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)
- 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!).