Board of Nursing: Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) for Colorado

On January 18, 2018, Governor John Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 18-027 Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact. The law placed Colorado into the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). As a member of the NLC, the State Board of Nursing now requires all applicants to obtain a fingerprint background check in order to obtain a nursing license in Colorado.

The NLC increases access to care while maintaining public protection at the state level. Under the NLC, nurses are able to provide care to patients in other NLC states, without having to obtain additional licenses.



General Information:

What is the Nurse Licensure Compact?

The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) allows a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical/vocational nurse (PN) to possess a multistate license allowing practice across state lines in all NLC states. Updates on current states within the compact are available on the NLC Website.

What is the Nurse Licensure Compact vs. the enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact?

The original nurse licensure compact was established in 2000 and had 25 member states. It was identified that changes were warranted. The original compact was dissolved on July 18, 2018. The enhanced nurse licensure compact (NLC) was drafted and the updated version was adopted in 2015 and implemented on January 19, 2018. The "e" is slowly being dropped from new and future documents as the compact has been fully established. This webpage will refer to the compact as the NLC.

What is required to apply for a multistate license in Colorado?

Nurse Qualification Requirements

The applicant must meet the following requirements

  1. Declare Primary State of Residence (PSOR): The PSOR must be an NLC state, this is the state in which the licensee holds a driver's license and is registered to vote. Applicants in Colorado must have proof of PSOR in Colorado such as voter registration, driver's license or completed w-2 form.
  2. Meet the Uniform licensure requirements in the PSOR.
  3. Graduate from a qualifying education program.
  4. Pass the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN.
  5. Complete a background check.
  6. Not be under discipline or restriction.
  7. Not be currently enrolled in an alternative program and must self-disclose if in an alternative program.
  8. Must have a valid U.S. Social Security number.
  9. Must not have misdemeanors related to the practice of nursing as determined by the state board of nursing on a case by case basis.
  10. Have no prior state or federal felony convictions.
  11. Have passed an English proficiency exam if a foreign graduate.

What is the difference between a single state license and a multistate license?

A nurse with a single state license can ONLY practice in the state that has issued that single state license. A multistate license allows a nurse to practice in any state that is a member of the NLC.

Do I have a choice to apply for a multistate or a single state Colorado license?

No. The compact license is the default license in Colorado. All Colorado applications are processed according to compact requirements. If you do not qualify for a multistate license, the State Board of Nursing may consider issuing you a single state license. There is no difference in cost between a multistate and single state license. Both licenses require a background check.

I applied for a Colorado single state license because my PSOR was NOT a compact state. Now, my PSOR state has joined the enhanced NLC. What do I do?

Your compact license MUST be issued by the state where you have your primary legal residence.

If your home state has recently joined the compact, you will need to contact them to have a multistate license issued to you from that state. If you have moved your primary legal residence to Colorado, you should apply for your multistate license in Colorado.

If I live in a compact state, can I have a license in more than one compact state?

No. Your multistate license must be issued by the state where you maintain your primary state of residence. The multistate license allows you to work in any state that is part of the compact; therefore, there is no need for more than one license.

Can I use my Colorado issued multistate license to practice in other compact states in the NLC?

Yes. You can use your multistate license to practice in other NLC states.

Can I have a multistate license in one compact state and obtain a single state license in other states that are NOT part of that compact?

Yes. If you have a multistate compact license and also practice in a state that is NOT in the compact, you must obtain a single state license in that noncompact state.

Can I provide telehealth services for patients located in other states?

You may provide telehealth services and teach within other compact states with the multistate license as long as the patient is located in a compact state. If the patient is in a noncompact state then you must obtain a single state license in the state the patient resides.

Background Check:

Is a background check required to obtain a compact RN or PN license?

Yes. As required by law, you must submit a fingerprint background check to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Uses these guidelines.

Is fingerprint identification part of the compact application process?

Yes. A fingerprint background check is required.

Can previous fingerprint results be used during the compact application process?

No. Federal law requires that you submit a background check specifically for your Colorado application for a compact RN or PN license. Previously submitted or completed background checks cannot be used to obtain a compact RN or PN license.

Do foreign applicants outside the United States need to get background checks?

Yes. All applicants for licensure need to have their fingerprints taken and sent to CBI for a background check.

What if I have something on my background check?

If there is a "hit" on a background check, the review process can take additional time, including review by the State Board of Nursing. These hits do not automatically exclude someone from license eligibility, however, a felony conviction would exclude someone from a multistate license. In these cases, the Board may consider whether or not an individual would be eligible for a single state license.

For Nurses Practicing as an APN in Colorado with an Out-Of-State Multistate RN License:

Your out-of-state multistate RN compact license is valid in Colorado. You will need to complete registration for your APN in Colorado if you choose to work at the level of an APN.

For Nurses who Reside Out of State:

What if my primary state of residence is in a noncompact state, but I will be practicing in Colorado?

Nurses who reside in a noncompact state and choose to work in Colorado must obtain a single state license in Colorado.

I hold a multistate license from a compact state and I am temporarily working in Colorado. My employer is saying I need to apply for my Colorado license, is this the case?

No. Under the multistate licensure privilege, to practice you are not required to obtain a Colorado license if you hold a multistate license in a compact state that you claim as your primary state of residence.

You may supply your employer with the Compact requirements of acceptance of multistate license memo.

Federal/Military Nurses and Spouses:

If I am a member of the military and I use my license to practice exclusively at a military facility, do I need to do anything?

No. If you maintain an active license from any state, you can continue to practice exclusively at military facilities. If you "moonlight" or practice outside military facilities, you either need to have a multistate compact license or need to get a Colorado single state license in order to work in Colorado.

If I am a military spouse with a compact license relocating to Colorado on military orders, do I need to do anything? 

It depends on your primary state of legal residency. Maintaining or changing a primary state of legal residency is at the discretion of the nurse. Should a nurse with a multistate license maintain legal residency in a NLC state and the military family is stationed in other NLC states, the nurse may practice under the home state multistate license in the other NLC states without obtaining additional licensure in those states 

Please contact dora_dpo_licensing@state.co.us if you have questions about your specific situation.

The Nursys website will identify the status of your license, including single versus multistate. The NLC will tell you what states you can practice in if you have an active multistate license.