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How to Get a Compact Nursing License as a New Nursing Graduate

Two million registered nurses (RNs) hold a compact state nursing license. That’s almost 40% of all RNs nationwide. Why do so many nurses choose this type of nursing licensure?

The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) is an agreement between U.S. states and territories allowing nurses with a compact state nursing license to practice in all participating jurisdictions with one license.

A compact state nursing license, or multistate license, gives nurses additional career flexibility. This flexibility can benefit nurses who anticipate moving, working in travel nursing, or living and working in different states.

Keep reading to learn how to get a compact nursing license and which nurses qualify. You’ll also explore the many benefits of multistate licenses for nurses and patients alike.

Where Do Compact State Nursing Licenses Apply?

Nurses obtain a compact state nursing license from the jurisdiction where they legally reside. This is called their primary state of residence (PSOR). Only nurses who declare a compact jurisdiction as their PSOR qualify for multistate licensure.

Your PSOR is the state or territory where you hold your driver’s license, vote, and pay federal income tax. Owning property in a compact jurisdiction doesn’t qualify as legal residency.

Nurses with a multistate license can practice in any compact jurisdiction. They can also practice in noncompact jurisdictions by obtaining single-state licensure from that specific state. Nurses can hold one multistate license and multiple single-state licenses at the same time.

Nurses legally residing in a noncompact state are ineligible for a compact state nursing license. However, they can obtain multiple single-state licenses to practice in more than one state.

Compact Jurisdictions

Forty-one U.S. states and territories participate in the NLC. The remaining jurisdictions have pending NLC legislation or do not participate.

Full, Partial^, or Awaiting* NLC Implementation




















New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

North Carolina

North Dakota



Rhode Island*


South Carolina

South Dakota







West Virginia




U.S. Virgin Islands*

Pending NLC Legislation

No NLC Participation







New York

Washington, D.C.





American Samoa

Northern Mariana Islands

Baylor nurse

How to Get a Compact Nursing License?

A nurse can obtain a compact state nursing license by meeting NLC’s uniform licensure requirements (ULRs). They are the prerequisites for multistate licensing in every compact jurisdiction.

The ULRs were developed to ensure nurses with a multistate license meet standards for providing safe and competent nursing practice across all NLC jurisdictions.

Nurses must meet all 11 ULRs to apply for a compact state nursing license, including:

  • Meeting the licensure requirements of their PSOR.
  • Graduating from an approved education program.
  • Passing the national nurse licensure exam.

Eligible new nurse graduates can obtain a compact state nursing license by completing the following steps.

Step 1: Complete Nursing Education

The first step in how to get a compact nursing license is to graduate from a nursing education program. The program must have approval from the board of nursing in your PSOR, where you will apply for a multistate license.

Approval requirements vary by state but likely include nursing program accreditation from a national accrediting body. Many nursing programs hold accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

Most nurses enter the profession with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). You can earn a BSN through a traditional four-year program or an accelerated program.

Accelerated BSN (ABSN) programs take approximately 11 to 18 months to complete. They are designed for students with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing discipline. By building on previous baccalaureate education, ABSN programs enable students to focus on the nursing curriculum right away.

Step 2: Apply for Licensure

If the current state you reside in is a compact state, you may be eligible for a multistate license by exam. New nurse graduates can save time and money if they live in a compact state and apply for licensure by exam through the board of nursing in their PSOR.

The process varies but typically involves completing an application form, providing verification of your educational qualifications, and paying an application fee. All applicants must pass state and federal criminal background checks.

Step 3: Pass the NCLEX

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing exam (NCLEX-RN) is the national nurse licensure exam. All nurses must pass the exam to become licensed RNs.

You can take the NCLEX-RN in any state, no matter where you legally reside. Some nursing programs embed NCLEX-RN preparation in the curriculum, so students know what to expect.

Your NCLEX-RN results are sent to the board of nursing in the state where you applied for licensure.

Step 4: Receive Multistate Licensure

Candidates with an approved licensure application and a passing score on the NCLEX-RN receive a multistate license to practice in all compact jurisdictions.

Licensed RNs must renew their license regularly according to board of nursing requirements.

It is important to note that even with a multistate license, you will need to follow the nursing protocols specific to the state where your patient resides, whether your care is in-person or virtually. 

Moving with Multistate Licensure

If you hold a compact state nursing license and move your legal residency to another state or territory, you must apply for licensure in your new PSOR. This process depends on where you’re relocating:

  • Compact to Compact Jurisdiction: Apply for new multistate licensure by endorsement in your new PSOR within 60 days of relocation.
  • Compact to Noncompact Jurisdiction: Apply for licensure by endorsement in your new PSOR, the noncompact jurisdiction. Your multistate license will become a single-state license.

What Are the Benefits of a Compact State Nursing License?

The NLC benefits both nurses and patients. Multistate licenses can increase healthcare access, improve patient outcomes, reduce costs, and provide nurses with additional job opportunities.

Increased Healthcare Access

Nurses with a compact state nursing license can practice in all compact jurisdictions without obtaining (and renewing) an additional license. This means they can transition their nursing practice to other places efficiently.

The mobility provided by a multistate license can increase healthcare access in places that need it most. These include nurse shortage areas, like rural towns, and locations affected by natural disasters and emergencies.

Improved Patient Outcomes

Multistate licenses can improve patient outcomes by holding nurses to high standards of care. The ULRs ensure nurses with a multistate license meet minimum practice standards regardless of their PSOR. For example, all compact jurisdictions conduct federal background checks.

Evidence shows that the NLC is safe and efficient. According to one study, nurses with a multistate license have consistently low discipline rates.

Reduced Costs

By making it easier for nurses to practice in different states, multistate licenses can also help reduce healthcare costs. Increased healthcare access creates savings for patients and healthcare providers.

Moreover, holding a multistate license reduces the need for nurses to obtain multiple single-state licenses. Nurses with multiple single-state licenses must pay to obtain and regularly renew each one. At approximately $70 to $125 per licensure application, this process can be costly and time-consuming.

Additional Job Opportunities

Obtaining a multistate license can improve job opportunities. With a compact state nursing license, nurses have more convenience to work in telehealth and to live and work in different states.


Telehealth is another career opportunity for nurses with a compact state nursing license. They can provide direct care to patients in other compact jurisdictions via telehealth. Telehealth nursing involves many of the same responsibilities as in-person nursing, including health education, triage, and patient monitoring.

Telehealth use has grown significantly since the coronavirus pandemic, and analysts say it will continue rising. Research shows that Americans will consume over half of healthcare services virtually by 2030. As a result, the nation needs more telehealth nurses to address the demand.

Working Across State Lines

Nurses with a compact state nursing license may have greater job opportunities because they can live and work in different compact states.

Living and working in different states is common in many areas of the U.S. For example, a nurse who works in Louisville, KY., may live across the Ohio River in nearby Indiana.

With a multistate license, it’s more convenient to seek employment across state lines—if you plan to live and work in compact states.

What Are Other Resources About How to Get a Compact Nursing License?

You can learn more about getting a compact state nursing license by visiting the website of the NLC or state boards of nursing:

Prepare for a Nursing Career in Texas and Beyond through Baylor University’s Distance ABSN Program

If you live in Texas, you can prepare to become a nurse in one year through the Distance ABSN program offered by Baylor University. Graduates who legally reside in Texas can apply for a compact state nursing license to practice nursing in Texas and other compact jurisdictions.

The full-time, intensive program is designed for professionals with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing discipline. Students benefit from nationally recognized faculty, strong academics, and a well-earned reputation. They gain clinical experience in local communities and study nursing through a Christian worldview.

Take the first step toward fulfilling your calling as a nurse and get your program brochure.

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