8 Things to Know About Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) States

Alexa Davidson, MSN, RN
Updated December 24, 2022
    Nurses with multistate licenses can practice beyond their home states. Discover which states are included in the Nurse Licensure Compact.
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    • Nurses can practice in any state included in the compact.
    • Compact licenses reduce the time it takes for a nurse to start working in a new state.
    • Nurses with a multistate license have more career opportunities.

    As a nurse, you have endless opportunities to build the career you want. When you need a change, you can switch shifts, specialties, or even facilities.

    But did you know your nursing license can take you to another state? With a compact nursing license, you can care for patients almost anywhere in the country.

    Find out where your nursing career can take you by discovering which states are included in the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC).

    1. What Is the Nurse Licensure Compact?

    The Nursing Licensure Compact allows registered nurses (RNs) to practice in multiple states. Having a compact nursing license means you don’t need to get a new license if you move to a participating state.

    According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), nurses “can practice in other NLC states, without having to obtain additional licenses.” This practice permission is often referred to as reciprocity.

    Each state is regulated by its board of nursing (BON), which reports to the NCSBN. Your state’s BON oversees safe patient care by setting practice standards for nurses.

    Nursing practice standards vary by state. If you’re planning to use your compact license to work in another state, check out the regulations from its board of nursing.

    2. How to Obtain a Multistate License

    The first step to getting a compact nursing license is to take the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) in an NLC state. You will become licensed in the state where you pass the nursing boards.

    For example, if you passed the NCLEX in Missouri, you will hold a Missouri compact license. You can then practice in any of the compact states.

    As an RN, you must claim a primary state of residence. This is based on the address you use on your driver’s license, voter’s registration, or where you file income taxes.

    Nurses in noncompact states are issued a single-state license after passing the nursing boards.

    If you wish to get a multistate license from a noncompact state, you can apply for a license by endorsement.

    No matter where you’re registered, you will always renew your nursing license in the state where it was originally issued. Renewal requirements vary by state. Check with your state’s BON to prepare for renewal.

    3. The Benefits of Having a Multistate License

    Having a nursing compact license gives nurses the flexibility to practice just about anywhere. It allows nurses to change their environment — whether it’s for life circumstances or to prevent burnout.

    A multistate nursing license allows nurses to:

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      Pursue travel nursing

      After you get a few years of experience in your specialty, you can move to a place you’ve always dreamed of while working as a nurse. Being a travel nurse is an exciting way to add adventure to your nursing career.
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      Find work as a military spouse

      One of the biggest challenges for military spouses is finding work when your family is constantly on the move. With a compact license, nurses can find work in another state and begin working sooner.
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      Practice telemedicine

      Virtual nursing positions have exploded since the COVID-19 pandemic. Many companies prefer nurses to have permission to practice across multiple states. A compact license allows you to reach more patients, including those with limited access to care.
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      Be a rapid response nurse

      You can quickly jump in during an emergency as a rapid response nurse. This was critical at the beginning of the pandemic. Thanks to multistate licenses, nurses traveled to other states to care for COVID-19 patients and relieve hospitals in need.

    Healthcare facilities nationwide are impacted by the nursing shortage. As a nurse, you can help short-staffed nursing units by working on an as-needed or contract basis.

    If you’re looking to add some variety to your nursing career while helping short-staffed facilities, consider getting licensed in a Nurse Licensure Compact state.

    4. Which States Are Nurse Licensure Compact States?

    There are currently 35 NLC states implementing nursing reciprocity. You can practice in any of these states with a compact nursing license. Other states plan to join or are waiting for legal processes to be complete.

    NLC Enacted and Implemented:

    • Alabama
    • Arizona
    • Arkansas
    • Colorado
    • Delaware
    • Florida
    • Georgia
    • Idaho
    • Indiana
    • Iowa
    • Kansas
    • Kentucky
    • Louisiana
    • Maine
    • Maryland
    • Mississippi
    • Missouri
    • Montana
    • Nebraska
    • New Hampshire
    • New Jersey
    • New Mexico
    • North Carolina
    • North Dakota
    • Oklahoma
    • South Carolina
    • South Dakota
    • Tennessee
    • Texas
    • Utah
    • Vermont
    • Virginia
    • West Virginia
    • Wisconsin
    • Wyoming

    5. Which States Are Pending Legislation?

    • Illinois
    • Massachusetts
    • Michigan
    • New York
    • Rhode Island

    6. Which States and Territories Have NLC Enacted and Are Awaiting Implementation?

    Laws are passed in several states and are awaiting implementation. For Ohio, the implementation date is set for Jan. 1, 2023. There is no start date at this time for Pennsylvania or the Virgin Islands.

    • Ohio
    • Pennsylvania
    • Virgin Islands

    7. What Territories Have Enacted NLC With Partial Implementation?

    In Guam, nurses who hold active, unencumbered, multistate licenses issued by Nurse Licensure Compact member states can practice in Guam under their multistate licenses.

    • Guam

    8. What States and Territories Have No Legislation for NLC?

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