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Current Nursing Compact States – What You Need to Know

January 15, 2016

Compact States Infographic

compact nursing states
Each state has its own requirements for licensure, which likely includes paperwork, some type of exam, and hundreds of dollars in fees. For many nurses, going through the process once is tedious enough; for those who wish to have the ability practice in more than one state, it can be consuming.

So what happens for those who decide to become traveling nurses, which might involve working in several states within a couple of years? It’s quite possible that many who might have chosen such a route would be deterred by all of licensing requirements. That’s how the concept of nursing compact states came to be.

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What is a Compact State?

In recognizing that earning state licensing can be a costly and lengthy process, The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), sponsored by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), created a multi-state nursing license that is recognized in 25 states.

Known as compact states, they give nurses the opportunity to cut through a lot of the red tape that would normally be required to practice.

This is especially helpful for those interested in pursuing travel nursing careers, or people who happen to live close to one or more bordering states.

Multi-state licensing is available for RNs, LPNs, and LVNs. And as of May 2015, The APRN Compact was passed to allow advanced practice registered nurses to hold multi-state license.

As with any new state license application, nurses must already have a state license in good standing in order to be approved. Once you begin practicing in a state outside of your main residence, you’ll be expected to follow the laws and regulations of the state in which you’re working.

How Do Multi-State Licenses Work?

By earning a multi-state nursing license, your information and work history is kept in a database that can be easily accessed by anyone responsible for hiring nurses in participating states.

In other words, it gives hiring managers a simple way to verify your credentials without requiring you to complete stacks of forms.

The one drawback is that you must reside in one of the 25 compact states in order to qualify for such a license. Therefore, the first thing you should do is scan the list of compact states below to see if your home state is listed:

Current Compact States


New Hampshire


New Mexico


North Carolina


North Dakota


Rhode Island


South Carolina


South Dakota














A few states have pending legislation to become compact states as well including New York, Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey. Check with the National Council of State Boards of Nursing for updates.

Living in a Compact State

If you already reside in one of the above states, the good news is your license is probably already a multi-state one.

Once you declare a compact state as your primary state of residence, it will automatically be designated as multi-state. In other words, there is no separate application process for you to undergo.

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Relocating to a Compact State

Should you decide to relocate to one of the above states from a non-compact state, however, then applying for a multi-state license is worth your while. That will give you flexibility to travel across state lines for different nursing jobs without the hassle, paperwork, and fees that a new state license application would normally require in non-compact states.

Keep in mind that the process can take about two months and you can’t begin it until you provide a Declaration of Primary State of Residence form and proof of residence. Evidence may include things like a driver’s license, federal income tax return, and/or voter registration.

If you wish, you can begin the application process before you move to get things going. Just note that you’ll be applying for a single-state license that you will have to convert after your move is complete.

Moving from Compact State to Compact State

Should you move from one compact state to another, your license will carry over for a grace period of 30 to 90 days (depending on the state) while you reapply for a multi-state license in your new primary state of residency.

Lastly, it is still possible to maintain a non-compact state license along with a multi-state license. For example, if you begin your nursing career in Nevada, which is non-compact, and later move to Arizona, a compact state, you may choose to keep your credentials current for Nevada.

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Advantages of a Compact State License

Whether you want to expand your job search to a neighboring state or prefer working as a travel nurse, having a multi-state license will help ease the paperwork pain. Not having to go through a lengthy application process for a new state license and pay the associated fees every time you change jobs can fast track you into a new position.

With new compact states being added every year thanks to the NLC, hopefully it will increase your odds of obtaining a multi-state nursing license in the future.

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By Dawn Papandrea

Dawn Papandrea is a Staten Island, NY-based freelance writer who specializes in personal finance, parenting, and lifestyle topics. Her work has appeared in Family Circle,, Parents,, and more. Visit Dawn on Google+ and at her website.