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How to Get a Multi-State Nursing License

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Health Carousel Travel Nursing
October 6, 2022
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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, especially for travel nurses. Multi-state licenses, also known as compact state licenses, are especially convenient for travel nurses who change locations frequently, even moving from state to state.  

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. 

Steps to Getting A Multi-State Nursing License

You can either apply for a multi-state license from the state when you apply for your very first registered nurse license, or you can apply for it later when you already have a license. In order to obtain a multi-state license and work as a travel nurse in a compact state, you must show proof of residence in your home state, which must be a compact 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, which can vary state to state, even between compact states. Follow the guidelines 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 to a multi-state 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. 

So, the summary of the steps include:

  • Apply for or have a registered nurse license, making sure you meet all your state’s requirements
  • Show proof of residence in your home state which must be a compact state
  • Apply for a multi-state license on your state ‘s board of nursing website 
  • Wait for it to be approved

Will My Multi-State Nursing License Expire?

Renewal requirements are specific to the state that issued the eNLC—not the state where the nurse practices. This means your home states where you originally applied for the multi-state license. Continuing education (CE) requirements are determined by each home state, so check their site for details. Additionally, it is up to the state to designate a set number of hours and courses. 

Each state also varies in the time frame for renewals and ranges anywhere from as little as every other year to every five years. 

Explore Travel Nursing Positions

For travel nurses, NLC has created a convenient tool with frequently asked questions. Check out the FAQ section below and reach out to Health Carousel Travel Nursing for more questions! 

FAQ's

How many states are compact nursing states? 

37 states total are currently designated as compact states. Some of the ones that are not are currently working toward compact licensure or partial compact licensure. 

Can a nurse work in two different states at the same time? 

Short answers is yes- as long as the nurse has a compact license or a license in each state that is active, they can practice in each state. 

What does it mean when a nurse is part of the compact? 

This means the nurse works and currently resides in a state that is one of the compact states. This means they can work in their “home state” as well as other compact states. 

Which states are not in the compact? 

States with pending compact applications include: 

  • Alaska
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Washington 

States with no action at all include: 

  • California
  • Connecticut 
  • Hawaii
  • Nevada
  • Oregon 
  • American Samoa
  • District of Columbia
  • Mariana Islands

Which state can you get a license the fastest? 

Arizona currently has an emergency 48 hour license for both RNs and LPNs 

How do you transfer your license to a different state that is not in the compact? 

You have to apply for the license separately through that state’s nursing board.


Author Bio
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.

Health Carousel Travel Nursing

Find the Travel Job that’s Right for You

Interested in how the pay stacks up in other states not on this list? Our trusty Super Nurse sidekicks are standing by to answer any questions you have. Click below to get information on opportunities in other states!

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