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What are Nursing Compact States and Licenses?

Nurse Mike (Mike Linares)
By SimpleNursing | Published March 14th, 2023
Published March 14th, 2023
Pretty young Asian nurse in hallway with study materials - nursing compact states title card

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  1. What is a Compact Nursing License?
  2. What are Compact Nursing License States?
  3. How to Get a Compact Nursing License
  4. List of Nursing Compact States

After you pass the NCLEX-RN exam and get your RN license, you might have to get a compact state license if you plan on working in multiple states. These states requiring compact licenses are referred to as nursing compact states.

Nurses in certain U.S. states are required to obtain compact nursing licenses due to their inclusion in the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). They permit nurses to practice in both their home and other NLC states without additional licenses.

To obtain a compact nursing license, a nurse must meet eligibility criteria and apply for the license in the NLC state territory.

What is a Compact Nursing License?

A compact nursing license is a type of nursing license that allows an RN or licensed practical nurse (LPN) to practice in their home state, as well as other states that are part of the NLC.

The compact nursing license provides a streamlined process for nurses to practice in multiple states and eliminates the need for nurses to apply for and maintain multiple licenses. 

This benefits nurses by reducing the time and cost of obtaining and maintaining multiple licenses and helps patients by increasing access to nursing care across state lines.

What are Compact Nursing License States?

Some U.S. states require compact nursing licenses from nurses because they are part of the NLC. 

The NLC was created by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) to facilitate nursing practice across state lines and increase access to healthcare services.

States that require compact nursing licenses recognize the benefits of the NLC and support the goal of facilitating nursing practice across state lines. Additionally, some states may require compact nursing licenses to ensure that nurses practicing within their borders meet certain requirements or standards of practice.

Thinking of becoming a travel nurse? Find out which states have the highest pay.

It’s important to note that while the NLC provides a streamlined process for nurses to practice across state lines, additional requirements or restrictions for practice in certain settings or specialties may exist. 

So check with the state board of nursing for the most up-to-date information on compact nursing license requirements and regulations.

How to Get a Compact Nursing License

A nurse can obtain a compact nursing license by meeting the eligibility requirements and applying for a license in their home state, which must be one of the states (or territories) that are part of the NLC.

It’s important to note that while obtaining a compact nursing license is generally straightforward, there may be additional requirements or restrictions for practice in certain settings or specialties. 

How do I apply for a compact state nursing license?

Every state nursing board will have its own license process, but here are general steps to obtain a compact nursing license:

  1. Verify your eligibility. Before applying for a compact state nursing license, you should ensure they are eligible for the license by checking the requirements of their home state and the NLC.
  2. Complete the application. Nurses must complete an application for a compact state nursing license. The application can typically be found on the state board of nursing website, where you’re licensed.
  3. Provide the required documents. You’ll need to provide certain documents to support their application, such as proof of identity, nursing education transcripts, and verification of licensure in their home state.
  4. Pay any applicable fees. Nurses are required to pay any fees associated with obtaining a compact state nursing license. The fees may vary depending on the state.
  5. Undergo a criminal background check. You may be required to undergo a criminal background check as part of the application process.
  6. Wait for approval. Once the application and all supporting documents are submitted, you’ll need to wait for the state board of nursing to review and approve the application.
  7. Receive your compact state nursing license. If the application is approved, you’ll receive a compact state nursing license, allowing them to practice in their home and other NLC states.

It’s important to note that the application process may vary slightly depending on the state. Nurses should check with the state board of nursing where they are licensed and the state where they are seeking a compact nursing license for specific instructions and requirements.

List of Nursing Compact States

As of March 2023, there are 39 states and territories that are (or soon will be) a part of the NLC, and offer compact nursing licenses. Eight states and territories are currently in the process of NLC approval.

Note that some states and territories have pending NLC legislation, some awaiting NLC implementation, and some with partial NLC implementation:

  1. Alabama – NLC state
  2. Arizona – NLC state
  3. Arkansas – NLC state
  4. Colorado – NLC state
  5. Delaware – NLC state
  6. Florida – NLC state
  7. Georgia – NLC state
  8. Hawaii – Pending NLC
  9. Idaho – NLC state
  10. Illinois – Pending NLC
  11. Indiana – NLC state
  12. Iowa – NLC state
  13. Kansas – NLC state
  14. Kentucky – NLC state
  15. Louisiana – NLC state
  16. Maine – NLC state
  17. Maryland – NLC state
  18. Minnesota – Pending NLC
  19. Mississippi – NLC state
  20. Missouri – NLC state
  21. Montana – NLC state
  22. Nebraska – NLC state
  23. Nevada – Pending NLC
  24. New Hampshire – NLC state
  1. New Jersey – NLC state
  2. New Mexico – NLC state
  3. New York – Pending NLC
  4. North Carolina – NLC state
  5. North Dakota – NLC state
  6. Ohio – NLC state
  7. Oklahoma – NLC state
  8. Oregon – Pending NLC
  9. Pennsylvania – soon-to-be NLC state
  10. Rhode Island – Pending NLC
  11. South Carolina – NLC state
  12. South Dakota – NLC state
  13. Tennessee – NLC state
  14. Texas – NLC state
  15. Utah – NLC state
  16. Vermont – NLC state
  17. Virginia – NLC state
  18. Washington – Pending NLC
  19. West Virginia – NLC state
  20. Wisconsin – NLC state
  21. Wyoming – NLC state
  22. Guam – partially an NLC state
  23. Virgin Islands – soon-to-be NLC state

All other states and territories not on this list are not part of the NLC.

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Nurse Mike (Mike Linares)
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