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What Are the Fastest States to Get Nursing Licenses In?

Mar 25, 2020
The Trusted Team

For most states, there is no definitive timeline when it comes to licensing. This is particularly the case following all the emergency changes that are being made in response to COVID-19.

(These might not be reflective of current processing times due to COVID-19, please use this resource to see how COVID-19 is currently affecting processing times!)

Now, as for most states under normal circumstances (i.e. not states of emergency). There’s a huge decision tree that plays out when you are considering licensure by endorsement (education, licenses, completion of continuing education, location of residence, etc.), and each one of these variables affects timing in a different way. 

Graduation and renewal periods also tack on time as state boards receive an influx of licensure applications. While this short guide is a useful tool for decisions on the fly, it’s always best to check the full state Licensure Guide for a more accurate understanding of your eligibility. 

For more information on compact states specifically, refer to our Guide to Compact States.

Ultimately, there are two main factors to consider when it comes to nursing licenses: 

  1. Verification of licensure
  2. Background checks

Verification of Licensure 

There are two methods to obtain verification, and they depend on a state’s participation with Nursys

  1. (Yes) Nursys - most states participate, which makes verification easy. Once the Nursys process is complete and the fee is paid, verification for endorsement is available immediately for the jurisdiction(s) you selected.
  2. Non-Nursys - California, Pennsylvania, and Michigan (temporarily) do not participate. If you need to request an official license verification from these states, it can add on A LOT of time (up to 2 months for California). 

If you hold a license in a non-Nursys state, and the state in which you are wishing to endorse your license requires you to verify it, this will tack on time (so plan for it)! 

Not all states require you to verify all of your licenses, so be sure to read that step carefully on a state-by-state basis. There’s a lot of variation in what states require. Here are some examples:

  • Verification of only your original nursing license
  • Verification of your original & any active licenses
  • Verification of your license where you were most recently employed
  • Verification of all current and past nursing licenses
  • Verification of any and all health-related licenses and certifications (which can’t be done through Nursys)
  • Official verification can be pending, the state will accept photocopies of the license
  • Official verification can be pending, the state will accept notarized printouts of online license

Criminal Background Check & Fingerprints

Here, there are two options:

  1. LiveScan (electronically) - this method is significantly faster
  2. Ink & paper - as old school as it sounds

Some states only allow you to get fingerprinted electronically if you are in that state, while others require one step further and ask that you are currently resident. Some states don’t even take electronic fingerprints, while others require you wait for them to mail you their specific fingerprint card. And some states don’t even require fingerprints! Woo!

So, without further ado, here is a list of the fastest and slowest states to receive licenses in (in no particular order).

man on ledge in canyon fastest states to get nursing license in

The Fastest States to Get a Nursing License In

Alabama

  • The Board of Nursing (BON) offers a Temporary License
  • Processing time: 24-48 hours
  • You only need to have a notarized copy of your current license to receive a temporary; you do not need to submit an official verification
  • Fingerprints and complete background check can be in process when you receive your Temporary License

Arizona 

  • The Arizona BON offers a Temporary License on a “walk-through” basis
  • The BON offers a Temporary License
  • Processing time: 48 hours for emergencies
  • Must have a job offer letter with a start date within 7 days
  • You must bring a completed fingerprint card with you

Hawaii

  • The BON offers a Temporary License
  • Processing time: same day “walk-in”
  • Everything must be submitted before walking in

Louisiana

  • The BON offers a Temporary License
  • Processing time: same day “walk-in”
  • You must be able to walk in and complete your fingerprints the same day

Maryland

  • The BON offers a Temporary License
  • Processing time: 3-5 business days
  • You only need to complete the complete background check and fingerprints the results can be pending

Minnesota

  • The BON offers a Temporary License
  • Processing time: 1-2 business days
  • You only need verification of 1 nursing license
  • Fingerprints can be done after you receive a Temporary License

Missouri

  • The BON offers a Temporary License
  • Processing time: same day “walk-in”
  • Fingerprints and license verification can be done after you receive your Temporary License

Nevada

  • The BON offers a Temporary License
  • Processing time: 7-10 business days
  • Only need verification of original license
  • Fingerprints can be done after you receive your Temporary License

North Dakota

  • The BON offers a Temporary License
  • Processing time: 3-5 business days
  • You will need your official transcripts
  • Verification of license and fingerprints can be done after you receive your Temporary License

South Carolina

  • The BON offers a Temporary License
  • Processing Time: same day “walk-in”
  • You just need a copy of your license; no need to complete an official verification of licensure until after you receive your Temporary License

Texas

  • The BON offers a Temporary License
  • Processing Time: 15 business days
  • You just need to complete the application
  • Fingerprints and official license verification can be done after you receive your Temporary License

Vermont

  • The BON does not offer a Temporary License, but their processing time is: 3-5 business days
  • You will need official verification of licenses
  • No complete background check or fingerprints are needed
san francisco golden gate bridge slowest state to get nursing license in

The Slowest States to Get a Nursing License In

California

  • Takes at least 8-12 weeks for the BON to process your documents after you have submitted everything

Colorado

  • No temporary license
  • Processing time: 8 weeks

New Jersey

  • No temporary license
  • Processing time: 8- 12 weeks

New York 

  • No temporary license
  • Processing time: 6 weeks

Tennessee

  • No temporary license
  • Processing time: 6 weeks

*This list is up-to-date as of 3/11/2020 and is based on the assumption that the Board is not awaiting verification of licensure from a non-Nursys state (California, Pennsylvania, and Michigan-temporarily).

Need help navigating any of the state processes in preparation to work as a travel nurse? Let us give you a hand!