Compact Nursing License States: What You Need To Know

May 18, 2023


Megan Bebout


New to travel nursing? Looking for a way to optimize your travel nursing experience? Tired of applying for individual state nursing licenses? Apply for a compact nursing license to easily practice nursing in multiple states and under one license!

Not only is having a compact license more convenient for travel nurses, but it can also save you a pretty penny in licensing fees. Here’s everything you need to know about the nurse licensure compact.

Nurse Licensure Compact: What You Need to Know


What is a nursing compact license?

If you’re a registered nurse (RN), licensed practical nurse (LPN), or licensed vocational nurse (LVN), then you’re in luck — you’re eligible for a compact license. Also known as the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) or the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC), this nationally recognized nursing license allows RNs, LPNs, and LVNs the freedom to professionally work in multiple states.

That means that you don’t have to obtain additional licenses or go through the licensing process in the states where you want to practice and instead, can do so under one nursing license. As a bonus, getting a compact nursing license or multi state license also means that you won’t have to pay licensing fees and complete background checks in each state you want to work in.

The catch is that your multistate license is only valid in participating compact nursing states. But the good news is there are 38 compact states for nursing (in addition to Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands), so you have lots of location options for your next travel nursing job.

What are the benefits of a compact license?

Having a multistate license can be extremely beneficial for nurses. Since this multistate license allows you to move more freely from state to state, you may have additional opportunities for more lucrative travel nursing jobs where you can make more money. And all without having to worry about the hassle of applying for a new license in each location.

Additional compact licensing benefits for nurses include:

  • A simplified, streamlined process to work in multiple states, allowing nurses more flexibility
  • The ability to practice via telehealth or telenursing in other states
  • The capability to respond to national disasters and staffing shortages in other compact nursing states
  • Qualifications to teach via distance-learning in compact states
  • The allowance of military spouse nurses to seamlessly continue working without the hassle of new licensing each time they relocate

Plus, a compact nursing license offers increased job security, as well as the chance to expand your skill set by working in different healthcare settings across multiple states. Think of it as getting paid to take an extended vacation with the added perk of improving your career prospects.

How do I apply for a compact state nursing license?

So, we’ve sold you on getting a license for compact nursing states? Lucky for you, to apply for a multistate license is simple. However, it does require you to do some preparation in advance. Here are the steps you need to take to apply for a compact state nursing license through your state board of nursing (BON).

1. Research the requirements

Before you apply for a compact state nursing license, make sure you understand the necessary requirements. All registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and LVNs whose primary state of residence is in a compact state and meet the uniform licensure requirements, or ULRs, are eligible for a multistate license. These are the 11 ULRs that determine compact license eligibility:

✅ You must meet the requirements for licensure in the state of your primary residence

✅ You must be a graduate of a board-approved education program or an international educational program that was approved and verified by an independent credentials review agency

✅ You must pass an English proficiency exam from an authorized accrediting body if an individual's native language is not English or if you’ve graduated from an international education program in nursing

✅ You must pass the National Council Licensure Exam for RNs (NCLEX-RN) or PNs (NCLEX-PN)

✅ You must have an active, unencumbered license as a nurse

✅ You must submit state and federal fingerprint-based criminal background checks

✅ You may not have a felony offense

✅ You may not have misdemeanor convictions related to nursing

✅ You may not currently be participating in an alternative program

✅ You must self-disclose current participation in an alternative program

✅ You must have a valid United States Social Security number

Keep in mind that if you live in a state with pending NLC legislation or partial implementation, you don’t have to do anything until the bill is passed. Once your state joins the list of nursing compact states, the state board will reach out to you to ensure your primary state and permanent address is up-to-date and correct.

If you live in a noncompact state, you’ll be required to apply for nursing licensure in each and every state where you want to work. Pro tip: it can take a hot second to get approved for a single-state license, so get started ASAP on the process of obtaining your state nursing license.

2. Submit your eNLC application

Now that you know where you stand on uniform licensure requirements, head over to your state board of nursing website to apply for or renew your multistate nursing license. Expect to provide proof of residence in an Enhanced Nursing Licensure compact (NLC) state, proof of national council licensure, and proof of graduation from an approved nursing program.

If you’re moving from a noncompact state to a compact state, the process for applying for nursing licensure may be a little different. In this case, you must apply for licensure by endorsement in your new state of residence. Once you meet residency and eligibility requirements, you can then receive your multistate license.

If you’re moving from a primary state of residence that is a compact state, to other participating compact states, you also have to apply for licensure by endorsement. However, you can practice with your existing multistate license until your new multistate license is issued. When you get your new multistate nursing license, the old one is automatically rendered inactive.

3. Maintain your license

Once you’ve received your nursing license, it’s important to maintain it to continue practicing nursing in multiple states. Maintaining a multistate license may require meeting certain education requirements for each of the states where you’re licensed. This can include taking courses, attending seminars or workshops, and participating in other continuing education activities approved by the individual state boards of nursing.

Continuing education units (CEUs) for the nursing compact license allow nurses to stay up-to-date on the latest advancements in healthcare and ensure you’re providing high-quality care to your patients. With regular updates on new trends in medicine, nurses can provide effective treatment while protecting yourself and your patients from any potential harm.

You may be required to renew your compact license every couple of years, depending on what state your home residency is in. When it comes down to the fine print, make sure you have up to date information and that you’re in the know on what you need to do to maintain your multistate licensure.

What states are current nursing compact states?


Nursing Licensure Compact NLC states

🌍 Alabama

🌍 Arizona

🌍 Arkansas 

🌍 Colorado 

🌍 Delaware 

🌍 Florida 

🌍 Georgia

🌍 Guam (partial implementation)

🌍 Idaho 

🌍 Indiana  

🌍 Iowa 

🌍 Kansas  

🌍 Kentucky 

🌍 Louisiana 

🌍 Maine 

🌍 Maryland 

🌍 Mississippi 

🌍 Missouri

🌍 Montana 

🌍 Nebraska 

🌍 New Hampshire  

🌍 New Jersey 

🌍 New Mexico 

🌍 North Carolina 

🌍 North Dakota

🌍 Ohio

🌍 Oklahoma 

🌍 Pennsylvania (law passed and partial implementation) 

🌍 South Carolina 

🌍 South Dakota 

🌍 Tennessee 

🌍 Texas 

🌍 Utah 

🌍 Vermont

🌍 Virginia 

🌍 Virgin Islands (law passed and awaiting implementation) 

🌍 Washington

🌍 West Virginia 

🌍 Wisconsin  

🌍 Wyoming 

Member states pending legislation

🌍 Alaska

🌍 Connecticut

🌍 Hawaii

🌍 Illinois

🌍 Massachusetts

🌍 Michigan

🌍 Minnesota

🌍 New York

🌍 Washington, D.C.

Noncompact states

🌍  American Samoa

🌍 California

🌍 Nevada

🌍 Oregon



Compact nursing license FAQs

There are a lot of details to remember about nursing licensure and with the fine print often comes questions. These are some of the top travel nursing licensure questions plus their answers to help you stay informed.

Q: How long does it take to get a compact nursing license?

A: The review process and issuance time for each state varies. For real-time notifications about updates to the NLC such as compact status, expiration dates, renewal requirements, and disciplinary actions, sign up for Nursys eNotify System.

Q: How do I get a multi-state license if I live in a non-compact state?

A: You can’t get a multi-state license if you live in non-compact states. Nurses residing in a non-NLC state are limited to single-state licenses that are valid in that specific state only.

Q: What classifies a state as my primary state of residence?

A: Your primary state of residence refers to the location where you hold a valid driver’s license, pay federal income tax, and/or vote.

Q: I’m a new grad. Where should I apply for my license?

A: If you’re a new grad, you can apply for license after you take the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) to test your nursing skills. You can enroll and take the NCLEX in any state, regardless of where you want to practice or live. Once you’ve passed that exam, you can then apply for licensure by exam or authorization to test (ATT), in the state where you plan to reside.

Q: If I hold a compact license that was part of the NLC do I need to reapply for a compact license as a part of the eNLC?

A: If you hold a compact license that was part of the NLC, you were grandfathered into the new eNLC. Only if your state decided to leave the eNLC would your compact license no longer be valid.

Q: If I hold a valid state nursing license in a compact state, does it automatically equal a multi-state license?

A: If you hold a single state license in a compact state, it doesn’t automatically qualify as a compact license. You will need to apply to “upgrade” your single state license to a multi-state license through license renewals.

Q: If I hold a compact license, can I practice nursing in another compact state that I do not live in?

A: If you hold a compact license, you can practice in another compact party state, regardless of where you live. That’s what’s so great about having a compact license!

Q: I own a home in a compact state, but I live in a non-NLC state. Do I qualify for a compact license?

A: If you own a home in a compact state but your primary residence is in a non-compact, you don’t qualify for a compact license. You must physically reside in a compact state, regardless of where you own property, to qualify for a multi-state license.


Applying for a compact state nursing licensure can open a world of possibilities for your nursing career. With access to more nursing jobs in multiple states, you can explore new opportunities that may better fit your goals and lifestyle, all while keeping up with the exceptional nursing care and patient safety practices you provide. Not only will a compact license give you the chance to expand your knowledge base by learning from different healthcare systems, but it also allows for greater flexibility with travel nursing.

Once you’re locked and loaded with your license for nursing compact states, search for travel nursing jobs with Fusion Medical Staffing, and start your travel adventure!