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Licensing Overview

There are no secrets when it comes to your criminal history, whether you’re applying for:

  • a professional or occupational license from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR)
  • a teacher’s certification from the Illinois State Board of Education
  • permission to sit for the Illinois state bar exam to secure  a law license

A Sampling of Criminal-History Questions

teacher at deskEvery applicant for a license from the IDFPR is asked two questions: 1) Have you even been convicted of a criminal offense? and 2) Have you even been convicted of a felony? Additionally, some applicants are subject to a mandatory criminal background check that is processed through the Illinois State       Police (ISP) and the FBI.

The Illinois State Board of Education asks applicants to disclose whether they have ever been convicted of a felony, sex crime or crime involving drugs (cannabis, a controlled substance, methamphetamine).

The Illinois Board of Admissions (which administers the bar exam) asks applicants to disclose whether they have been convicted of a felony, a minor or serious traffic offense, or were ever arrested or found delinquent as a juvenile. Applicant responses are verified through the ISP.

Licensing: No Protection from Expungement or Sealing

While state law expressly provides that Illinois employers cannot ask applicants to disclose criminal history information that has been expunged or sealed, these protections do not apply to people seeking professional/occupational licensing. This fact is likely to come as a surprise to those who planned on clearing their records before applying for a license or certificate.

In actuality, applicants may complicate the application process by eliminating or restricting access to their criminal records.  For example, the IDFPR routinely asks applicants who have been convicted of crimes to provide court records pertaining to the offenses. Once criminal records are expunged or sealed, these records cannot be obtained. Thus, in most cases, the appropriate time to expunge or seal a criminal record is after the licensing authority has issued the license.