an important step helping people move to Virginia by recognizing out-of-state professional licenses.
In 2021, Virginia experienced net out-migration. Many of us are puzzled by this trend, blaming some combination of housing prices, remote work, taxes, and weather for enticing people to leave Virginia. Unnecessary barriers for those considering a move into Virginia are also a contributing factor.
If you work in a licensed profession and wanted to move to Virginia in the past, it wasn’t easy to start working in your new home. First, you would have to reapply for a license, paying fees and waiting months for the application process. Sometimes, you would even have to go through training or education again and retake exams, no matter how long you’ve been working, adding time and money to an already expensive process.
The hassle created by the need to reapply for licensure had a real effect on people’s decision to move. Economists estimate that occupational licensing reduces migration by seven percent. Anyone who has moved knows it’s a costly and time-consuming process. Making it difficult to start working is enough to push some people over the edge and prevent them from moving entirely.