Washington RN Licensing Guide

  • Compact State
  • Participates in NURSYS
  • Renewal every year

Overview

Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission (WSNCQAC), also known as the Nursing Commission, consists of 15 members appointed by the Governor and operates under the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). It protects the public's health and safety by regulating the competency of registered nurses (RNs) through the establishment and monitoring of licensing, standards of practice, continuing competency, and discipline. The number of RNs holding Washington nursing licenses has grown from 71,000 in 2006 to over 94,000 in 2018, per a Washington state RN workforce survey released in 2018. By April 2024, this number had grown to over 114,500 nurses holding active Washington RN licenses, according to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) database.

About

The Commission's Nurse Licensing Unit processes RN licensure applications and Washington RN license renewals. Most applicants will apply online by first creating a Secure Access Washington (SAW), then signing into the Department of Health Online Application Portal.

Applicants having problems with the SAW site should contact Consolidated Technology Services at 855-928-3241 (24 hours) or [email protected].

Applicants having problems with the DOH Online Application Portal should contact the Nursing Commission at 360-236-4703 on Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

There's a $2.50 convenience fee to use the portal and applicants must pay the non-refundable application fee to submit their application.

Applicants won't be able to apply online and will be required to submit a paper application if they:

  • Previously applied for a license in Washington State and their application was closed as deficient

  • Don't have sufficient information in the public record to verify their identity

  • Are applying for reactivation of a previous Washington nursing license

Applicants who must apply using a paper application should send their request for an application to [email protected]. Once they've completed the paper application, they must mail it and a personal check or money order to cover the application fees to:

Department of Health
P.O. Box 1099
Olympia, WA 98507-1099

Renewal

Registered nurses must submit a Washington RN license renewal every year on or up to 90 days before their birthday to remain in active status. Online renewal becomes accessible 85 to 90 days before the nurse's expiration date. RNs may submit a late renewal up to one year after the expiration date, with late fees automatically applied. Applicants may check their license status using the DOH Provider Credential Search to ensure their status is compatible with the online renewal system.

Continuing Education Requirements

As of June 12, 2021 the Nursing Commission has reduced continuing education (CE) and active nursing practice hour requirements for active registered nurse credentials. All CE and active practice hour renewals are now yearly. Current requirements include:

  • At least 8 hours of active nursing practice CE hours annually

  • At least 96 hours of active nursing practice hours annually

Any type of continuing education related to the practice of nursing may be counted, such as training by an employer/institution, self-study training, or accredited courses. CE hours may be obtained through online or in-person courses. Independent study or research projects may be counted towards CE hours or practice hours.

  • Since January 1, 2016, Washington requires nurses to complete a one-time mandatory six hours of CE in suicide assessment, treatment, and management.

  • Since January 2021, Washington requires nurses that provide nursing telehealth services to complete telemedicine training, which can be counted toward their CE hours.

Requirements

Fingerprinting Requirements

Washington State law authorizes the DOH to obtain fingerprint background checks for applicants seeking nurse licensure by endorsement or exam. The Nursing Commission emails fingerprinting instructions to Washington nursing license applicants once it’s received their application. Criminal background checks are completed through the Washington State Patrol and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Live Scan Fingerprint Process for Applicants in Washington

Applicants in Washington may complete electronic fingerprinting, called Live Scan, at an IdentoGO by IDEMIA center in Washington State. They must receive their fingerprinting instructions and wait one business day before scheduling their appointment with IdentoGO. The fee for Live Scan fingerprinting and state and federal background checks is $49.25. The Nursing Commission receives background check results electronically directly from the Washington State Patrol. Applicants with questions may call 360-236-4703.

Fingerprinting Process Outside of Washington

Applicants outside of Washington must submit their fingerprints using a standard Form FD-258 fingerprint card. They must get these cards from the agency collecting their fingerprints. The Nursing Commission doesn’t supply these cards. Once the applicant completes their fingerprint card, they must place the card, their fingerprinting instructions letter, and a check or money order for $34.25 made payable to the Department of Health in full-size manila envelope and mail it to:

Washington State Department of Health-Credentialing
P.O. Box 47997
Olympia, WA 98504-7997

Applicants who prefer to pay with a Visa or MasterCard may contact the DOH about two weeks after sending their fingerprint card and letter to submit their credit card payment over the phone. Once DOH receives payment, it scans the applicant’s fingerprint card and sends it to the Washington State Patrol. The State Patrol forwards the fingerprint card to the FBI. If there’s a problem with the applicant’s fingerprints, the DOH contacts the applicant.

Contact Information

Washington Department of Health
State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission
111 Israel Road Southeast
Tumwater, WA 98501
[email protected]
(360) 236-4703

Mailing information with fees:
P.O. Box 1099
Olympia, WA 98507-1099

Mailing information without fees:
P.O. Box 47864
Olympia, WA 98504-7864

Licensure by Endorsement

Applicants who hold an active nursing license in another state may apply for a Washington RN license by endorsement.

  • Submit a completed application

  • Attach all supporting documentation

  • Include payment for application fees

  • Visit Nursys to request verification of original licensure by exam from the state of licensure to be sent to the Nursing Commission

  • Send a Non-Nursys License
    Verification of Original Licensure by Examination
    form to the State Board of Nursing of non-participating states

    • Applicant fills out the top portion

    • State BON fills out the bottom and sends it directly to the Nursing Commission

  • Submit verification of active RN license in another state

    • If the applicant doesn't currently have an active RN license, they must complete a Nurse Refresher Program approved by the Nursing Commission

    • Applicant must indicate on application if they're enrolled in a refresher program

  • Submit verification of active practice employment hours

    • Applicants who completed a non-traditional nursing education program must submit work verification of at least 1,000 hours of active nursing practice in another state

    • Verification must come directly from current or previous employer on company letterhead

    • Verification must include employment dates, hours worked, and verification practice hours were in the nursing profession

  • Submit official transcripts if requested

    • The Nursing Commission only request official transcripts if it can't verify the applicant's nursing education program, degree, or graduation date on their verification of initial licensure

  • Complete fingerprinting for criminal history background check

Applicants may check the status of their application using Provider Credential Search. A customer service representative emails applicants with detailed instructions if anything is missing from their applications.

The Nursing Commission sends a one-time paper license in the mail 7 to 10 business days after its issuance. Applicants should verify their active Washington RN license on the DOH Provider Credential Search, then enroll in Nursys E-Notify.

Licensure by Exam

Graduate nurses who haven't passed the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) or held a nursing license must apply for a Washington nursing license by exam.

  • Submit a completed application

  • Attach all supporting documentation

  • Include payment for application fees

  • Verify completion of registered nursing education program

    • Washington state nursing education program directors automatically send an electronic certificate of completion to the Nursing Commission for all graduates upon completion of the program

    • Graduate of nursing programs in another U.S. state must request the nursing program to send official transcripts with degree and graduation date listed to the Nursing Commission

    • Schools that participates in an electronic transcript service, such as E-Script, Parchment, or Student Clearinghouse may email official transcripts to [email protected]

    • Schools that don't participate in an electronic transcript service must mail official transcripts to the Nursing Commission

  • Register with Pearson VUE and pay the $200 testing fee for the NCLEX-RN

    • The Nursing Commission grants eligibility to test after receiving education verification

    • Pearson VUE emails the applicant an Authorization to Test (ATT)

    • Applicant schedules their test

  • Complete fingerprinting for criminal history background check

Applicants receive their permanent license upon passing the NCLEX-RN. Those failing the exam receive written notice via email or postal mail and must go through the process of retaking the exam.

The Nursing Commission sends a one-time paper license in the mail 7 to 10 business days after its issuance. Applicants should verify their active Washington RN license on the DOH Provider Credential Search, then enroll in Nursys E-Notify.

Licensure for Foreign Educated Nurses

Applicants educated and/or trained outside the U.S. may apply for licensure by endorsement or exam based on whether they’ve previously held a nursing license in any U.S. state. Foreign-educated applicants follow the same steps as domestic-educated applicants, including completing an application, paying required fees, and submitting fingerprints for a criminal background check. They also have additional steps to complete.

Endorsement Applicants

Applicants who have an initial license obtained in the U.S. must:

  • Visit Nursys to request verification of original licensure by exam from the state of licensure to be sent to the Nursing Commission

  • Send a Non-Nursys License Verification of Original Licensure by Examination form to the State Board of Nursing of non-participating states

    • Applicant fills out the top portion

    • State BON fills out the bottom and sends it directly to the Nursing Commission

Applicants applying for a Washington nursing license by endorsement must provide an official copy of transcripts to the Nursing Commission. Transcripts must be sent directly from the nursing education program, another U.S. Board of Nursing, or an approved evaluation service. If the Nursing Commission isn’t able to determine equivalency, the applicant must request their nursing education program to complete the Education Verification for Registered Nurses Educated Outside the United States form and send it directly to the Nursing Commission.

Exam Applicants

Applicants who don’t have an initial nursing license obtained in the U.S. must take the NCLEX-RN. After submitting their application, the Nursing Commission reviews it for approval to sit for the exam. The Nursing Commission will email applicants their approval to register with Pearson VUE and Pearson VUE will email them their Authorization to Test. Applicants can then schedule their NCLEX-RN.

Applicants who graduated from nursing schools outside the U.S. applying for a Washington RN license by exam must have their transcripts evaluated by one of the following Nursing Commission-approved evaluation services:

  • Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS)

  • Must select the CGFNS Credentials Evaluation Service (CES) Professional Report

  • Educational Records Evaluation Service, Inc. (ERES)

  • International Education Research Foundation, Inc. (IERF)

  • Josef Silny & Associates, Inc. (JS&A), International Education Consultants

All Foreign-Educated Applicants

Applicants who completed their nursing education in United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, Guam, Mariana Islands, Virgin Islands, and Canada (except Quebec) aren’t required to pass an English proficiency test. All other applicants who completed their nursing education outside the U.S. must pass an English proficiency test. They must achieve a passing score on one of the following:

  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

    • Passing score of 84 with speaking score of 26

    • Institution code: 7292

  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

    • Academic version: Passing score of 6.5 with a score of 6.0 in the four modules

  • Occupational English Test (OET)

    • Minimum score of 300 in listening, reading and writing; minimum score of 280 in speaking

Applicants may not be required to take an English proficiency exam if they can provide one of the following:

  • Proof of active nursing practice in another U.S. state for a minimum of 1,000 hours

    • Verification must come directly from current or previous employer on company letterhead

    • Verification must include employment dates, hours worked, and verification practice hours were in the nursing profession

  • Proof of earning a high school diploma or college degree in the U.S.

    • Must submit official transcripts

Timing

All applications are unique and may require different items and documentation. Applicants can help ensure a swifter process by responding promptly if a review specialists reaches out requesting addition documentation. Processing times also may increase due to volume. The times listed are best case scenario.

  • Temporary Practice Permits: 2 to 8 weeks

  • Washington State RN License by Interstate Endorsement: 4 to 10 weeks

  • Washington State Nursing License by Examination: 4-plus weeks

Temporary Nurse License

Applicants who apply for Washington nursing license by endorsement will be automatically issued a temporary practice permit by the Nursing Commission after their applications have been reviewed. They don't need to request one.

Temporary practice permits are also issued to nurses who've applied for a permanent Washington nursing license and have met all licensure requirements except for the fingerprint-based background check. The fingerprinting process takes time to complete, so a temporary practice permit is issued as soon as all other requirements are met.

The Nursing Commission strives to issue temporary practice permits within 7 days of receiving an applicant's complete application. However, this doesn't include applications that need extra review or are missing any supporting documents or requirements. Applicants flagged for "yes" answers on any of the Personal Data Questions will require additional review.

Fees

The Washington DOH sets the fees for licensure and other relevant costs. Prospective and renewing nurses may pay their fees online with a credit or debit, unless they aren't eligible to apply online. All RN licensure application and renewal fees are nonrefundable. All fees are subject to change. Current fees and related costs for registered nurses in May 2022 include:

  • Application for Licensure by Endorsement/Exam: $135

    • Includes $16 Washington (UW) HEAL-WA Surcharge and $5 Washington Center for Nursing Surcharge

  • On-Time Washington RN License Renewal: $135

    • Includes $16 Washington (UW) HEAL-WA Surcharge and $5 Washington Center for Nursing Surcharge

  • Late Washington RN License Renewal (up to one year): $185

    • Includes $50 Late Renewal Penalty, $16 Washington (UW) HEAL-WA Surcharge, and $5 Washington Center for Nursing Surcharge

  • Late Washington RN License Renewal (over one year): $255

    • Includes $50 Late Renewal Penalty, Expired License Reissuance $70, $16 Washington (UW) HEAL-WA Surcharge, and $5 Washington Center for Nursing Surcharge

  • Duplicate License: $20

  • Verification of Licensure: $25

  • NCLEX-RN (Paid to Pearson VUE): $200

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Frequently asked questions

Does RN licensure renewal in Washington require continuing education?

Yes RN licensure renewal in Washington requires continuing education. All RNs are required to complete at least 8 hours of continuing education (CE) every year.

Is Washington a Nurse Licensure Compact state?

Yes Washington is a Nurse Licensure Compact state.

Does Washington require fingerprinting for a background check?

Yes Washington requires fingerprinting for a background check.

How often do you need to renew your RN license in Washington?

You must renew your RN license in Washington every year.

Does Washington offer a temporary RN license?

Yes Washington offers a temporary RN license to license by endorsement candidates.