When becoming a Registered Nurse (RN), you must apply for an RN license in the state you wish to work in. Having an RN license in one state does not make one eligible to work as an RN in another. Each state may have different requirements that must be fulfilled for licensure. However, the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) was created to streamline the licensing processes between states to make it easier for RNs to move and work in new different states.
What is the Nurse Licensure Compact?
The Nurse Licensure Compact, or NLC, is an agreement between some states that offers “mutual recognition” of a nursing license. If you were licensed as a registered nurse in one state but wish to work in a new state, you may not need a new license, depending on whether the states are members of the NLC agreement. If you received your original license after passing the NCLEX in an NLC state, it is automatically considered a multi-state license. This enables you to practice in any of the other NLC states with no need to re-apply, pass exams, or even pay any licensure fees.
If you do acquire an RN license that participates in the Nurse Licensure Compact program, make sure you understand the regulations, expectations, and legislation in the new state where you will be practicing. You still have to abide by local rules regarding healthcare, no matter where the license came from.
How does the NLC work?
The nurse must acquire a multistate license in one of the Nursing Licensure Compact states to be able to practice nursing in any of the other NLC states without additional application process, fees or licenses. For example, an RN in Wisconsin can also apply for work in Texas or Maryland without first going through additional state processes to obtain licenses in those states. While the nurse doesn’t have to obtain additional licenses for the additional states that they work in, they are still required to be in full compliance of nurse laws, rules, and regulations of the state that they transfer to.
What are the benefits of the NLC?
There are three major benefits of the NLC:
- Less fees: There are less fees involved in becoming a nurse in multiple states or to transfer from one state to another as a nurse. While a nurse would have to pay additional fees to practice in more than one state or transfer to a new state if not participating in the NLC, there are no additional fees when a nurse practices nursing in an additional state that is part of the NLC.
- Less time: There is less time involved in NLC states than there are in non-NLC states. A nurse may have to spend weeks to months obtaining a new license in a different state that does not participate in the NLC. Many nurses appreciate the Nurse Licensure Compact states because of the time that is saved.
- Ease of transfer: The transfer process is easier than ever when moving from one NLC state to another. If a nurse must move to a new state, there is no need to pay any feeds, spend any time, or obtain any additional licenses. The multistate license that the nurse obtained before becoming An RN in their home state, and they can use that for any other NLC state.
Nurse Licensure Compact Warnings
Keep in mind that if you permanently move to a new state and claim residency there, you may have to get re-licensed in that state according to their requirements, regardless of NLC status. Likewise, if you move from a state that takes part in the Compact to one that does not, you will need to reapply for a license from that state according to their regulations.
When beginning work at a new location in a Compact state, your employer will need to ensure that you hold the proper multi-state license. There are online databases that include this licensure information so the process will be quick.
There are currently 39 states and US territories that are part of the Nurse Licensure Compact. Originally created in 2000 as an agreement between Maryland, Utah, Texas, and Wisconsin, the program has grown immensely in the last twenty years. The following is a list of all the states that currently take part:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Virgin Islands
- West Virginia
Eligibility requirements to have an NLC multi-state license
To apply for a multi-state nursing license, the following criteria must be met:
- You must live in an NLC state and declare this state as your primary state of residency.
- You are required to be an actively licensed registered nurse (RN).
- You must meet the requirements specific to your home state. However, when practicing as a nurse, you must also meet the requirements and hold yourself to the standards of the NLC state where the practice is located.
The Future of the Nurse Licensure Compact
According to the website for the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the multi-state licensure will expand to Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs) that are certified in participating states. The APRN Compact, which was adopted in August 2020 will allow APRN nurses to also hold a multi-state license that will allow them to practice in Compact states. However, this program will not begin until a total of 7 states have enacted the legislation allowing this certification program. So far, only three states have implemented the legislation: Delaware, North Dakota, and Utah.
The NLC has genuinely made it easier for nurses to obtain a multi-state license that they can use in multiple states, and the trend is growing that this multi-state license could be used in more states. Being able to have the freedom to practice nursing wherever you move is a privilege that you may need at some point in your life. It has also been helpful during the current nursing shortage as more healthcare facilities fill vacancies via travel agencies. It may be wise to look at multi-state licensure and to see if your current state is participating in the NLC program. If it is, you may have more of the world – or at least the country – at your fingertips!