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NCARB (USA) and ARB (UK) Mutually Sign Reciprocal Licensing Agreement for Architects


The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and the Architects Registration Board (ARB), architects’ registration boards of the US and the UK have signed a “Mutual Recognition Agreement” that will enable architects to benefit from a simpler licensing and employment process in both countries.

This agreement will allow eligible architects from both nations to acquire reciprocal licenses. Architects can seek work opportunities and establish contacts in each country.

This agreement is based on similarities between NCARB’s architecture licensing standards and registration requirements in the United Kingdom. To apply for a reciprocal license in either country, architects must meet the following eligibility requirements-

  • Hold a valid license/registration in good standing from their home licensing authority (the United States or the United Kingdom).
  • Have lawful authorization to work in the locality in which they are registered.
  • Hold an active NCARB Certificate.

“The arrangement is an exciting opportunity for architects seeking to expand their careers internationally,” said NCARB President Alfred Vidaurri Jr., NCARB, NOMA, FAIA. “One of the primary benefits enjoyed by NCARB Certificate holders is the ability to pursue reciprocal licensure, and this agreement expands those benefits to a new continent.”

NCARB (USA) and ARB (UK) Mutually Sign Reciprocal Licensing Agreement for Architects

Five years of research and negotiation from NCARB and ARB comes to fruition

The NCARB and ARB did not approve of the agreement overnight. This agreement is the result of five years of research and negotiation between the two parties, that kicked off at the end of 2018.

Back then, former NCARB President Gregory L. Erny, FAIA, NCARB, Hon. FCARM appointed a team of subject-matter specialists to evaluate examination, education, and experience documents to understand the registration process in the United Kingdom. The review team found out that the registration process in the UK paralleled their assessment of the competency of the architects.

This overlap of standards gave rise to negotiations between NCARB and ARB to develop a streamlined path for architects from the US and UK to acquire reciprocity licenses in either country.

As of now, the agreement mandates that American architects obtain certification using the standard NCARB accreditation route, which consists of 3 steps-

1. Acquire a degree from an accredited architecture program.

2. Complete NCARB’s experience program.

3. Pass NCARB’s national licensing examination.

“The U.K. and U.S.A. are among the world’s leaders in architecture. A mutual recognition agreement will reinforce this further, helping eligible professionals to register between the two countries, sharing their skills and services,” said Alan Kershaw, chair of the Architects Registration Board. “We’re therefore delighted to see the agreement has been approved by NCARB’s boards. This is a significant step towards its completion and one that many architects in the UK will be pleased to see.”

COVID-19’s impact on architecture registration and licensure exams

The COVID-19 pandemic had a massive impact on the architecture industry. The NCARB tracked candidates’ progress through various metrics to understand the pandemic’s impact on their careers.

According to NCARB’s data-

  • The number of new architects fell by 39% in 2020, compared to the three-year average seen before the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The number of candidates submitting experience program reports also declined as the pandemic gathered pace.
  • A fall in candidates taking the registration exam was also reported in 2020.
  • From 2017-2019, over 52,285 exams were delivered. That number dropped sharply to 29,390 in 2020.

Road to recovery

The data is showing signs of recovery though. 2021 saw an increase in the number of exams delivered, candidates submitting experience reports, and an overall increase in the number of new architects (from 3,122 in 2020 to 3,845 in 2021). This means, the number of candidates ready for licensure in the US also increased.

This agreement will benefit not only US architects, but also the UK as we are witnessing a steady recovery from both nations to expand their business into new territories.

Talking about the agreement, Michael Armstrong, CEO, of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, said “Through this agreement, NCARB celebrates a new relationship with the United Kingdom as it continues to enhance the value of the NCARB Certificate as a facilitator of domestic and international mobility for many U.S. licensed practitioners.” 

“We are pleased to sign this Mutual Recognition Agreement emphasizing a shared approach of appropriate rigor in guiding the licensure of architects, thus furthering our mutual desire to enhance the global health, safety, and welfare of the public,” he added.

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