• Certifications and Licenses
  • RN - California

    • Not a Compact State
    • Participates in NURSYS for RNs
    • Renewal every two years

    Overview

    The California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) licenses more registered nurses than any other state, which was well over 469,000 in March 2022. California’s BRN has detailed instructions on how to apply for a California nursing license that includes very specific education requirements. Through the fair and consistent application of the regulations and statutes governing nursing education and practice in California, the BRN strives to protect the public’s health, safety, and well-being.

    About

    BreEZe is DCA's licensing and enforcement system and the easiest way for nursing students to apply for their California RN license or RNs to apply for endorsements to an existing license. The California BRN highly recommends applying online through this portal, but it also accepts paper applications at the BRN Public Counter. BRN staff accepts and date stamps applications but won’t review applications or documents submitted or approve applications for exam or licensure.

    Renewal

    New licensees’ first California RN license is issued for two birthdays not two years. It expires the last day of the month following their birth date, then every two years from that date. As a courtesy, notices of California RN license renewal deadlines are mailed approximately three months before the expiration date on the license. However, RNs are responsible for renewing their licenses before expiration even if they didn’t receive a notice.

    California RN license renewal requires licensees to submit fingerprints if they weren’t previously fingerprinted by the BRN or a record of fingerprint submission no longer exists. All RNs licensed by exam or endorsement before January 1, 2014, who submitted fingerprints through Live Scan or hard card must resubmit fingerprints. If the BRN doesn’t currently have an electronic record of a licensee’s fingerprints on file with both DOJ and FBI levels of service, fingerprints must be resubmitted.

    If fingerprinting is required, licensees must furnish the DOJ with a full set of fingerprints for both DOJ and FBI background checks. Licensees residing in California must submit fingerprints via Live Scan. Those who don’t live in California may resubmit fingerprints using a hard card or come to California to resubmit fingerprints via Live Scan. The fingerprint requirement is waived if renewing to Inactive status.

    During renewal, licensees must disclose whether they’ve had any disciplinary actions or criminal convictions since they last renewed. All California RNs are required to complete continuing education (CE) as part of the license renewal process.

    Continuing Education Requirements

    RNs must complete 30 contact hours of CE every two years. However, RNs renewing for the first time after passing their licensure exam within the past two years are exempt from the CE requirement. All CE courses must be taken through a CE provider recognized by the BRN. To ensure a CE provider is approved, check to see if their CEP number is still active on the BreEZe License Verification system. Courses aren’t eligible for contact hours if a CE provider’s CEP number is in expired status.

    Acceptable courses include Continuing Medical Education (CME Category 1), home study, and college courses. The BRN will also accept courses approved by other in-state and out-of-state professional health and licensing boards and state, regional, and national health professional associations if the content meets the BRN’s requirements. Licensees with concerns over whether a course’s content meets requirements should contact the BRN’s Continuing Education Program.

    Requirements

    California isn’t part of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), so RNs with a multistate license must apply for an endorsement to practice in the state. Part of the application process includes very specific education requirements. Currently, the nursing curriculum must consist of no less than 58 semester units that include a minimum number of units in specific course areas. These include at least: 

    • 36 semester units of art and science in nursing with 18 units in theory and 18 in clinical practice concurrent in medical-surgical, geriatric, pediatric, obstetric, and mental health/psychiatric nursing

    • 6 semester units in communication skills covering principles of written, oral, and group communication

    • 16 semester units of natural sciences (anatomy, microbiology, and physiology courses with labs) and related behavioral and social sciences

    Applicants for a California nursing license who are lacking any educational requirements must complete an approved course before taking the nurse licensing exam. Those who apply for a California RN license by endorsement who haven’t completed an educational program meeting all California requirements must apply for licensure by examination.

    Fingerprinting Requirements

    All applicants must submit one set of fingerprints to complete criminal history checks through the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Fingerprinting can be done electronically through Live Scan or by using a paper fingerprint card. However, using Live Scan can speed up licensure because the BRN receives fingerprint results much quicker compared to the manual fingerprint card process. On average, Live Scan results take one to two weeks, while manual fingerprinting can take one to two months.

    Processing through Live Scan:

    Applicants must use a Live Scan site in California. The BRN can’t receive Live Scan results taken at locations outside the state. California nurse licensing candidates can use the online request form to have Request for Live Scan Service Applicant Submission forms sent to them via email. They take this form to a Live Scan site for processing.

    Processing fees for Live Scan service vary and are paid directly to the Live Scan operator, not to the BRN. Operators at California DOJ Live Scan agencies scan the applicant’s fingerprints and complete the required sections of the Live Scan form. They keep one copy and give the remaining two copies to the applicant who keep one copy for themselves and submit the other copy to the BRN but only if requested. The California DOJ keeps applicants’ fingerprints on file to provide ongoing reports of any future convictions to the BRN.

    Processing through Applicant Fingerprint Card:

    Applicant Fingerprint Cards, also called Hard Cards, may be requested by applicants outside California or those unable to access Live Scan. Applicants must complete all items marked with a black “X” with black ink only or the card will be rejected and they’ll need to submit a new one.

    Fingerprints must be rolled onto the card in black ink at a local law enforcement agency. There may be a fee for fingerprinting service. Completed cards must not be folded or applicants will have to complete and submit a new one. Cards should be returned to the BRN in a 9” x 12” envelope along with the completed application and applicable fees.

    Contact Information

    California Board of Registered Nursing 1747 North Market Boulevard, Suite 150 Sacramento, CA 95834 [email protected] (916) 322-3350

    Licensure by Endorsement

    RNs applying for licensure by endorsement must have a current, active license in another state, U.S. territory, or Canada. They also must have completed an education program that meets all California requirements and passed the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), the State Board Test Pool Examination (SBTPE), or an acceptable five-part Canadian exam. The Canadian Comprehensive Examination isn’t acceptable. Applicants who don’t meet all these qualifications can’t apply for licensure by endorsement; they must apply for licensure by exam. The steps for applying online for licensure by endorsement include:

    • Registering for a BreEZe account

    • Selecting "RN Endorsement" from the dropdown menu on the homepage

    • Disclosing U.S. Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (mandatory)

    • Submitting fingerprints using either Live Scan or fingerprint card

    • Completing the Nursys Verification Application for states that participate in this program or the Verification of License form for states that don’t

    • Attaching any documents and/or letters explaining prior disciplinary action, rehabilitation, and/or convictions, if applicable

    • Paying applicable fees using a valid credit card

    RNs applying for a California nursing license by endorsement also must mail a Request for Transcript form to all nursing schools where they completed coursework required to earn their nursing degree. Each education facility must mail official transcripts that reflect the degree awarded and date conferred directly to the BRN. Transcripts aren’t accepted from applicants.

    Applicants should attach as much information as possible to their online applications to reduce paperwork and speed up the review process. During the online application process, applicants also may apply for a temporary license that allows them to practice nursing while they wait for their permanent license.

    Licensure by Exam

    Graduate nurses who apply for a California RN license by exam must have completed an education program approved by the BRN. Applicants lacking any educational requirements must complete an approved course before taking the NCLEX-RN. Nursing students who completed one of the unapproved nursing programs operating in California won’t be qualified to take the NCLEX-RN or be licensed.

    New California nursing graduates shouldn’t submit their applications any sooner than two weeks before their graduation date. Applications are processed by the whole cohort, meaning the entire graduating class. When applying online, steps include:

    • Registering for a BreEZe account

    • Selecting “RN Initial Exam Application” from the dropdown menu on the homepage

    • Completing the Request for Accommodation of Disabilities form, if applicable

    • Disclosing U.S. Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (mandatory)

    • Submitting fingerprints using either Live Scan or fingerprint card

    • Attaching any documents and/or letters explaining prior disciplinary action, rehabilitation, and/or convictions, if applicable

    • Paying applicable fees using a valid credit card

    The BRN also must receive applicants’ transcripts. California Board-approved nursing programs automatically submit transcripts to the BRN electronically for graduates upon program completion. Applicants of out-of-state nursing programs may have their transcripts sent directly from their school or sent electronically from a certified third-party electronic transcripts vendor, such as National Student Clearinghouse or Parchment, to [email protected]. Graduates of international nursing programs must have their official transcripts mailed directly to the BRN.

    New graduates must take the NCLEX-RN. Once they’re found eligible, the BRN sends them detailed instructions on the registration process with Pearson VUE, the NCLEX testing service. California nursing license candidates should wait until they’re made eligible for the NCLEX and receive their testing eligibility letter in the mail before registering with Pearson VUE.

    During the online application process, applicants also may apply for an interim permit that allows them to practice nursing under the direct supervision of an RN while they await their NCLEX results. Applicants can check the progress of their online application on their BreEZe accounts or by using the Application Status and Details portal.

    Licensure for Foreign Educated Nurses

    Applicants who received their training from a school of nursing in a country outside the U.S. must have completed education and training equivalent to that required in California, including courses of instructions that are equivalent to the minimum requirements established for an accredited program in California.

    International graduates must send the Breakdown of Educational Program for International Nursing Programs form with the Request for Transcript form to the school(s) where they were educated. Transcripts must include all completed theoretical and clinical practice coursework and come directly from the school. If the official transcript isn’t in English, applicants must provide a Certified English Translation form to a certified translator that’s not related to the applicant. The BRN refers applicants with non-English academic credentials to translators accredited by the American Translators Association or certified or registered court interpreters for translations.

    Foreign educated applicants also must submit:

    • An application for licensure by examination

    • An application and fees to take the NCLEX-RN 

    • A copy of the diploma or license that allows them to practice professional nursing in the country where they were educated

    • Verification of License form from the board of nursing where they took their exam

    • Copies of certificates for psychiatric nursing or midwifery, if applicable

    • Fingerprint clearance

    • Social Security number and tax information

    • Appropriate fees

    The BRN doesn’t require international applicants to pass the Commission of Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) exam to be licensed in California. However, if they’ve taken the CGFNS, the BRN will accept official copies of the applicant’s nursing transcripts from this organization.

    The BRN requires international applicants to pass an English comprehension exam if it doubts their ability to comprehend English sufficiently enough to safely perform their duties as professional nurses. Applicants can take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Minimum passing TOEFL scores include a 26 in speaking and a 22 in reading, listening, and writing.

    Timing

    California processes applications for licensure by exam by entire cohort after the graduation date and in the order the BRN receives transcripts from the California nursing school. Applicants received from graduate nurses after the cohort applications are processed default to being processed by date received. The initial evaluation of applications must be completed within 90 days of receipt but overall processing times vary based on individual circumstances.

    Licensure by Examination

    California, U.S., and International Graduates: 10-12 Weeks Military: 1-2 Weeks Refugees, Asylees, and SIV Holders: 1-2 Weeks NCLEX-RN Results: 2-3 Weeks

    Licensure by Endorsement

    U.S. and International RNs: 10-12 Weeks Military: 1-2 Weeks Refugees, Asylees, and Holders of SIVs: 1-2 Weeks Temporary License: 2-3 Weeks

    Reapply/Repeat Examination

    California, U.S., and International Applicants: 10-12 Weeks Military: 1-2 Weeks Refugees, Asylees, and SIV Holders: 1-2 Weeks

    Miscellaneous

    License Renewal

    • Online - Within 72 Hours

    • By Mail - 6-8 Weeks

    8-Year Renewal

    • 4-6 Weeks

    Name Change

    • 2-4 Weeks

    Inactive to Active Status

    • Online - Within 72 Hours

    • By Mail - 2-4 Weeks

    Duplicate Certificate

    • Online - 1-2 Weeks

    • By Mail - 2-4 Weeks

    The BRN issues interim permits within 24 to 48 hours of exam application approval to applicants for licensure by exam who requested one.

    Temporary Nurse License

    Whether applicants apply for licensure by endorsement or examination, temporary licenses won’t be issued until the DOJ and FBI have processed the fingerprints and sent background checks to the BRN. Applications may be delayed if background checks indicate a prior conviction(s) or another basis for denial. 

    Temp License for Endorsement Applicants

    RNs licensed in another state may apply for temporary licenses at the same time they apply for licensure by endorsement or at any time before they’ve been issued their permanent California RN license. They can’t apply for a temporary license only; they must submit their endorsement application first. To qualify for a temporary license, an endorsement applicant must submit:

    • Application for licensure by endorsement and request for temporary license

    • Copy of the completed Live Scan Service Applicant Submission form or manual fingerprint card

    • Nursys Verification Request Application or Verification of License form

    • Appropriate fees

    The BRN also must receive official transcripts from all colleges attended. It may issue a temporary license to practice for six months while awaiting permanent licensure. Applicants who haven’t received their permanent licensure notification about four weeks before their temporary license expires should contact the BRN for instructions on how to apply for a second temporary license.

    Interim Permits for Licensure by Exam Applicants

    Temporary licenses for first-time applicants for licensure by exam are called interim permits and applicants are called nurse interim permittees or nurse permittees. Interim permits allow prospective nurses to practice under the direct supervision of an RN while they wait for the results of their NCLEX. To qualify for an interim permit, an applicant must submit:

    • Application for licensure by exam and request for interim permit

    • Copy of the completed Live Scan Service Applicant Submission form or manual fingerprint card

    • Appropriate fees

    Interim permits won’t be issued until all nursing requirements have been completed and the applicant has been found eligible for the NCLEX. Permits expire immediately if an applicant fails their licensing exam. Interim permits are issued only once. They’re valid for no more than six months or until the results of the NCLEX are mailed.

    Fees

    Applicants submitting a California RN license application and paying through the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) BreEZe Online Services must use a credit card. BreEZe accepts Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express. However, the BRN Public Counter in Sacramento will accept payments via check, money order, or cash on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Wednesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Payments are nonrefundable and nontransferable. Current California BRN licensing fees and other related costs include:

    • RN Exam Application/California Graduate: $300

    • RN Exam Application/Graduate from Another State, District, or U.S. Territory: $350

    • RN Examination Application/International Graduate: $750

    • Reapply/Repeat Examination Application: $250

    • Interim Permit: $100

    • RN Endorsement Application/RN from Another State, District, or U.S. Territory: $350

    • RN Endorsement Application/International RN: $750

    • Temporary RN License: $100

    • Manual Fingerprint Card Processing: $49

    • RN Renewal On-Time: $190

    • RN Renewal Late: $280

    • RN 8-Year Renewal Late: $350

    • Certified Copy of School Transcript: $50

    • Confirmation of License Renewal/Employer Verification Letter: $20

    • Copy of NCLEX-RN Results: $60

    • Duplicate Certificate: $60

    • ICHP Visa Screen: $100

    • Verification of CA RN Licensure: $100

    • Verification of RN Licensure through Nursys: $30

    Recent Updates

    As of January 1, 2021, refugees, those granted asylum by the Attorney General of the United States or the Secretary of Homeland Security, or individuals with special immigrant visas may have their applications for California RN licenses expedited with appropriate documentation but doesn’t mean a license must be issued.

    As of July 1, 2020, California nursing license applicants will no longer be asked about past criminal conviction history. Instead, criminal history will be provided on the fingerprint results. The applications of licensure candidates with a criminal conviction history will be referred for additional Enforcement Division review. The board will no longer take action on offenses that are expunged, older than seven years (except serious felonies), or dismissed.

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    Frequently asked questions

    Can an applicant who needs a temporary license quickly get one directly from the BRN’s office?

    No, the BRN no longer issues temporary licenses from its office after the implementation of the BreEZe system.

    If eight or more years have passed since the expiration of an individual’s California RN license, how can they renew their license?

    If an individual’s California RN license expired eight or more years ago and they don’t hold a current, active license in another state, they must retake the NCLEX-RN. If the individual has a current, active license in another state, they can apply for reinstatement.

    Can applicants appeal the denial of their application for RN licensure?

    Yes, applicants must submit an appeal in writing to the BRN within 60 days of the date on the denial letter to receive an administrative hearing.