US NCLEX Application Process & Exam Requirements for Foreign-Educated Nurses

  • 30 November, 2022

US NCLEX Application Process & Exam Requirements for Foreign-Educated Nurses

Are you a nurse who was educated outside of the US but would like to work in the US as a registered nurse? Great! Nursing is a wonderful career and there are many job opportunities in all states and all specialties. Becoming licensed in the US after obtaining a license in a different country is referred to as "licensure by endorsement." Because it can take time to get a nursing license in the US, and there are many steps. It is recommended to start this process 6 months in advance of when you are hoping to begin working in the US.

First, each of the 50 states has its own nursing regulating body (NRB), also known as a state board of nursing. All states require you to pass the same licensure exam, known as the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), but each state has its own requirements to be able to test. Some states require a social security number, driver's license from that state, or other proof of residency. Many states require fingerprints and a background check. Some states will accept Canadian nursing licensure, and a few states may offer an endorsement to foreign-educated nurses without taking the NCLEX. Since 2020, some states have adjusted licensure requirements for endorsement licenses in order to fill the need for nurses. Many international nurses choose to apply for their license first in a state that does not require a social security number or other extra steps. Once you have a license in one state, it is easier to apply for a license in another state later. To find the board of nursing in each state, simply do an internet search (for example: Texas Board of Nursing) and look for the "Application" tab or something similar.

The Process:

1. Application - You will need to complete the application for the state board of nursing in the state where you are applying. Application fees should be paid at this time. Based on the state, there may be additional requirements before you are approved to take the licensure exam. You may need to be fingerprinted, and a background check is conducted. The background check may take 2 weeks or more. Be sure the name you put on your application is exactly as it shows on your passport, and then use this same form of your name at every step. The name on all your paperwork must match throughout the process.

2. Verification & Review - One of the next steps for any state is to have a review of your nursing education and licensure. To start this process, contact the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS; https://www.cgfns.org/). You will need a Credentials Evaluation Service (CES) Professional Report. If the state where you are applying requires an English language proficiency exam, you can work with CGFNS to schedule that as well.

3. NCLEX - In most situations, foreign-educated nurses will need to take the NCLEX exam. Your application must be approved by your state's board of nursing in order to receive an Authorization to Test (ATT), which will allow you to register for the exam. Register for the NCLEX on the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) website (https://www.ncsbn.org/nclex.page) and be sure to download a copy of the NCLEX test plan as well so you will have a better understanding of what will be on the exam. But notice there are two options for taking the NCLEX: the NCLEX-PN and NCLEX-RN. The evaluation of your education and licensure will help you determine which option is the best for you.

It is important for you to prepare thoroughly before taking the NCLEX exam! Do not assume that you will pass the exam just because you have worked as a nurse in another country. In 2021, the first-time pass rate for US-educated nurses on the NCLEX-RN was 82.48%, whereas the first-time pass rate for foreign-educated nurses was 46.48%. Rates for the NCLEX-PN were similar, with 79.6% for US-educated nurses and 51.49% for foreign-educated nurses. Don't let these statistics discourage you-there are many factors that could affect these differences, but obviously, preparation is key! You need to have a study plan, learn about the NCLEX exam, and complete as many practice questions as possible. (Don't forget - EduMind can help you prepare!) It was mentioned earlier that it could be 6 months before you are eligible to take the NCLEX, so use that time wisely for studying.

4. Where do I take the NCLEX? The NCLEX exam is administered in the US through Pearson VUE testing centers. If you are not yet living in the US, the exam can also be taken in Australia, Canada, England, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Taiwan. You will need to have identification with you that matches the name on your application and the ATT. Your passport is the easiest option for identification. The exam is taken on a computer, and you will have 75-145 questions with up to 5 hours to complete it.

5. When will I get my results? When you complete your exam and leave the testing center, you will not know if you have passed or failed the test. It may take several weeks before you receive official results from your state board of nursing, but usually, you will know unofficial results long before then. After two days, you can pay $7.95 to receive unofficial "quick results" if your state board of nursing participates in this program. In many states, you can check the board of nursing website after a few days to see if you have a license issued. Do not call the testing center, the board of nursing, or anyone else to ask if you passed.

Although this may sound complex and confusing, there are agencies that will help you through this process for a fee. Since doing something wrong or having missing documents could slow down the process, it may be a good idea to use a service for help.

It is also advisable to have help with studying for the NCLEX. Contact EduMind today to get started on a review course so you will be ready as soon as you are eligible to test!

References

NCLEX FAQs. NCSBN. (2022). Retrieved October 26, 2022, from https://nclex.com/faqs.htm

(2021). 2021 NCLEX Pass Rates. Retrieved October 26, 2022, from https://www.ncsbn.org/2021-NCLEX-Pass-Rates

About the Author: Lana Wilkins, MSN, BSN, RN

Lana Wilkins is a Registered Nurse with over 16 years of professional nursing. She is a nursing educator, consultant, Subject Matter Expert, and writer with a passion for helping students and new nurses. She holds a B.S. in Nursing from the University of Oklahoma and a M.S. in Nursing Education from Western Governors University. Outside of the world of nursing she can be found managing the chaos of 2 kids, a husband, and a cat, being crafty, or spending time with friends.

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