How to Apply for a Compact State Nursing License

Requirements for a Compact State License

To obtain a compact nursing license and work as a nurse in a compact state, you must have proof of residence (see below) and a current, active nursing license in that same compact state. With a compact license, you can practice (physically or via telehealth) in any other participating compact states without needing to obtain another license (this saves tons of time and money keeping up with new state licensure and renewals).

The primary state of residence (PSOR) is the state (also known as the home state) in which you declare your primary residence for legal purposes. Sources used to verify your primary residence may include a driver’s license, federal income tax return, or voter registration. PSOR refers to legal residency status and does not pertain to home or property ownership. Therefore, only one state can be designated as the primary state of legal residence for eNLC purposes.

Note: upgrading from a state nursing license to a multi-state nursing license does not happen automatically; you must actively apply. If your home state was part of the original NLC, and you previously held a multi-state license, you do not have to pay an additional fee to transfer it to an eNLC license. A new compact license will be issued as long as you’re eligible.

So, with all of this in mind, how do you actually get a compact license?


If Your Current PSOR is a Compact State​

  1. First, confirm that your state is an active compact state. Check with the NCSBN to make sure your state is participating and not pending joining the eNLC. Remember, a PSOR is your primary state of legal residence proven via your driver’s license, voter registration card, or federal income tax return. You can only have one primary state of residency. Homeownership does not equal residency!
    1. Confirm your state is an active compact state (refer to step 1 above.)
    2. Either have graduated from a board-certified education program or an international education program that has been approved by the respective nation’s accrediting body and an independent review agency.
    3. Passed an English proficiency/TOEFL exam (if English is not your native tongue).
    4. Passed the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN.
    5. Eligible for or holding an active license (e.g., no active disciplinary actions).
    6. Submitted state and federal fingerprint-based background checks.
    7. Not convicted or found guilty of a felony.
    8. Have no misdemeanors or convictions related to the practice of nursing.
    9. Not currently a participant in an alternative program.
    10. Required to disclose any current participation in an alternative program.
    11. Has a valid United States Social Security number. 
  2. If all of the above criteria are met, you can go to your state board of nursing website to upgrade your license (simply follow the provided instructions for the “eNLC Upgrade Application” or “Apply for a multi-state license” options). You’ll find that having confirmed (a) through (k) above will make applying virtually painless. Once your application is reviewed and accepted, you will receive your eNLC license in the mail. Check with your state BON for how long it will take to arrive. 
  3. Plan ahead if you are permanently moving from one compact state to another compact state. You can work in the new compact state using your current multi-state license until you apply and receive your new multi-state license. You should apply by endorsement for your new compact license as soon as you know you will be moving or immediately after your move to allow time for processing.
  4. Once you receive your new PSOR compact license, your previous compact license will be made inactive. You should notify the BON in your former home state of your new address. Your new multi-state license will allow you to work in all other compact states as long as you remain registered in your current PSOR.

If Your Current PSOR isn’t a Compact State

  1. If you live in a non-compact state, you must obtain nursing licenses for each and every state in which you desire to work. Doing so can be time-consuming, so it is good to get started as soon as you know you may need a nursing license from a prospective state. You won’t be able to practice in the new state until you have its single-state license or a temporary license if they offer it.
  2. You can hold multiple single-state licenses all at one time. However, each license is only valid for its respective state. In addition, you must renew each state license on the schedule each state requires and meet any continuing education requirements for each state, though your CEUs may be used to meet multiple states’ requirements. 
  3. If your state becomes a compact state and has enacted the eNLC legislation, follow the steps above in “If your current PSOR is a compact state.”


The official eNLC body strongly recommends that you join the Nursys e-Notify system, which will update you with any real-time changes to the eNLC system. This is particularly useful for travel nurses.

Furthermore, in terms of Continuing Education (CE) contact hours, you are beholden to the requirements in your home state, the state that issued your compact license.
Trusted can help you track your CEUs.