A Step by Step Guide for Foreign RNs

  1. A Step by Step Guide for Foreign RNs - Image ID: 11866
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    This guide aims to help fellow foreign RNs with their Registered Nurse application in Illinois. I have provided links for some of the institutions and forms involved in the process of applying to Illinois. If you have found any discrepancy, please correct it.

    This guide assumes that you hold an equivalent degree of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in the US. It also assumes that your Illinois license will be your first US nursing license. You will become an RN through Licensure by Examination. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) administers the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN), which is required for licensing as an RN in Illinois.

    In the U.S., the term RN includes professionals with a variety of education levels but with certain skill sets in common. Most people become RNs after participating in one of two types of educational programs:

    • An Associates Degree of Nursing or ADN (2 years of study, typically in a community college)
    • A Bachelor of Science in Nursing or BSN (a 4-year university degree)

    As Internationally Educated Nurses (IENs), we need to meet several requirements to receive Licensure by Examination as a RN in Illinois.

    The steps to licensing can be summarized with this chart:

    1. Evaluation of foreign degree and foreign license with an approved credentialing organization and receive a Credential Evaluation Service Report

    The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation allows us to have our foreign nursing degree evaluated by one of two organizations: the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) or the Education Records Evaluation Service, Inc. (ERES). Personally, I have chosen to use CGFNS for its long-established service, web access by regulation officials, and fast turnaround times.

    CGFNS provides instructions on the steps necessary to evaluate our foreign degree and licensure. Click here to view the instructions documentation.

    Here is an overview of the steps:

    • Apply for evaluation by either registering online or downloading an application form and sending it by mail

    • Request the "CES - Healthcare Professional Report" ($335 in 2012; Fees chart). Make sure that you ask for your report to be prepared for the Illinois Board of Nursing - this will make your record available to the State electronically. Available modes of payment include bank check, international money order or credit card (online or by mail via Credit Card Payment Form). DO NOT SEND CASH.

    • Use CGFNS forms to send requests for official academic records and licensing confirmation to the educational institution(s) you attended and your country's nursing regulation agency (e.g. for the Philippines, the Professional Regulation Commission or PRC). These records must be delivered from the institutions directly to CGFNS - you cannot mail them yourself. For those educated and licensed in the Philippines, here's a quick guide on how to do it in PRC.

    • Provide translations for any documents not in English. This is most often done through your foreign school(s) or licensing agency. You will need to research how to do this and what you will be charged by these institutions. Most schools in the Philippines have English transcipts and documents.

    • Your report is active for 12 months; renewing access to it for another 12 months costs $150 for the Healthcare Professional Report. See the Fees Chart.

    • You must show proof that you graduated from high school (a photocopy of a high school diploma or exit exam will work). You must submit this directly with your application, accompanied by a translation and special translator statement (if needed).

    CGFNS will evaluate your education and licensing to see if it is comparable to the minimum standards for an Illinois Registered Nurse program. After evaluation, CGFNS will decide either that your degree is comparable except for a missing clinical component OR that your degree is not found as comparable.

    In the first case, you will need to have your training pre-approved by IDFPR and choose a school or other training provider from a list of approved nursing education programs (the list is available on the IDFPR website). After completing this clinical requirement and sending transcripts to IDFPR, you will be able to continue your licensing process.

    In the second case, you will need to return to school for a degree program to qualify you for licensure as a Registered Nurse. You should research nursing education programs in your area, and bring your transcripts and credential evaluation to the program coordinators to see if you can receive advanced standing for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). The quickest route to becoming an RN may be to earn an Associates Degree of Nursing. However, if you choose this option you will be settling for a U.S. degree that is not as advanced as your foreign degree, and you will have to continue studying for a BSN if you want better career opportunities.

    For BSN holders from another country, your degree might be determined comparable to the minimum standard required by the State of Illinois. However, sometimes different standards in nursing practice can affect your degree evaluation.

    2. Get fingerprinted via an IDFPR (Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation) approved vendor for a criminal record check

    A list of service providers approved by IDFPR and the Illinois State Police is listed in the Licensure by Examination application pages 27-28. Costs vary by site. Call to set up an appointment. Since I'm already in the US, I have gone to Accurate Biometrics in Chicago, IL. No need for appointments. They accept walk-ins. Save the receipt as proof that you have taken this step: You must include it in the Licensing by Examination application package you will later send to Continental Testing Services (CTS).

    3. Register online with Continental Testing Services (CTS), submit your Licensure by Examination application, required supporting documents, and pay application fee

    CTS manages licensing applications for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). You should call the CTS help number for application assistance: 800-359-1313 (toll-free) or (708) 354-9911 (local). Steps involved:

    • First, register online and arrange for payment of an $91 application fee (as of 2012)

    • Mail all required documentation to CTS. Illinois requires notarized translations of any foreign-language documents

    Your final application package should include: (always make a copy for yourself)

    • Four-page Licensure by Examination application from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR)

    • CT-NUR forms completed by the licensing agency or board of any jurisdiction(s) in which you were first licensed, are currently licensed, or have been licensed in the last 5 years

    • Credential Evaluation Service (CES) report from CGFNS or ERES (your foreign degree and licensing evaluation)

    • Fingerprinting receipt

    • Scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) if you are not a native English speaker and the language of instruction and textbooks in your nursing program was not English. You may request for TOEFL to issue a copy of your scores directly to CTS.

    (The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) requires minimal scores of 560 on the paper-based test, 220 on the computer-based test and 83 on the Internet-based test) This application is valid for 3 years. If you have not passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) or met other licensing requirements within these 3 years you will have to submit a new application and pay the processing fee again.

    4. Register with Pearson Vue for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) by web, mail or telephone

    Register with Pearson for the NCLEX at the same time as submitting your application to Continental Testing Services (CTS). The NCLEX costs $200 (as of 2012).

    5. Receive an approval letter from Continental Testing Services (CTS) and Authorization to Test (ATT); schedule your testing appointment with the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX)

    You have only 90 days from receipt of the ATT to take the NCLEX. Set up your appointment immediately. Instructions are included in the ATT notice. I received mine in the email 1-2 days after registering for Pearson Vue.

    6. Take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and receive a passage letter allowing limited practice for 3 months while license is being processed

    And there you have it. Hope this helps!!! Good luck to all of you (and me too!).
    Last edit by ArtisticNurse on Sep 20, '12 : Reason: Formatting Error

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  4. 67 Comments...

  5. 0
    thanks1 i have a question though..im an RN in the Philippines currently leaving in Thailand. how does the fingerprinting work for us outside the US?
  6. 0
    Hi tracykiss.

    Instructions about out-of-state applicants' fingerprints is included in the paper application.

    "Out-of-State applicants who are unable to schedule an appointment for fingerprinting through an approved fingerprint vendor must obtain one (1) Illinois State Police (ISP) fingerprint card for
    processing by the ISP. The ISP will transmit electronic results of fingerprint processing to the Department.

    To obtain a fingerprint card, please contact the Department at 217-782-8556 or send an email request on your profession page of the Department website at www.idfpr.com.

    The fingerprint card may be taken to a police department in another state to obtain classifiable prints. The fingerprint card and processing fee shall then be mailed to ISP as follows:

    Illinois State Police
    Bureau of Identification
    260 North Chicago Street
    Joliet, Illinois 60432-4075

    For fingerprint processing fees, please contact ISP at

    or at the following email address: BOI_Customer_Support@isp.state.il.us"

    If you are in Thailand, you may want to contact the local bureau/department of investigation regarding their fees and requirements when it comes to fingerprinting US cards.

    Try this email to request for fingerprinting cards:

    You may also want to check this out:

    Good luck! Hope this helps.
  7. 0
    can i just go to accurate bio metrics without appointment or just walk-in? what should i tell them what do i need? and can i do it even before the process of my CES/NCLEX? thank you
  8. 0
    Quote from rosemaryfr
    can i just go to accurate bio metrics without appointment or just walk-in? what should i tell them what do i need? and can i do it even before the process of my CES/NCLEX? thank you
    Hi rosemary,

    Yup. Accurate accepts walk-ins. Just make sure to check the schedule of the branch you're going to.

    This is what you need: (you can click on the links)

    • Complete a fingerprint authorization form and is also available at all fingerprint locations and can be completed onsite.
    • Review the schedule of locations and print times for the closest fingerprinting location.
      • No appointments are necessary at any of their sites.
    • Bring the completed Authorization form and a valid, government issued, picture ID (such as a drivers, license, State ID, or passport).
      • The cost of fingerprinting varies by agency.
      • Payment Terms * --- Credit/Debit Card payments have additional charges. I paid $60.00 cash.
      • The cost of fingerprinting may also be charged to your Agency/ Organization (charge terms or a drawdown account must be set up in advance).
    • You will be given a computer-generated receipt upon completion of the fingerprinting process. Your results will be sent to the requesting agency. At no time will Accurate Biometrics receive the criminal history response. KEEP THE RECEIPT. You need to include it in the packet you'd send to CTS. If you lose it, there's a $10.00 replacement fee.

    Good luck! Hope this helps.
  9. 0
    But what if I havent even applied on NCLEX yet? Can I still do this? (This is very helpful,btw)
  10. 0
    I know that you should have an account with the BON (you already applied) because they'd be sending that to them electronically. So, I guess it's better to do it in the suggested order of things.

    I remember receiving a letter from the BON that they have received my application and they need the fingerprints. That's when I went to Chicago to do mine. Because I know the fingerprints are only available for a period of time.
  11. 0
    Hi there again. I have a question when it comes to the HS diploma. Am I just gonna send my photocopied diploma alone on cgfns' address and that's it?
  12. 0
    Quote from rosemaryfr
    Hi there again. I have a question when it comes to the HS diploma. Am I just gonna send my photocopied diploma alone on cgfns' address and that's it?
    Yup. That's what I did. I just included a short cover letter explaining the document attached and requesting to have it added to my files. In my case, I've also added other documents such as marriage license for my name change.
  13. 0
    Hello! I am a bit confused with this. Where should I obtain my fingerprint card? from idfpr or from the approved vendors? And how is the isp involved in my fingerprint card? please help!

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