• Certifications and Licenses
  • RN - Arizona

    • Compact State
    • Participates in NURSYS
    • Renewal every 4 years

    Overview

    The process to become a registered nurse in Arizona begins with education but involves several other steps and requirements. Obtaining an Arizona nursing license includes experience requirements, fingerprinting and background checks, examinations and lots of documentation, among other things. Licensure requirements are set by the Arizona State Board of Nursing (AZBN) whose members strive to protect the public’s welfare by ensuring Arizona RN license holders are competent to practice safely.

    About

    Nurses can earn their licenses either through endorsement or examination based on their licensure status. RNs must create an account on Arizona’s Nurse Portal to submit their applications and supporting documentation, no matter which license type they’re seeking, and to check their application status.

    Renewal

    RNs already licensed in Arizona must renew their licenses every four years on or before April 1. Failure to renew their license before May 1 results in a late fee of $50 per month. Licenses not renewed by August 1 expire and the nurse can’t practice until the Board issues a renewal license or face a steep administrative penalty for practicing with an expired license.

    The Arizona RN license renewal process includes the requirement of practicing for at least 960 hours every five years. Practicing can include any job that requires or recommends an RN license with activity performed as an employee or volunteer. Renewal applicants who don’t meet the practice requirement can receive a temporary license to complete a refresher course. License renewal occurs upon completion of this course.

    RNs can verify the status of their Arizona RN license renewal via their Nurse Portal account. When a nurse’s license renews, information updates on the portal immediately and on Nursys the following day.

    Continuing Education Requirements

    Unlike most states, RNs licensed in Arizona don’t have any continuing education requirements to renew their licenses. Instead, Arizona requires nurses to complete a set number of clinical hours as part of the renewal process. However, individual employers may require nurses to meet certain CE requirements as part of their continued employment and most organizations that award specialty certifications require CE hours for renewal of these certifications.

    Requirements

    RN license requirements in Arizona vary based on whether an applicant is a permanent resident of Arizona, and whether they’re applying for a new license or they already hold a license from another state. Education requirements vary based on whether an applicant graduated from an in-state or out-of-state nursing program, or if they’re a foreign-educated nurse. All nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) or the State Board Test Pool Exam (SBTPE) as part of Arizona’s nurse licensure process. Experience requirements come into play during Arizona RN license renewals and for RNs licensed in other states.

    Fingerprinting Requirements

    Fingerprints must be rolled and printed on a FD-258 Blue and White Applicant card by any local facility that offers fingerprinting services for state and federal criminal background checks. Completed cards must be mailed to the AZBN in a large envelope so the card isn’t folded. If a fingerprint card has been submitted within the last two years, skip this step.

    The AZBN now offers electronic fingerprinting services, also called Live Scan, but only for applicants physically in Arizona. Applicants outside the state must submit a fingerprint card. In-state applicants must register for Arizona Applicant Processing Services and make an appointment with their preferred fingerprinting site after submitting their application to the Board and paying $11.25 to have their fingerprints scanned and processed electronically.

    Contact Information

    Arizona State Board of Nursing 1740 West Adams Street, Suite 2000 Phoenix, AZ 85007 Monday – Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (AZ Time) (602) 771-7800

    Multistate

    Arizona is part of the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact, so RNs licensed in another compact state can practice in this state without paying for an additional license. Nurses who don’t qualify for an eNLC license in Arizona will most likely still qualify for a single-state license.

    To qualify for a compact/multistate nursing license, Arizona must be the applicant’s primary state of residence (PSOR). A PSOR is the state where an applicant has legal residency status, which is the state listed on legal documents like voter registration cards, tax returns, and driver’s licenses. The requirements for multistate licensure in Arizona include:

    • Graduating from a board-approved education program or international education program approved by the authorizing accrediting body within the country of matriculation

    • Passing an English proficiency exam if English isn’t the applicant’s native language

    • Passing the NCLEX

    • Holding an active unencumbered license or being eligible for licensure

    • Submitting fingerprints for state and federal background checks

    • Not having state or federal felony convictions of any kind or misdemeanor convictions related to nursing

    • Having a valid U.S. Social Security number

    • Not being a current participant in an alternative program

    • Self-disclosing current participation in an alternative program

    Applicants who aren’t permanent Arizona residents and currently hold a multistate license from another compact state can practice under their compact license for up to 90 days until they’re issued a permanent Arizona license. Permanent licenses won’t be issued without verification of licensure in another state.

    Nurses licensed by a compact state that participates in Nursys can submit a request for licensure verification directly from this website. For states that don’t participate in Nursys, applicants must complete a verification form and mail it to their home state’s nursing board. This form requests the board to send licensure verification to the AZBN. Most states charge a fee for this service.

    Licensure by Endorsement

    Licensure by endorsement means the applicant has already been granted an RN license in a non-compact state and wants to apply for licensure in Arizona. However, applicants who have previously been licensed in Arizona must apply for renewal, not endorsement. Requirements for an Arizona RN license by endorsement for U.S.-educated applicants include:

    • Completing a Board-approved nursing program

    • Passing the NCLEX or SBTPE

    • Verifying RN licensure by another state

    • Completing the RN endorsement application

    • Paying required fees

    • Uploading a copy of citizenship/nationality/alien status documentation

    • Submitting a full set of fingerprints 

    Applicants must also have met one of the state’s practice requirements in the past five years. Options include: 

    Licensure by Exam

    Licensure by exam means the applicant hasn’t taken the NCLEX yet and is applying for their first RN license in Arizona. Before resident applicants can apply for a new Arizona nursing license, they must have graduated from an AZBN-approved pre-licensure nursing program. The list of RN programs currently approved by the AZBN is updated monthly, generally within the first week of each new month. Applicants who completed their nursing degree at an out-of-state school must have their school send transcripts directly to the AZBN. Other licensing requirements for U.S.-educated applicants include:

    • Completing the NCLEX registration online or by calling 1-866-49-NCLEX (1-866-496-2539)

    • Uploading a copy of citizenship/nationality/alien status documentation

    • Submitting a full set of fingerprints

    • Paying required fees

    Applicants must pass the NCLEX to continue the licensing process. Those who fail the NCLEX can apply to retake the exam. In Arizona, applicants can take the NCLEX as many times as necessary but must wait 45 days between exams.

    After passing the NCLEX, if it’s been more than two years since the applicant completed the clinical portion of their nursing program, they must pass an AZBN-approved nurse refresher course. Applicants receive a temporary license while completing refresher courses, which enables them to complete the clinical portion of these courses.

    Licensure for Foreign Educated Nurses

    Applicants for Arizona RN licensure who were educated in a foreign country, including Canada and Puerto Rico, have additional educational and language validation requirements. However, nurses applying for licensure by endorsement who completed their basic nursing education in a foreign country are exempt from the additional educational requirements if they’ve completed a graduate degree in nursing or Bachelor of Science in Nursing from an approved U.S.-based nursing program. They also must have worked as a nurse at least 960 hours within the previous five years of applying for licensure.

    Before taking the NCLEX, foreign-educated nurses applying for licensure by exam must submit validation of their English language skills. However, this requirement is waived if the applicant graduated from a nursing program or was employed for at least 960 hours within the past five years in a country where English is the primary language.

    Timing

    Applications for licensure by endorsement or exam can take up to 30 days for initial review and processing. The overall time frame for licensure is 150 days without investigation or 270 days with investigation. Applicants required to submit fingerprints for state and federal criminal background checks can expect results to take up to 6 to 8 weeks. License renewals can take 30 days for review and up to 120 days without investigation or 270 with investigation overall. Applications for temporary licenses are processed in the order they’re received and can take up to 30 days for processing.

    Temporary Nurse License

    Applicants of Licensure by Endorsement

    Applicants for an Arizona RN license by endorsement may be eligible for a temporary license if they’ve fulfilled all these requirements:

    • Completed a minimum of 960 practice hours and/or 6 months of nursing employment

    • Completed a Board-approved nursing program

    • Earned a passing score on the NLCEX or SBTPE

    • Didn’t answer Yes to any criminal background or disciplinary question in the application

    • Doesn’t have a criminal history or history or disciplinary action by a regulatory agency

    • Doesn’t have a pending complaint before the Board

    • Doesn’t have any disciplinary eligibility questions for review

    • Provided a government-issued photo ID as proof of citizenship or lawful presence in the U.S.

    • Submitted a fingerprint card

    • Requested a temporary license and submitted fee

    Applicants who don’t met practice hour requirements may apply for a temporary license for refresher course only and must provide documentation of enrollment in an AZBN-approved refresher course.

    Applications for temporary licenses are processed in the order they’re received and may take up to 30 days for processing. RNs currently holding a multistate license from another Compact State shouldn’t request a temporary license. They may practice using their Compact license for up to 90 days until the AZBN issues their permanent Arizona nursing license.

    Nurse Graduates

    The AZBN may authorize temporary licenses to new graduate nurses who apply for licensure by exam that allow them to practice under the direct supervision of a nurse at or above the licensure level of the pending application. Temporary licenses may be issued if an applicant's fingerprints were rejected and they’ve already passed the NCLEX. Arizona may also issue temporary licenses to graduate nurse applicants who must take a refresher course because it’s been more than two years since they graduated from nursing school or to nurses applying for licensure by endorsement who didn’t meet practice hour requirements.

    Fees

    All fees must be paid in U.S. dollars and are non-refundable. Fees for Arizona RN licensure and other common costs include:

    • RN temporary license: $50

    • RN licensure by endorsement: $150

    • RN licensure by exam: $300

    • Retaking licensure exam: $100

    • Fingerprint fee: $50

    • Verification of certification/licensure: $50

    • RN license renewal every 4 years: $160

    • RN late renewal: $50/month, not to exceed $200

    • RN license reinstatement: $150

    • Failure to report change of address: $25

    New nurses who took their NCLEX for the first time and failed the exam must retake it. As of June 2019, they must submit a $100 fee to the AZBN to retake the exam if their application hasn’t expired. If their application has expired, the fee is $300. Nurses must also submit a $200 fee to the testing company to retake the exam.

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    Frequently asked questions

    Can a nurse who failed the RN exam take the PN exam in Arizona?

    Yes, applicants who failed the RN exam can take the PN exam in Arizona if their nursing program offers a step-out option. Applicants must submit a separate application and fee to the AZBN and the testing company but don’t need to resubmit fingerprints unless they’re more than two years old.

    Does Arizona have a nurse’s union?

    Yes, RNs at St. Mary’s Hospital and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tucson approved their first three-year union contract with the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United, which runs through May 31, 2023, and was the first union contract ever for RNs in Arizona.

    Does the Arizona State Board of Nursing supply fingerprint cards?

    No, fingerprint cards are supplied by the agency providing fingerprinting services. Most local police departments and sheriff’s offices provide fingerprinting services, generally for a fee. Applicants can also look for private agencies that provide fingerprinting services. Fingerprint cards completed by the applicant will be returned and delay processing time.

    Can Arizona nursing license applicants challenge criminal history results?

    Since the Nurse Practice Act authorizes the Arizona State Board of Nursing to deny licensure based on felony and some misdemeanor convictions, applicants can challenge criminal background reports. For Arizona Criminal History Records, contact the Arizona Department of Public Safety Criminal History Records Unit at (602) 223-2222, and for Federal Criminal History Records, contact the FBI at (304) 625-5590.