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Brits set to work freely in US following talks breakthrough

British-trained architects will soon be allowed to work freely in the US following a major breakthrough in talks on the mutual recognition of qualifications. The Architects' Council of Europe (ACE) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) have agreed a framework that should see an official agreement signed in May 2004. The deal will end one of the most acrimonious disputes between the RIBA and its US counterparts. The institute has long demanded that its qualifications are recognised in the US, so British architects can win work there.

The ACE, the AIA and US registration organisation NCARB have agreed to accept each other's qualifications, provided that an architect has a valid visa and seven years in practice after registration.

RIBA vice-president for international relations John Wright - who led the negotiations with the AIA - said the deal was a 'major step forward'. He admitted it had been difficult to reach an agreement and said he understood cynicism about US intentions, but said: 'This time I trust them.We had good understanding of one another and I believe there was real agreement.' He warned that a lot of negotiation has yet to be completed before the deal goes through: 'The AIA and NCARB have to go back to their constituent bodies and ACE has to go back to its members and win approval for the deal, which will not be easy, but I believe it will be achieved.'

Agreeing that the breakthrough was exciting, ACE's senior policy officer Tillman Prinz added:

'The negotiations were very difficult. We took a long time to come to an agreement but we are finally there and I am very pleased.'

However, RIBA president Paul Hyett - who has long campaigned for equivalence - was more cynical. 'I am disappointed that yet again there seems to be delay in the date of the changes. The detail is yet to be scrutinised, but we have established that in the interests of Americans, architects in general and architecture, qualifications can at last be portable.'

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