Frequently Asked Questions for Physician Assistant Applicants

What are the qualifications to become licensed as a physician assistant in California?
When should I apply?
How can I obtain an application for licensure?
Is fingerprinting required for licensure?
I already have been fingerprinted previously; can the Physician Assistant access those prints?
What fees do I include when I submit my application?
How long does it take to process my application?
What convictions am I required to disclose on the application?
Is my application automatically approved when complete?
What happens if my application is denied?
What do I have to do once my application for licensure is approved?
What if my address is incorrect on my license?
How long is my license valid?
When is my application considered abandoned?

1. What are the qualifications to become licensed as a physician assistant in California?

  • Complete an approved physician assistant training program. See the list of approved physician assistant training programs.
  • Take and pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). Information on the PANCE is available on the NCCPA's Web site at www.nccpa.net.

2. When should I apply?

The board recommends that you apply no more than 30 days before your graduation date.

3. How can I obtain an application for licensure?

You may obtain an application for licensure by:

4. Is fingerprinting required for licensure?

  • Yes. Pursuant to Section 144 of the California Business and Professions Code, applicants are required to furnish their fingerprints for purposes of conducting a criminal history record check through the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
  • Applicants residing in California must use Live Scan services for the fingerprint process. The Live Scan form is included in the application packet or may be downloaded from the board web site. A list of Applicant Live Scan Sites is available on the Department of Justice's Web site at https://oag.ca.gov/fingerprints/locations.
  • Applicants residing outside of California that are unable to use Live Scan services in California, must use the federal fingerprint cards FD-258, which can be obtained from the board or through your local police department. You may request cards online, or call 916-561-8780.

5. I already have been fingerprinted previously; can the Physician Assistant access those prints?

No. Federal law allows criminal history information to be released only to the agency that requested it. You will need to undergo the fingerprinting and criminal history check process again specifically for the Physician Assistant Board.

6. What fees do I include when I submit my application?

The following fees must be submitted at the time you apply or your application will be returned as incomplete:

Application processing fee:$25.00
Initial licensure fee:$200.00

Total check or money order made out to the Physician Assistant Board is $225.00.

If you reside outside of California or are unable to get your fingerprints processed using Live Scan, then you would submit your application for licensure with a set of two fingerprint cards. The following fees must be submitted at the time you apply or your application will be returned as incomplete:

Application processing fee:$25.00
Initial licensure fee:$200.00
Fingerprint card processing fee:$49.00

Total check or money order made out to the Physician Assistant Board is $274.00.

7. How long does it take to process my application?

You will be notified of the status of your application, including any deficiencies, within 30 days from the date your application is received. Your application is considered complete once all required forms, documentation, fees, and FBI and DOJ criminal record clearances have been received.

Once the application is complete, the length of time it takes to make a decision about the application varies depending on the applicant's individual history. Applications approved for licensure are issued on a weekly basis.

8. What convictions am I required to disclose on the application?

You must include any conviction, even if it has been set aside and dismissed or expunged, or where a stay of execution has been issued. For any conviction, you must submit all official certified arrest (including police reports) and hearing/court documents and include a detailed written narrative description of the incident that led to the conviction. This includes every citation or infraction (including traffic violations resulting in fines over $300), misdemeanor and/or felony. However, all convictions involving drugs or alcohol should be reported.

Convictions that were adjudicated in juvenile court or convictions under California Health and Safety Code sections 11357(b), (c), (d), and (e) or sections 11360(b) which are two years old or older should NOT be reported. Convictions that were later dismissed pursuant to sections 1203.4, 1203.4a, or 1203.41 of the California Penal Code (aka "expungement laws") or equivalent non-California law MUST be disclosed.

Applicants should be aware that the Board receives information regarding actions that have been dismissed or expunged, and the application form advises applicants to disclose all prior convictions including those that have been dismissed or expunged. In addition, the Board will be notified of all future criminal actions through subsequent fingerprint reports by the DOJ and/or the FBI.

Proof of Dismissal:  If you have obtained a dismissal of your conviction(s) pursuant to any "expungement" type proceedings, Penal Codes sections 1203.4, 1203.4a, or 1203.41, you MUST submit an original certified copy of the court order dismissing the conviction(s) with your application.

Failure to disclose a conviction (dishonestly) is grounds for denial of an application. See next question for additional information.

If you are uncertain about how to answer any question on the application, you should consult legal counsel.

It might be wiser to disclose too much information rather than be caught in a misunderstanding.

9. Is my application automatically approved when complete?

No. Section 480 of the Business and Professions Code authorizes the board to deny an application for licensure as a physician assistant. An applicant may be denied licensure for the following reasons:

  • Knowingly making a false statement of fact, or knowingly omitting to state a material fact in an application for licensure.
  • Conviction of a crime substantially related to the qualifications, functions or duties of a physician assistant.
  • Commission of any act involving dishonesty, fraud, or deceit with the intent to substantially benefit himself or another, or substantially injure another.
  • Commission of any act, which if performed by a licentiate of the business or profession in question, would be grounds for suspension or revocation of the license.

If your application is denied, you will be notified in writing of the reason(s) for the denial. More Information regarding the denial of an application.

10. What happens if my application is denied?

If your application is denied, you will be notified in writing of the reason(s) for the denial.

You may request a hearing under Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 1500) of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code. You must make the request for hearing in writing within 60 days after service of the denial letter. Unless the written request for a hearing is made within the 60-day period, your right to a hearing is deemed waived.

If, after your application is denied, you decide not to request a hearing or not to pursue licensure, you may reapply one year from the date of the denial letter.

More Information regarding denial of an application.

11. What do I have to do once my application for licensure is approved?

After your license application is approved, your license will be issued and you will receive notification from the board. Once you receive notification from the board that a license has been issued you  can retrieve your license number by checking the website under "Verify a License," enter the board name, license type, and your first and last name. Once a license number has been issued to you, you may begin practicing in California as a physician assistant. After a license has been issued, it takes approximately 2-4 weeks to receive both the wall certificate and plastic pocket card bearing your license number.

12. What if my address is incorrect on my license?

It is your responsibility to provide, in writing, notice of any address or name changes to the board. All correspondence will be sent to your address of record, which is the address you provide on your application. If the address of record is a post office box, the law requires that you also provide a street address which will not be disclosed to the public. Once licensed, your address of record is a public record and will be available on the board's website.

13. How long is my license valid?

California law specifies that a license expires at 12 midnight on the last day of the licensee's birth month during the second year of a two year term, Business and Profession Code 3523. If you are licensed in your birth month, your initial license will be valid for a full 24-month term. If you are licensed in a month other than your birth month your initial license can be valid anywhere between 13 and 23 months depending upon when you reach the second birth month after licensure. If you would like your license to be issued in your birth month, complete form PA8 and submit with your application.

14. When is my application considered abandoned?

Applicants must complete the licensing process within 12 months of receipt of the deficiency letter from the board. If the applicant fails to provide the required licensing application documents to the board within 12 months, the application is deemed abandoned (Business and Professions Code section 142).

Once the application is deemed abandoned, the board will refund only the licensing fee to the applicant. The application fee is deemed earned and will not be refunded.  Refunds are typically received in 3-4 months from the date of abandonment.