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.
When you change your primary state of residence, there is no amount of time or grace period indicated by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) to apply for a license by endorsement in the new state. Therefore, you must declare the new state as your primary state of residence and apply for licensure by endorsement as soon as you can.
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.
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.
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.
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. Apply as soon as you move or before, as there is no grace period. You will, however, be able to practice with your old compact state license until the multi-state license in your new state is issued.
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.
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.
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.
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.