In January, a new Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) launched between the architectural licensing boards of Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, enabling architects to earn reciprocal licensed abroad. And one U.S. architect is already taking advantage of this new opportunity.

Pursuing Licensure Abroad

Spearheaded by NCARB, the Mutual Recognition Arrangement was signed by the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia (AACA) and the New Zealand Registered Architects Board (NZRAB). Each of the three countries follow a similar path to licensure, requiring candidates to satisfy and document specific education, experience, and examination requirements.

Michael Sweeney, AIA, NCARB, was the first U.S. architect to use his NCARB Certificate to become registered through the MRA. Though getting licensed abroad may sound complicated, the process, Sweeney said, was “seamless.”

Once an architect has met the MRA’s requirements—which include holding an active NCARB Certificate, documenting 6,000 hours (approximately three years) of post-licensure practice, and receiving a letter of good standing from their home licensing authority—the architect’s Record is transmitted to the foreign authority for licensing.

Going through the arrangement “felt faster than getting a normal license in a different state,” said Sweeney, who was registered in New Zealand on January 20, just three weeks after the MRA went into effect.

Following his registration in New Zealand, Sweeney also became registered in Australia. “I think architects across borders is a great thing,” he said. “I would encourage younger architects to go out and get international experience. When people take themselves out of their comfort zone and go elsewhere, it offers a different perspective. It opens one’s mind.”

Freedom to Advance Your Career

The MRA is part of NCARB’s continued push to remove barriers for certified architects seeking to expand their career opportunities—but international practice isn’t the only benefit the NCARB Certificate. Both Sweeney’s current work managing hotel development and construction, as well as his previous work with freight companies, have taken him across the United States, a freedom that was facilitated by his Certificate.

“Having an NCARB Certificate gave me the flexibility to pursue projects by becoming licensed in other states. In most cases, after my NCARB Record was transmitted, I was licensed in less than a month.”

In addition to reciprocal licensure across the 54 U.S. jurisdictions, Australia, and New Zealand, the NCARB Certificate also facilitates licensure in Canada and Mexico. Learn more about earning a license to practice architecture abroad.

Michael Sweeney, AIA, NCARB, is the Vice President of Design & Construction at Shamin Hotels. He is registered in Illinois, Maryland, New York, and Virginia, as well as Australia and New Zealand.