State Law “Repealed,” Non-U.S. Citizens No Longer Eligible To Receive Professional & Commercial Licenses In Tennessee

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The Tennessee Conservative [By Adelia Kirchner] –

President of the Tennessee Eagle Forum, Bobbie Patray, recently broke the news that a 2022 state law permitting those without a legal immigration status to obtain state-issued commercial and professional licenses has effectively been repealed. 


The State Law in Question

The bipartisan HB2309/SB2464 sponsored by Rep. Bob Freeman (D-Nashville-District 56) and Sen. Shane Reeves (R-District 14) went into effect as Pub. Ch. No. 911 back in July of 2022.

This law dictated that professional and commercial licenses would not be considered a public benefit in Tennessee and that individuals could be eligible for these licenses based on work authorization status.

View 2022 House votes on HB2309 HERE.

View 2022 Senate votes on SB2464 HERE.

According to the Tennessee Eagle Forum, this state law actually served to endorse actions taken in violation of U.S. immigration law by the Obama and Biden administrations and the law “was preempted by the controlling federal law, 8 U.S.C. §1621(c) which defines ‘state or local public benefit’ as specifically including commercial and professional licenses.”

Under this federal law, there is no wiggle room for Tennessee to simply declare that professional and commercial licenses are not a public benefit. 

Now almost two years later, efforts to counteract Pub. Ch. 911 have succeeded.


2022 State Law Repealed

Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield-District 23) and Rep. Sabi ‘Doc’ Kumar (R-Springfield-District 66) sponsored SB2850/HB2900 this year, with Sen. Roberts bringing an amendment that restored state law’s previous language regarding professional license eligibility. 

“Roberts’ amendment restored the state’s EVEA public benefits law to its pre-2022 language with the additional clarifier that ‘lawfully present’ is determined by the Immigration & Nationality Act,” read the Tennessee Eagle Forum newsletter. “The work authorization open door as eligibility to obtain state-issued commercial and professional licenses was removed.”

The legislation passed as amended by a 30-0 vote in the Senate and the House voted 82-11 in concurrence with the Senate decision. 

SB2850/HB2900 was signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee (R-TN) on May 3rd, 2024. The law will go into full effect on July 1st of this year.

Tennessee Code Annotated §4-58-103(a) will now state that “Except where prohibited by federal law, every state governmental entity and local health department shall verify, in the manner provided in this chapter, that each applicant who is eighteen (18) years of age or older and applies for a federal, state, or local public benefit from the state governmental entity or local health department, is a United States citizen or lawfully present in the United States pursuant to the federal Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C.  §1101 et seq.).”

“Moving forward, it will be important for the Tennessee General Assembly to understand that Congress does not recognize work authorization as providing lawful presence for purposes of public benefits nor does work authorization provide anyone with an immigration status,” the Tennessee Eagle Forum’s report continued. “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients, among others, are not considered “qualified aliens” for purposes of state or local public benefits.”

About the Author: Adelia Kirchner is a Tennessee resident and reporter for the Tennessee Conservative. Currently the host of Subtle Rampage Podcast, she has also worked for the South Dakota State Legislature and interned for Senator Bill Hagerty’s Office in Nashville, Tennessee. 

You can reach Adelia at

6 thoughts on “State Law “Repealed,” Non-U.S. Citizens No Longer Eligible To Receive Professional & Commercial Licenses In Tennessee

  • May 7, 2024 at 3:58 pm

    Excellent!! Will send emails to the legislators that sponsored this!!

    • May 7, 2024 at 11:06 pm

      So glad common ensemble has been instituted. Illegal is the key word. Deport all illegal aliens.

  • May 7, 2024 at 4:49 pm

    Don’t know how this happened but glad it did. Now work on getting the illegals out of Tn and stop using our tax dollars to support and educate them. Get them gone!

  • May 7, 2024 at 5:41 pm

    Oh look, Conservatives doing things that will play right into the Left’s hands.

    Illegals will be limited in jobs, therefore will be on more public benefits because of this. Then the Left will use this logic to call Taxes as a public benefit and use this state law to ensure illegals are exempted from ALL state taxation. Thereby depleting your treasury even more, while they dump more immigrants here.
    Congrats, you played yourselves

    • May 8, 2024 at 4:49 am

      D.Moore message is on point.
      Please keep in mind allowing illegals to have a business license is another huge magnet for more illegals to make their way here to Tn.
      The continuing $$$ obligations and magnets the politicians hv put on Tn need to be hammered at.
      I support legal merit based immigration only, that must be applied for “in person” at the closest US Consulate to a persons home country.
      Without the aid of social services.
      Asylum claims need to filed in the closest country they can escape to.

    • May 8, 2024 at 1:53 pm

      Illegal aliens are not eligible for welfare. And just because they don’t have a professional license doesn’t mean they would go on welfare anyway. The law was only in effect for 2 years and all the illegals were not on welfare during that time so repealing a bad law won’t change that. Allowing them professional licenses would have included allowing them to be lawyers too. Not a good idea imo.


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