Nursing Compact States: A Complete Guide

What Are Nursing Compact States?

Compact states are states that have joined together to legally permit their nurses to obtain a multi-state license called a compact license. Each compact state has passed legislation through their state government approving this change. A compact license enables nurses to work in any other state that has adopted this measure using their multi-state license.

The official title enabling this practice is Nursing Licensure Compact or NLC. It was revised on July 18, 2018 and is now referred to as the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC). Fortunately, the majority of states have joined the eNLC, releasing nurses from the burden of applying for and maintaining licenses in several states.

NLC, eNLC, and Multi-State License

You may hear Nursing Compact, NLC, eNLC, and multi-state license all thrown around. Essentially, they all mean the same thing. In this and the following articles, “compact states” refers to those states that have enacted the eNLC.

Similarly, a “compact license” is a license obtained in a compact state that serves as a multi-state nursing license but can only be used in other compact states. Nurses who want to work in states that are not part of the eNLC must apply for that state’s single license in addition to having a compact license from their home state.

Nurse Compact Licensure: eNLC, APRNs, and State Variations

Nurses who had obtained compact licenses under the original NLC were mostly grandfathered in and allowed to continue to practice under the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC). Still, they should check their own state’s rules. All but one of the original compact states (Rhode Island) adopted the more recent eNLC guidelines. As a result, Rhode Island has delayed becoming an eNLC state, and those nurses with compact licenses from R.I. can no longer practice in other compact states.

The eNLC is only for Registered Nurses (RNs) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs/LVNs). The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) has been working on a compact agreement for APRNs that will be implemented when at least seven states enact the legislation. Currently, three states have enacted APRN legislation, and two have pending legislation. Note, if you’re a federal or military nurse, there are some differences you should know.

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Compact License States

Implemented

Compact States (members of the eNLC)

In total, 37 states have fully implemented legislation and are currently members of the eNLC. These 37 states have fully implemented the nurse licensure compact as of January 2024.

  • 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
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming
  • 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
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming
Partial Implementation

What States are Currently Implementing the eNLC?

At present, there is 1 state and 1 territory actively implementing the eNLC legislation. In these areas, nurses holding an active multi-state license from another state are permitted to practice. However, it is important to note that these states are not yet issuing multi-state licenses to nurses who designate them as their home state or territory.

  • Guam
  • Pennsylvania
Enacted. Awaiting Implementation

What States Have Enacted but Not Yet Implemented the eNLC?

Overall, the implementation period typically lasts six months to one year but could be longer. Even after obtaining a compact license, it is essential that nurses check the rules of the states in which they desire to work. Nurses can be held to the standard of practice each state outlines despite having a multi-state license.

Virgin Islands

NLC enacted Dec. 6, 2021. The implementation date has not been set. Criminal background checks must also be implemented. VI residents cannot obtain a multistate license until implementation is completed. Nurses in other NLC states with a multistate license may not practice in the Virgin Islands until implementation is complete.

Pending Legislation

Which States are Pending eNLC Legislation?

These states currently have proposed bills to join the eNLC, according to the NCSBN.

Alaska

HB 149 was introduced on March 31, 2023 and is in the Labor & Commerce Committee with further referral to the Finance Committee.

Connecticut

HB 5058 was introduced in February of 2024 and has been referred to the Joint Committee on Public Health.

Hawaii

HB 1264 and HB667 were introduced in January, 2023 and have been sent to specific committees for review, discussion, and potential modification.

Illinois

SB 41 was introduced on Jan 20 2023 and has seen 25% progression. It is currently pending review by the Senate Assignments Committee.

Massachusetts

HB 1251 has been referred to the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing as of Feb 16, 2023.

Michigan

HB 4935 was introduced on Aug 24, 2023 and has been referred to the Committee on Health Policy.

Minnesota

SB 3281 was introduced on Apr 19, 2023 and has been referred to Health and Human Services.

New York

As of Jan 3, 2024, A6421 has been introduced and is with the Assembly Higher Education.

Washington D.C.

B25-0430 was introduced on Jul 13, 2023 and has been referred to the Committee of the Whole with comments from the Committee on Health for review.

Which States are Without eNLC Legislation in 2024?

There are 3 states and two territories that do not have eNLC legislation.

  • California
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
Other non-compact jurisdictions:
  • America Samoa
  • Mariana Islands

How to Apply for a Compact State Nursing License

Requirements for a Compact State License

To obtain a compact nursing license and work as a nurse in a compact state, you must have proof of residence (see below) and a current, active nursing license in that same compact state. With a compact license, you can practice (physically or via telehealth) in any other participating compact states without needing to obtain another license (this saves tons of time and money keeping up with new state licensure and renewals).

Determining Primary State of Residence (PSOR) for eNLC

The primary state of residence (PSOR) is the state (also known as the home state) in which you declare your primary residence for legal purposes. Sources used to verify your primary residence may include a driver’s license, federal income tax return, or voter registration. PSOR refers to legal residency status and does not pertain to home or property ownership. Therefore, only one state can be designated as the primary state of legal residence for eNLC purposes.

Note: upgrading from a state nursing license to a multi-state nursing license does not happen automatically; you must actively apply. If your home state was part of the original NLC, and you previously held a multi-state license, you do not have to pay an additional fee to transfer it to an eNLC license. A new compact license will be issued as long as you’re eligible.

How to Navigate the ENLC in One Page

If Your Current PSOR is a Compact State

  1. First, confirm that your state is an active compact state. Check with the NCSBN to make sure your state is participating and not pending joining the eNLC. Remember, a PSOR is your primary state of legal residence proven via your driver’s license, voter registration card, or federal income tax return. You can only have one primary state of residency. Homeownership does not equal residency!

  2. Meet the Uniform Licensure Requirements for a Multi-state License

    • Confirm your state is an active compact state (refer to step 1 above.)

    • Either have graduated from a board-certified education program or an international education program that has been approved by the respective nation’s accrediting body and an independent review agency.

    • Passed an English proficiency /TOEFL exam (if English is not your native tongue).

    • Passed the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN.

    • Eligible for or holding an active license (e.g., no active disciplinary actions).

    • Submitted state and federal fingerprint-based background checks.

    • Not convicted or found guilty of a felony.

    • Have no misdemeanors or convictions related to the practice of nursing.

    • Not currently a participant in an alternative program.

    • Required to disclose any current participation in an alternative program.

    • Has a valid United States Social Security number.

  3. If all of the above criteria are met, you can go to your state board of nursing website to upgrade your license (simply follow the provided instructions for the “eNLC Upgrade Application” or “Apply for a multi-state license” options). You’ll find that having confirmed (a) through (k) above will make applying virtually painless. Once your application is reviewed and accepted, you will receive your eNLC license in the mail. Check with your state BON for how long it will take to arrive.

  4. Plan ahead if you are permanently moving from one compact state to another compact state. You can work in the new compact state using your current multi-state license until you apply and receive your new multi-state license. You should apply by endorsement for your new compact license as soon as you know you will be moving or immediately after your move to allow time for processing.

  5. Once you receive your new PSOR compact license, your previous compact license will be made inactive. You should notify the BON in your former home state of your new address. Your new multi-state license will allow you to work in all other compact states as long as you remain registered in your current PSOR.

If Your Current PSOR isn’t a Compact State

  1. If you live in a non-compact state, you must obtain nursing licenses for each and every state in which you desire to work. Doing so can be time-consuming, so it is good to get started as soon as you know you may need a nursing license from a prospective state. You won’t be able to practice in the new state until you have its single-state license or a temporary license if they offer it.

  2. You can hold multiple single-state licenses all at one time. However, each license is only valid for its respective state. In addition, you must renew each state license on the schedule each state requires and meet any continuing education requirements for each state, though your CEUs may be used to meet multiple states’ requirements.

  3. If your state becomes a compact state and has enacted the eNLC legislation, follow the steps above in “If your current PSOR is a compact state.”

Points to Remember

Points to Remember

The official eNLC body strongly recommends that you join the Nursys e-Notify system, which will update you with any real-time changes to the eNLC system.

This is particularly useful for travel nurses. Furthermore, in terms of Continuing Education (CE) contact hours, you are beholden to the requirements in your home state, the state that issued your compact license.

Trusted can help you track your CEUs.

Moving Scenarios

Moving to or From a Compact State

Registered nurses (RN) or licensed nurses (LPN/VN) are only considered to be moving to a new state if they have the intent to stay (i.e., you are not just taking a temporary travel nursing assignment for a few months). Moving means you are changing your primary state of residency (PSOR) and changing the state affiliated with your license. So, if you move from one compact state to another, you will need to have your new state issue a new multi-state license.

If you're a nurse with a multistate license and you're planning to move to another state within the Nursing Licensure Compact, you have 60 days from the time you establish your new residence to apply for a multistate license in that state. This guideline, set by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), helps ensure a seamless transition in your licensure status.

You can even start the process before you have a permanent address in that state. Employers are required to have appropriately licensed nurses working for them. While nurses are given an allotted time to apply and receive their new license to be compliant, sometimes the process can get delayed. Some states do offer temporary licenses if needed.

As explained below in Most Common Moving Scenarios, you must apply by endorsement to update your compact nursing license to be issued by your new state.

Most Common Moving Scenarios

Moving From A Non-Compact State To A Compact State

It’s your responsibility to apply for licensure by endorsement in your new state of residence. You can apply for your multi-state license before or after you move, but it will not be issued until you actually arrive and the state can verify it has officially become your primary state of residence. If you hold a single-state license from a non-compact state prior to moving, it will not be affected and remains active until it’s up for renewal.

Moving From A Compact State To A Non-Compact State

Again, it’s your responsibility to apply for licensure by endorsement in your new state of residence, which can be done before or after you move. When you change your primary state of residence to your new one, your previous multi-state license will become a single-state license tied to your prior primary state of residence. After receiving your new multi-state license, you must notify the BON in your previous state of your new address.

Moving From One Compact State To Another Compact State

If you are changing your primary state of residence from one compact state to another, it’s your responsibility to apply for licensure and endorsement. First, you must change your legal declaration of your primary state of residence to the new state, which requires an updated driver’s license, voter registration, etc.  You must initiate the application process in the new state within 60 days of relocating. You will, however, be able to practice with your old compact state license until the multi-state license in your new state is issued.

(International) Moving To A Compact State From Another Country

If you have a visa from a country outside of the United States that allows you to work in the U.S., but you are not planning to move here permanently, you would not be able to obtain a compact license.

You would only be eligible to get a single state license.If you have permanently moved from the country that was your residence to a compact state, you must meet all the compact license requirements in order to obtain one. It is best to check with the BON of your new residence before you apply or to contact CGFNS International if you have further questions.

Three Additional Moving Scenarios

Scenario 1

If You Commute Across State Lines for Work

For example, if you live in Kansas City, KS, and choose to commute to work in Kansas City, MO, you need to hold a nursing license from Kansas state, as that is your primary state of residence. In this case, both states are compact states, but your PSOR is Kansas, not Missouri. Therefore, your state of residence supersedes your state of work.

Scenario 2

If You Are a Military Spouse

Suppose you are a military spouse and plan to maintain a primary state of residence in one compact state, but your spouse is stationed in another compact state. In that case, you can practice in the second compact state for as long as your spouse is stationed there. You do not need to apply for a compact license in the second state.

However, if you obtain a driver's license or register to vote in the second state, that changes which state is your PSOR. You then would need to change your multi-state license to this new state.

Scenario 3

If You Want the Most Flexibility

Moving isn't easy, but if you're looking to get the most out of your nursing career—particularly in terms of nursing salaries or job opportunities— the most strategic thing you can do is to move to a state that has enacted the eNLC. As we've mentioned, there are a slew of benefits to making your PSOR a compact state.

Even if you're not currently a travel nurse or don't think you'll ever become one, knowing that the flexibility is there if you ever need it can be a huge win. As we've witnessed throughout the recent pandemic, you never know when you'll be asked (or choose to go) across state lines.

Hopefully, over time, more states will join the eNLC, but until then, you can make a choice to receive the benefits of living in a compact state.

Continue on to view the most frequently asked questions surrounding compact nursing licensure.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Are Some States Generally Resistant to Joining the Compact?

Some states are resistant to joining the eNLC for a few reasons. The first has to do with perceived workers’ rights. Many of these states have strong ties to protecting their labor unions. They see the compact as an attempt to weaken their ability to do collective bargaining. Some nurses feel that administrators are only pro-compact so they can reduce nursing shortages in their facilities. Some people believe that relieving those shortages will lessen a nurse’s ability to negotiate better working conditions. The fear is that if they became a compact state, out-of-state nurses would come in and take jobs away from their own state’s nurses.

The second area revolves around non-compact state nursing board concerns. They feel that allowing compact nurses will diminish their pool of state-dedicated nurses.

They have expressed that nurses from other states may not have the same high standards, and therefore patient safety would suffer. The compact does not clarify how discipline issues are to be handled.

And lastly, there is, of course, money. If nurses do not have to pay for separate nursing licenses and renewal fees for each state, that will lower the revenue stream that the state’s board of nursing brings in. And at the same time, nursing boards are not necessarily going to receive more state money to manage increased monitoring and oversight of compact nurses’ practice.

How Can I Determine If I Have a Compact License?

You can quickly check if your license is compact or not through Nursys, the only national database for verifying nurse licensure, discipline, and practice privileges for RNs and LPNs/LVNs. Here you can view all your licenses—both active and lapsed—and their compact status (single-state, multi-state, or N/A).

If you download your Nursys report (easy and completely free), it will list out each and every state you are eligible to practice in.

What Are the Benefits of Being a Nurse in a Compact State?

First and foremost, working as a nurse in a compact state allows your nursing license to be accepted in any of the current 35 compact-implemented states and Guam. Having a multi-state license removes one major complexity that must be dealt with when working in one state with plans to work in another regarding requirements for nurse licensure.

This benefit is especially useful for travel nurses and telehealth positions. It means you don’t have to worry about applying for and renewing your nursing license across multiple states since you have a multi-state nursing licensure. Nor do you have to wait weeks to months for a license in the new state you applied to work in to come through.

Basically, you save money and time by not having to apply for and renew various state licenses. You also have additional mobility when deciding where to work as a nurse (especially in the short term if you’re looking for travel nursing jobs).

What Are the Challenges of Being a Nurse in a Compact State?

There aren’t many immediate challenges unless you want to work in a non-compact state, such as California or Connecticut. If you do, you’ll have to apply for and keep up to date on that state’s specific requirements for licensure as well as those for your compact license. In addition, you are bound by that state’s regulations and scope of practice, so you need to become familiar with any differences. If you have a free profile on Trusted, we’ll automatically notify you when a license is expiring soon.

If you’re currently licensed and living in a state with eNLC legislation pending, you do have to wait to apply for your compact license until an implementation date. So, you may be forced to renew your single-state license while waiting.

So, if compact status is really important for you, you may want to consider moving your Primary State of Residence (PSOR), or home state, to one within the eNLC. Your driver’s license, federal tax return, or voter registration (i.e., which proves where you live when you’re not on a travel nurse assignment) confirms which is your home state. In other words, your “home” home. Mind you, you cannot just own real estate in a designated “home” state. You must adopt that state as your new permanent home.

What Are the Advantages for States Within the Nursing Compact?

States that are part of the eNLC benefit from having greater access to a wider variety of more mobile and logistically available nurses. This flexibility promotes travel nursing and filling in for per-diem shifts across state lines, given the demand for nurses in various states.

In times of crisis, nurses from other compact states can immediately respond and travel to help. In addition, rural and remote areas can benefit from nurses filling staff positions, even if only temporarily needed.

Accordingly, it increases access to high-quality nursing professionals who are not constrained by a single-state license; ultimately, it’s a win-win!

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