Compact Nursing License States: Everything you need to Know in 2023

Compact license states allow you to work across the U.S. with ease. Find out how and why to get a compact nursing license.

Last updated: September 15, 2023

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Nursing is a profession that offers a lot of flexibility in both your nursing specialty and your work location. 

If you plan to travel nurse or just need to work in a State or jurisdiction other than your place of residence, you will need to be licensed in the desired location. 

Thankfully, in the U.S. there are nursing compact license states or NLC states (recently upgraded to the eNLC – more on this below). 

Having a compact license allows you to work in any of the 41 compact states or jurisdictions without applying for a new license each time you move locations. 

But, which states are the nursing compact license states, what exactly is the NLC, and how do you apply for a compact license? 

Read below for the answers and an easy to understand infographic about the nursing compact license. 

Nursing Compact License States

Nursing Compact License States refers to States or jurisdictions in the U.S. whose nursing board is part of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC).

Nursing Compact License States Map
source: nursecompact.com

Compact license states are states and jurisdictions with a reciprocal licensing agreement. This agreement allows nurses registered in one compact state to work in another compact state without the hassle and financial burden of going through the entire licensing process for each state they want to work in. 

Currently, 41 states of jurisdictions across the U.S. are part of the NLC or Nurse Licensure Compact. 

Compact Nursing License States List

What is a Nursing Compact License?

A nursing compact license is a single license allowing you to work as a nurse in any of the states within the NLC. 

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) define the NLC license as an agreement between jurisdictions where: 

“Nurses holding a multi-state license can practice in other NLC states/territories, without obtaining additional licenses, while maintaining their primary state of residence (PSOR). The multi-state license is issued in a nurse’s PSOR, but is recognized across state lines, like a driver’s license.”

~NCSBN

NLC vs eNLC

As of 2023, the NLC has been updated to the eNLC – the Enhanced NLC. 

The eNLC is essentially the same thing as the NLC but with “extra safeguards that maintain public protection at the state level.” ~Texas BSON

How to Get a Nursing Compact License

The process to get a compact nursing license is similar to most state registration process. 

You will need to be registered in your state of residence prior to applying for a compact nursing license. Many states that are already part of the NLC will issue you a multi-state or compact license with your initial registration when you meet the eligibility requirements.

However, not all registrations are created equal. Depending on your state or primary residence, you may or may not be eligible for a compact license. 

Who can get a compact nursing license?

Only nurses whose primary state of residence (PSOR) is already a compact state are eligible for a compact nursing license. 

Every state has a different process for gaining your compact license. 

However, in most cases, if you meet the PSOR requirements as well as the Universal Licensing Requirements (ULR), you will be issued a multi-state license (read compact license) when your registration with the BON is complete. 

Compact License ULR Requirements
source: nursecompact.com

Keep in mind there are some states that require you to “upgrade” to a multi-state license. Be sure to check with your particular BON for their exact process requirements. 

Valid proof of PSOR is any of the following documents with your name and residence in a participating compact state: 

Proof of Residence Compact License
source: nursecompact.com

Compact Nursing License States Infographic

Compact Nursing License States Infographic

Summary

If you live in the U.S. and are a resident of one of the 41 states participating in the NLC, you are eligible for a nursing compact license. 

This license gives you the flexibility to travel and work in other states with ease. 

What are the nursing compact license states?

The 41 states or jurisdictions currently participating in the Nursling License Compact are:

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

Nursing Compact License States Map

What is a nursing compact license?

A nursing compact license, technically called the Nursing License Compact and commonly referred to as multi-state licenses, is a single license allowing you to work as a nurse in any of the states within the NLC. 

According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), a nursing compact license allows:

“Nurses holding a multistate license can practice in other NLC states/territories, without obtaining additional licenses, while maintaining their primary state of residence (PSOR). The multistate license is issued in a nurse’s PSOR, but is recognized across state lines, like a driver’s license.”

Who can get a compact nursing license?

To be eligible for a nursing compact license, your primary state of residence (PSOR) must be a compact nursing state (i.e. it is part of the NLC), you must meet the Universal Licensing Requirements (ULR), and be registered to nurse in your PSOR state.

How to get a nursing compact license?

In most compact license states you will be issued a multi-state license or nursing compact license with your registration when that state is your PSOR and you meet the ULR requirements.

Some states may require you to first complete a basic registration, then upgrade to a multi-state license.

NLC vs. eNLC

As of 2023 the NLC is the eNLC. The “e” stands for enhanced. As per the Texas State BON, this extra legislation aims to provide “extra safeguards that maintain public protection at the state level.”


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