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A Guide to the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC)

If you’re a nurse looking to work in another state or a medical administrator trying to fill open positions, you should know about the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC). While the NLC isn’t implemented in every state across the country, it can greatly help hospitals with hiring needs and nurses looking for jobs in NLC states.

Whether you’re applying to out-of-state nursing jobs or hiring for nursing positions, it can be useful to understand what the NLC is, how nurses earn multi-state licenses through it, and where it applies.

What Is the Nursing Licensure Compact?

The NLC was created by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) and is an interstate agreement implemented in 2000. In 2018, the NLC was updated and is known as the enhanced NLC or eNLC. This interstate agreement enables registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) who meet NLC requirements to practice in states that have implemented the NLC. The NLC promotes nurse mobility, access to care, and public protection through its universal standards for NLC states. It also makes it much easier and more affordable for nurses to apply for jobs outside of their current state of residence.

With a license from an NLC state, nurses can provide in-person and telehealth medical care in other NLC states without having to receive a state-specific license. Essentially, a nursing license from an NLC state acts as a multi-state license, allowing nurses to practice in other NLC states and territories.

Keep in mind that multi-state licenses aren’t national licenses, as they only enable nurses to practice in NLC states. Instead of being issued nationally, multi-state licenses are issued by the nursing regulatory body that governs the nurse’s primary state of residence (PSOR).

What are the NLC Requirements for Nurse Practitioners?

If you want to practice in an NLC state, you’ll have to meet the NLC’s Uniform Licensure Requirements (ULRs). These standardized requirements ensure hospitals and other medical facilities can feel confident they’re hiring someone who’s qualified for the position.

You’ll also need to qualify for these various requirements of registration, listed below.

How Do You Earn a Multi-State License and Practice in NLC States?

To earn a multi-state license through the NLC, you’ll need to apply through your state’s board of nursing (BON). Since multi-state licenses are issued by a participating state’s BON, the first step to receiving a multi-state license is to prove an NLC state is your PSOR. To prove legal residence, a nurse must do so with their voter registration, driver’s license, or other applicable documentation.

Alongside proving your PSOR in an NLC state, you’ll need to have a nursing license in your state of residency, and this license must be in good standing. Next, you’ll have to meet the NLC’s ULRs. These requirements include:

  • Meeting your state of residency’s licensure requirements
  • Graduating from a board-approved education program or an approved international educational program
  • Passing an English proficiency examination if English is not your native language or if you graduated from an international program not taught in English
  • Passing an NCLEX-PN or NCLEX-RN examination or predecessor exam
  • Holding or being eligible for an active, unencumbered license
  • Submitting to federal and state finger-print based criminal background checks
  • Not having been found guilty or convicted of a felony offense under applicable federal or state criminal law. Applicants should also have not entered into an agreed disposition of a felony offense
  • Not having any misdemeanor convictions related to your practice of nursing (however, this requirement is determined on a case-by-case basis)
  • Not participating in an alternative program
  • Self-disclosing if you’re a current participant in an alternative program
  • Proving you have a valid Social Security number
How Often Do You Need to Renew Your NLC License?

If you’ve received a multi-state license through the NLC, you’ll usually need to renew your license through your state’s BON every two years. However, some states require annual renewals, so you’ll need to check your state’s renewal requirements. Additionally, renewal requirements may vary by state.

What States Does a Nursing Licensure Compact Cover?

Currently, over forty states and territories participate in the NLC, with more states awaiting full or partial implementation. As of September 2023, the following jurisdictions have fully implemented the NLC:

  • 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
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming
What States Have Partial NLC Implementation?

Besides states with full NLC implementation, other states and territories have partially implemented it. You can find a list of jurisdictions with partial implementation below:

  • Guam
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Washington

Since these states and territories may implement full NLC implementation in the future, it’s important for nurses and medical facilities to keep an eye on any changes to NLC requirements in their state.

What States Have Pending NLC Legislation?

In addition to the states that have partially or fully implemented the NLC, many other states have pending legislation related to implementing the NLC. States with pending NLC legislation include:

  • Alaska
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New York
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island

While this legislation is promising, votes against NLC implementation have occurred in the past. As a result, you’ll want to monitor NLC legislation closely in states where it’s awaiting a vote.

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