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Your Nursing License Across State Lines

nursing license, nursing jobs
Bilha Golan/

What do you do when you are offered the perfect nursing job, or a life situation arises that requires you to pack up and move across state lines? Besides the obvious logistics, you need to prepare to move your nursing license too. The good news is that you won’t have to take the NCLEX again in another state – it’s a national test, so you’re safe. But transferring nursing licenses can be tricky and its difficulty rating depends in which state you are licensed.

If you live and work in one of the 24 states with the Nurse Licensure Compact, or NLC, then you benefit from the agreement which allows RN’s and LPN’s to have one multistate license, with the ability to practice in both their home state and other NLC states without the hassle of getting licensed in another state.

How do I know if I’m part of the NLC?

Your primary state of residence determines whether or not you are a part of the NLC (see list below). If your state of residence is one of those 24 states, then you are eligible for a multistate license. Your primary residence is determined by where you declare residence on your most recent tax return. You must be licensed in the state in which you are living, and you can’t have nursing licenses in more than one state at a time. With a compact license, for example, you can live in New Hampshire and work in surrounding states.

What about non-compact state nurses?

If you are a resident of a non-compact state, you may apply for a license in a compact state, but you are limited to working in that state only. In other words, if you live in Indiana (a non-NLC state) and apply for a license to practice in Arizona, the Arizona nursing license is only good for Arizona, even though Arizona is a compact state.

What do I do?

Getting started is easy. Transferring a license from one state’s jurisdiction to another’s is called endorsement, and the new state nursing board just has to verify your credentials. Typically, state boards of nursing assume nurses licensed in other states would meet their own licensing standards. When you apply for a new state license, you can do most of it online, including an application, paying fees, transferring relevant records, verifying identification, and in some cases, a background check.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing ( is the most comprehensive site with the most up-to-date information on state requirements for new and transferring nurses. Most states (compact or not) will offer you a temporary license so you can work while your application is being processed. If you are planning on relocating, contact the board of nursing in the state to which you are relocating. Don’t forget – any restrictions placed on your license will typically carry over and may require a letter or visit to the state Board of Nursing to explain circumstances.

Now what?

States vary regarding continuing education requirements, license renewal expectations, and state practice standards. Once you get that shiny new state license, learn what you need to do to keep it. You will be expected to follow the scope of practice laws and regulations of the state where you practice. Every state’s nursing board maintains practice standards that are typically found online.

States included in the NLC

  1. Arizona
  2. New Hampshire
  3. Arkansas
  4. New Mexico
  5. Colorado
  6. North Carolina
  7. Delaware
  8. North Dakota
  9. Idaho
  10. Rhode Island
  11. Iowa
  12. South Carolina
  13. Kentucky
  14. South Dakota
  15. Maine
  16. Tennessee
  17. Maryland
  18. Texas
  19. Mississippi
  20. Utah
  21. Missouri
  22. Virginia
  23. Nebraska
  24. Wisconsin
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About Angie Best-Boss RN

Angie Best-Boss, ASN, BA, MDiv is a psychiatric nurse and freelance writer from the Indianapolis, Indiana area. Angie has three daughters and can usually be found with her nose in a book, crafting or, in warm weather, geocaching.