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Comprehensive Guide to Nursing Compact States 2021/2022 

December 22, 2021

What is a Nursing Compact State?

A nurse compact state allows nurses who hold a compact license to work in different states without procuring other licenses. This means that nurses have more flexibility in their careers. Another word for a compact license is a multistate license.

History of Nurse Licensure Compact

The legislation was passed in 2018, which replaced the Nurse Licensure Compact, or NLC, with the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact, or eNLC. This legislation allows nurses to hold a multistate license in the state where they live- their home residence- and practice in other compact states. This simplified the process across the states.

As of June 2021, the eNLC only covered RNs, Registered Nurses, LPN's/LVNs, or Licensed Practice Nurses. The Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, or APRNs, must hold a license in each state where they practice.  

At this time, there’s an effort to move forward with an APRN Compact, which will go into effect once 7 states enact the legislation. It has already been enacted in North Dakota and is pending in Delaware.

Map Infographic: 2 million nurses have compact state licenses.

Advantages of the Nursing Licensure Compact

The major benefit of the eNLC is that a nurse that carries a compact state license will be able to work in any of the other eNLC states. This means that barriers often encountered by nurses trying to obtain employment in a state that is not their home residence are removed. Nurses that hold a compact license have increased flexibility in employment and can access other career options, such as travel nursing.

Graph representing 70% of nurses in favor of joining compact license.

Compact versus Non-Compact Nursing License

When considering a compact nursing license versus a non-compact nursing license, there are a few things that you must consider. We’ll explore those below:  

Compact Nursing License  

Here are the things you need to know about holding a compact nursing license:  

  • Nurses who carry a compact nursing license can practice in other compact states without applying or obtaining a new license for that state. There's no time limit for them to practice in the other state, as long as they maintain residency in the state that issued the license and remain in good standing with the board of nursing in that state. They must provide proof of legal residence, which includes a W2 form, voter's card, driver's license, state ID, or a federal income tax return. The primary state of residence should issue these documents.  
  • If they choose to keep their compact state license and obtain a license in a non-compact state, they must keep their primary state of residence in the compact state. At that point, the nurse will have 2 nursing licenses and will be required to remain up to date on both as directed by the board of nursing in those states.

Non-Compact Nursing License  

Here is what you need to know about a non-compact nursing license:  

  • Only nurses that declare a compact state as their primary state of residence can obtain a multistate license. This means that if a nurse resides in one of the states that are not part of the nursing compact, they must carry individual nursing licenses for each state they are employed in. There's no limit on the number of licenses that a nurse can carry- but they must ensure that they maintain good standing with the board of nursing in each state.

A license is a must when becoming a travel nurse.

How Do You Know if Your Nursing License is a Compact License?

If you're not sure whether your nursing license is a compact license or not, it's easy to find out. All you need to do is sign up for Nursys. This is a national database that is used to verify nurse licensure and discipline and practice privileges for LPNs/LVNs and RNs.  

When you create an account on Nursys, you will view all of your licenses- both active and inactive. Additionally, you will be able to see the compact status of each license.

States in the NLC

As of June 2021, 33 states/territories have implemented the eNLC. Following is a list of these compact license states:  

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

At this time, both Guam and New Jersey have partially implemented this legislation, which means that a nurse that holds a multistate license in their home state can use that license to practice in those areas- but a nurse that resides in New Jersey will not be able to apply for a multistate license until the latter part of 2021. Nurses that live in Guam are not able to apply for a multistate license until 2022.  

Vermont has been accepted and is currently waiting for implementation. This will be added to the new nursing compact states map when it is finalized.  

States Waiting for Acceptance in the NLC

As of June 2021, 8 states were waiting for acceptance into the NLC. There is no timeline available at this time regarding when each should expect to be accepted.  

  • California  
  • Illinois  
  • Massachusetts  
  • Michigan
  • Ohio Pennsylvania  
  • Rhode Island  
  • Virgin Islands

States Not Currently in the NLC

As of June 2021, 11 states were not in the NLC. They are as follows:  

  • Alaska  
  • American Samoa
  • Connecticut  
  • District of Columbia  
  • Hawaii
  • Mariana Islands  
  • Minnesota  
  • Nevada  
  • New York  
  • Oregon
  • Washington

How Do You Apply for a Compact State Nursing License?

The first step in applying for a compact state nursing license is to have graduated from a nursing program approved by the board of nursing. Then, you must make sure that your primary state of residence is an eNLC state.  

As mentioned previously, your primary state of residence is determined by your filing of federal income tax, driver's license or state ID, or voter registration. If your state is not an eNLC state, you cannot get a compact state nursing license.  

Once you have determined your eligibility for a compact state nursing license, there are two ways that you can apply:  

License by Exam  

This option involves applying for a nursing license with the board of nursing in your primary state of residence. Then, register to take the NCLEX and get authorization to take the test. Finally, take the test and wait for your results. Once you have passed the NCLEX, you will be granted a multistate license.  

License by Endorsement

This option involves first identifying if your new primary state of residence is a member of the eNLC. If so, you must determine if your previous license was a compact nursing license. If so, you only need to apply for a license in your new primary state of residence. You can use your current license to practice until the new one is granted. Once you get your new license, the old one will become inactive.  

On the other hand, if your previous primary state of residence was not a member of the eNLC, you must apply for a license in the new primary state of residence and wait until the new one is issued before practicing.  

There are a couple of things that you must keep in mind. If your primary state of residence is not an eNLC state, you can't apply for a compact state license. Instead, you will be required to apply for a license in each state that you wish to practice in, and the license is only valid in that state. Nurses can hold multiple non-compact state licenses- but only one compact state license.

Additional Questions About Nursing Licenses?

As a nurse, you will find it beneficial to have a compact state license- especially if you plan to do travel nursing. If you have any additional questions regarding compact state nursing licenses, contact Advantis Medical Staffing. We will be more than happy to help you. Additionally, AdvantisConnect is a great resource for answering any questions or addressing any concerns you have with our Clinician Success Team.

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