A multi-state nursing license allows nurses to practice in any participating state without needing to obtain another license. This saves a lot of time and money in applying for and renewing single state licenses. Multi-state licenses, also known as compact state licenses, are especially convenient for travel nurses who change locations frequently.
Travel nurses with compact licenses are often considered more desirable because they can fill immediate job vacancies without waiting for licensure. These nurses are able to easily practice tele-health and respond to natural disasters, and support staffing shortages. They can also teach through distance learning in enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC) states.
If a travel nurse needs to practice in a state that is not part of the compact license, they may still hold as many non-compact state licenses as necessary.
Nursing Compact States
There are currently 38 states who have implemented or are pending participation in compact licensing. You can check the NLC State Map to see if your home state is eligible.
Nursing Compact states states include:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Vermont have passed laws, but are waiting for implementation.
California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island, and the Virgin Islands all have pending legislation for eNLC.
How Do I Apply for a Multi-State License?
In order to obtain a multi-state license and work as a nurse in a compact state, you must show proof of residence in your home state. The Primary State of Residence (PSOR) is the state where you declare primary residence for legal residency status. This can be proven by a federal tax return, voter registration, or driver’s license.
Uniform Licensure Requirements for Multi-State Licensure include:
- Meeting the guidelines for licensure in your home state.
- Graduating from a board-approved education program.
- Passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX.)
- Being eligible for an unencumbered nursing license without disciplinary action.
- Submitting state and federal fingerprint-based criminal background checks.
- Having no felony convictions or misdemeanor convictions related to nursing practice
- Not currently participating in an alternative program and self-disclosing this information.
- Possessing a valid United States social security number.
If the above criteria is met, you can visit your state board of nursing website to upgrade your license. Select the “eNLC Upgrade Application” or “Apply for a multi-state license” option. The process typically takes three to seven days upon application review, and you will receive your new eNLC license in the mail. Licensure fees vary by state.
New nurses who are applying for the first time in an eNLC state are able to begin practicing without any delay. This is great news for travel nurses, as time isn’t wasted waiting for licensure. Compact state licensing also helps save money because you no longer have to pay for application fees and license renewals in each state.
However, upgrading from a state license to a multi-state license does not happen automatically—you still need to apply.
Nurses are encouraged to sign up for Nursys, which provides free online verification for those interested in practicing in another state and pursuing license verification. The Nursys e-Notify system delivers updates about the eNLC, as well as information about expirations, renewals, and any disciplinary actions.
Maintaining a Multi-State License
Renewal requirements are specific to the state that issued the eNLC—not the state where the nurse practices. Continuing education (CE) requirements are determined by each home state. Additionally, it is up to the state to designate a set number of hours and courses.
For travel nurses, NLC has created a convenient tool with frequently asked questions.
Lauren Rivera BSN, RNC-NIC is a certified neonatal intensive care nurse. She serves as a nurse expert for a mother/baby telehealth company, and develops content for various nursing sites and fellow healthcare providers.