An Overview Of Nursing Compact Licenses

This article is written in direct response to the numerous queries that nurses and students make regarding compact licensure. The intended purpose of this article is to clear up the misconceptions that people have regarding the compact license process. Nurses General Nursing Article

An Overview Of Nursing Compact Licenses

The Nurse Licensure Compact is an agreement that allows multi-state nursing licensure for registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) in an efficient manner.

At the time of this writing, approximately 24 states participate in the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). A nurse who has established permanent residency in a NLC state has a multi-state nursing license and is allowed to work in the other participating states. These states, commonly referred to as the 'compact states,' are:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

However, for a nurse to have multi-state practicing privileges, the nurse must reside in a compact state and hold a nursing license in that primary state (Emery, 2008).

Nurses who do not live in a compact state will not be permitted to have multi-state licensure unless they obtain licenses for each state in which they would like to practice.

For instance, Bunny lives in California, which is not a compact state. She lives near the state line and has accepted a job in Arizona, which is a compact state. Bunny must obtain an Arizona nursing license by endorsement if she wishes to practice there. Furthermore, her Arizona license will not be a compact license because her permanent residence is in the non-compact state of California. However, if Bunny were to relocate to Arizona and set up permanent residence there, her Arizona license would become a compact license.

According to Emery (2008), if a nurse permanently moves from one compact state to another, a license change must take place within 30 days. As an example, Missy resides in Tennessee, which is a participating compact state, but is planning a permanent move to the compact state of Virginia.

Since Virginia is now her new primary state of residence, she has 30 days to get a Virginia nursing license. A compact nursing license is similar to a driver's license. Once Missy has moved to Virginia, she can legally drive in Virginia under her Tennessee driver's license for 30 days, then she will need to obtain a Virginia driver's license in order to keep driving legally in her new home state. It is the exact same concept with a nursing license that is from a compact state.

Multi-state privileges come in handy for travel nurses and people who live in close proximity to state lines. For example, Dolly lives in the compact state of Maryland, but would like to accept a travel assignment in South Dakota, which is another compact state. Since Dolly's permanent residence is in a compact state (Maryland), she has multi-state privileges and is legally allowed to practice nursing in any other compact state without going through the hassle of obtaining a new license for each state that participates in the NLC.

Another example involves Candy, who lives in the compact state of Nebraska. She lives very close to the Iowa state line, where she has accepted a job. As long as Candy maintains residence in Nebraska, she can continue to commute across the state line and work in Iowa (another compact state) under her Nebraska nursing license.


TheCommuter, BSN, RN, CRRN is a longtime physical rehabilitation nurse who has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a Registered Nurse.

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Specializes in Complex pedi to LTC/SA & now a manager.

You are on a roll with these very informative articles, right on target with the most common questions posed on this site!

I always wondered why we had to get new licenses...and your drivers license example was perfect!

Specializes in Gerontological, cardiac, med-surg, peds.

Great resource, thank you! I find it perplexing that Georgia and Florida are not part of the compact.

Specializes in Med-Surg/urology.

I wish D.C. was part of the compact :( Signed, Disgruntled DMV Nurse lol.

Specializes in med surg ltc psych.

I believe nursing licenses should just all be national. I am also a Certified CPR instructor and it is national, such as Radiology Technicians ARRT is national. There's no logic to me at all, except for the real reason simply being revenue. Endorsing to California was a rodeo.

Georgia is in the process of becoming a compact state as well as several others, including new York and Chicago. Now will it ever go through, I have no idea...but it has been in the works since last year.

Yeah, obtaining/transferring an RN California license was a nightmare and it took a while too.....I was like are you serious?????? The entire country ought to conform to compact licenses to reduce the stress of registering as an RN in a new state of ridiculous !!!!!!!!!!!

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.
Yeah, obtaining/transferring an RN California license was a nightmare and it took a while too.....I was like are you serious??????
Yes. California is my home state, although I have not lived there in nearly seven years. Unfortunately, California is not the most efficient state when it comes to bureaucratic issues such as nursing licensure, drivers' licenses, and so forth. Even if you have everything together on your end, the state will take forever to process your application.

They sure will !!!!!!!!!!!!!! Exactly !!!!!!!!!!!!!! Typical bureaucratic poo-poo !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Nurse Virgo--

You have hit the (Chicago) nail on the head! (If you can, please hit it again, harder.)

The State of Chicago, alas, decides what & how things shall be done in the other 96 or 98 counties of the State of Illinois, ignoring applicability & relevance.

It is as if, "If it's good for the State of Chicago, it has to be good for the entire State of Illinois."