What happens if my nursing license expires?

Updated | Posted
by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist) Educator Columnist Innovator Expert Nurse

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

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Dear Nurse Beth,

What happens if one lets the nursing license expire or gives it up? Does one have to retest again or just pay some fees? (This is without any problems on record)

Dear Expired,

In all states, you cannot practice without an active license.

Many states have 4 statuses: active, inactive, expired (lapsed) and retired. An inactive license is typically requested if you do not plan to work for a time, and saves you renewal fees. A retired status can be requested if you plan to volunteer only, but not practice nursing for employment.

A license becomes expired if neither an inactive nor retired status was requested, and the date for renewal was missed.

Activating an expired license is a process that varies from state to state because each state is governed by its own nursing board. It all depends on what state you are licensed in, and how long your license has been expired.

There will always be a fee, but in general, you only have to retest in some states if it's been several years.

For example, in Illinois, you have a 60 day grace period after the expiration date without penalty. In California, if it's been less than 8 years, you must complete 30 CEs and pay a fee. In Connecticut, if it's been more than 5 years, you must take a refresher course and pass the NCLEX.

You may have to:

  • obtain continuing education units
  • pay a fee
  • take a remedial nursing course
  • re-take the NCLEX 

In all states, you can expect to submit fingerprints.

First step is, go online, contact your state BON or BRN and request a reactivation or reinstatement. Best wishes,

Nurse Beth

NICU Guy, BSN, RN

Specializes in NICU. Has 7 years experience. 4,019 Posts

On 9/12/2021 at 1:24 PM, Nurse Beth said:

A license becomes expired if neither an inactive nor retired status was requested, and the date for renewal was missed.

Activating an expired license is a process that varies from state to state because each state is governed by its own nursing board. It all depends on what state you are licensed in, and how long your license has been expired.

There will always be a fee, but in general, you only have to retest in some states if it's been several years.

For example, in Illinois, you have a 60 day grace period after the expiration date without penalty. In California, if it's been less than 8 years, you must complete 30 CEs and pay a fee. In Connecticut, if it's been more than 5 years, you must take a refresher course and pass the NCLEX.

You may have to:

  • obtain continuing education units
  • pay a fee
  • take a remedial nursing course
  • re-take the NCLEX 

This applies if the only license you have expires. If you move and endorse to a new state and let your original license expire, you can reactivate your original license by proving you hold an active license.