Wisconsin RN Licensing Guide

  • Compact State
  • Participates in NURSYS
  • Renewal every 2 years

Overview

The State of Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) works closely with the Wisconsin Board of Nursing (BON) to ensure public safety through appropriate education and licensing of registered nurses (RNs) within the state. The Wisconsin BON consists of nine members and establishes minimum standards for professional nursing schools in the state. DSPS oversees the Wisconsin nursing license application process and issues RN licenses. Over 113,500 registered nurses held Wisconsin nursing licenses in May 2022.

About

Effective May 16, 2022, applicants applying for a Wisconsin nursing license began using LicensE, the DSPS' new self-guided, online occupational license application platform. The online system replaces paper applications. LicensE is for initial licenses only. Nurses with an active Wisconsin RN license shouldn't use LicensE to renew. They must renew online through the DSPS Health & Business Renewal Application.

Renewal

Wisconsin RN licenses are valid for two years. They expire on March 1 of each even-numbered year. Renewals are done online through the DSPS Health & Business Renewal Application, with electronic payments required. Renewals may also be done with a paper renewal form, call (608) 266-2112 to request one.

DSPS sends renewal notices at least 30 days prior to the renewal date either by mail or email. Failure to receive this renewal notice isn't a defense in any disciplinary proceeding against a licensee for practicing with an expired credential. Failure to receive a renewal notice also doesn't relieve licensees from the obligation of paying a penalty for late renewal. To qualify for renewal, RNs must:

  • Submit the current renewal fee

  • Complete the Nursing Workforce Survey (SVY) during the open renewal period

    • Outside the active renewal cycle, the survey is shortened and incorporated into the renewal questions

  • Report State of Primary Residency (RES)

Applicants whose legal status as a nonimmigrant lawfully present in the U.S. or qualified alien has changed since they received their initial credentials or their last renewal must call the DSPS at (608) 266-2112 or email [email protected].

A Wisconsin RN license renewal may be denied if it's found the licensee owes delinquent taxes to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

Continuing Education Requirements

There aren’t any continuing education (CE) requirements for Wisconsin RN license renewal at this time.

Requirements

Fingerprinting Requirements

Applicants receive instructions on how to complete their digital fingerprinting after DSPS receives their application and a signed Authorization for Release of FBI Information (Form #2687) with a photograph (head and shoulders only). Fingerprints are used to obtain criminal history record information from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ).

Contact Information

Wisconsin Board of Nursing
Department of Safety and Professional Services
4822 Madison Yards Way
Madison, WI 53705
Mailing Address:
PO Box 8366, Madison, WI 53708-8366
[email protected]
(608) 266-2112 / (877) 617-1565

Multistate

On January 1, 2000, Wisconsin was among the first participating states to pass the original Nurse Licensure Compact into law, along with Maryland, Texas, and Utah. Wisconsin joined the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC) on December 11, 2017, which was implemented on Jan 19, 2018 and took the place of the original NLC.

Wisconsin RNs granted a multistate licenses before July 20, 2017 whose multistate license remained unencumbered on the eNLC implementation date were automatically converted to a Wisconsin weren't required to meet the new requirements for a multistate license under the new Compact. RNs who apply for a multistate license after July 20, 2017 must meet the requirements of the eNLC.

Applicants with a current single-state Wisconsin nursing license wanting to obtain a multistate license must complete:

  • The application attached to Form #3210

  • An FBI criminal background check

  • Authorization for Release of FBI Information (Form #2687) with a photograph (head and shoulders only)

Applicants who currently hold a valid multistate license in another Compact state don't have to obtain a Wisconsin RN license to practice in the state.

For those who aren't licensed yet, Wisconsin must be their primary state of residence to qualify for a multistate nursing license and they must all Uniform Licensure Requirements.

Licensure by Endorsement

Applicants who hold an active license in another state that's not a Compact state or the nurse doesn't have multistate privileges in the Compact state may apply for licensure by endorsement. Nurses with active multistate licenses from a Compact state don't have to apply for licensure unless they're permanently moving to Wisconsin. Otherwise, they just practice on their multistate license. Licensed RNs moving to Wisconsin wanting to apply for multistate license must declare Wisconsin their Primary State of Residency.

To apply for endorsement, applications must:

  • Submit a completed application and pay the applicable fee

  • Provide evidence of holding an active, unencumbered license from another state

  • Provide evidence of graduation from a Board−approved nurse prelicensure education program or a school approved by the Board in the jurisdiction of initial licensure

  • Have passed the NCLEX-RN or a recognized predecessor

  • Provide verification of licensure from the state where the applicant's original license by examination was issued and the state where the applicant's current, active license was issued

    • Only submit one verification is the initial state of licensure and current state of licensure are the same

    • Applicants can request verification through Nursys for states that participate

    • Contact the State Board of Nursing in states that don't participate in Nursys to request them to send licensure verification to DSPS

    • Paper verifications must be sent directly from the State BONs either through email at [email protected] or mailed to WI DPS, P.O. Box 8935, Madison, WI 53705

  • Submit documentation of employment history

  • Submit all documentation of pending criminal charges or convictions of any crime or ordinance violation

Endorsement applicants who don't have current nursing education or been employed in a position requiring a nursing license within the last five years, must apply for a limited license to complete a Board-approved nursing refresher course.

Licensure by Exam

New graduate nurses must apply for licensure by exam. Graduate nurses applying for a multistate Wisconsin RN license must:

  • Submit a completed application and pay the applicable fee

  • Request the educational administrator or their designee to submit to the Board proof education program completion

    • Statement of Graduation or Completion Form #259 is required for graduates of Board-approved schools in Wisconsin

    • Official transcript indicating graduation is required for graduates of schools outside of Wisconsin but inside the U.S.

    • Transcripts must be sent directly from the school via email to [email protected] or mailed to WI DSPS, P.O. Box 8935, Madison, WI 53705 

  • Submit fingerprints through an approved process for obtaining criminal background check from the FBI and Wisconsin DOJ

  • Register with Pearson VUE and pay the testing fee to take the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN)

    • The board notifies the applicant of eligibility for admission to the NCLEX

The Board notifies applicants who fail to earn a passing score on the NCLEX. Applicants may apply to the Board for authorization to schedule reexamination. The retest may not occur any earlier than 45 days after the most recent attempt.

Licensure for Foreign Educated Nurses

Applicants who graduated from a foreign prelicensure education program must submit a certificate or report demonstrating verification from an independent credentials review agency that the prelicensure education program is comparable to a Board−approved prelicensure education program. If the foreign prelicensure program wasn't taught in English or English is the applicant's native language, they must submit proof of passing an English proficiency exam that includes reading, writing, speaking, and listening components.

Foreign educated exam applicants must obtain either Item A or Items B and C to qualify to take the NCLEX exam.

A. Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) Certification Program

  • Once the applicant completes the program and receives their certificate from CGFNS, they must request that CGFNS to send a valid certificate directly to the WI BON. Certificates received from applicants won't be accepted by the Board. 

B. CGFNS Credential Evaluation Services (CES) Report

  • Request CGFNS to send a valid CES report directly to the WI BON. Reports received from applicants won't be accepted. 

C. Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)/International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Report Required

  • Request TOEFL to send a copy of the test result scores directly to the WI BON. Scores received from the applicant won't be accepted by the Board.

Besides these additional requirements, foreign educated nurses must follow the same procedures as domestic taught nurses applying for a Wisconsin nursing license by exam.

Timing

Wisconsin doesn't have an overall timetable for issuing RN licenses. Applications are processed in the order received.

Temporary Nurse License

Applicants who've graduated from a Board-approved school or comparable school may be granted a temporary permit to practice under the direct supervision of a licensed RN. To apply, applicant must:

  • Complete application Form #2434

  • Pay the applicable fees

  • Submit verification from a Board−approved school via the electronic application process

  • Submit a certification of graduation or completion from a Board−approved school

  • Request the school of professional nursing send an official transcript of nursing education directly to the Board

Temporary permits don't grant multistate licensure privileges. They're only valid in Wisconsin. Recipients of a temporary permit who are currently licensed as an RN in another jurisdiction aren't required to practice under direct supervision.

Temporary permits are valid for a period of 3 months or until the holder receives notification that they've failed the NCLEX, whichever comes first. Temporary permits may be renewed once by completing an application and paying a $10 renewal fee. The total duration can't exceed six months.

Fees

The DSPS conducts a fee study every two years to determine if nurse licensure fees should increase, decrease, or remain the same. The intent is to ensure fees reflect the approximate cost of administration and enforcement of nursing professionals. The most recent resulted in a slight decrease in Wisconsin nursing license fees. The current fees include:

  • Initial Licensure by Exam/Endorsement: $73

  • Temporary License: $10

  • One-Time Renewal of Temporary License: $10

  • Wisconsin RN License Renewal: $57

  • Wisconsin RN Late License Renewal: $82

Applicants applying for licensure by exam must also pay a $200 testing fee to Pearson VUE each time they sit for the exam. This fee may be paid by Visa, MasterCard, or American Express credit or debit card directly to Pearson VUE when registering online or over the phone for the exam. Wisconsin RN license renewals are due February 28th, even year.

Recent Updates

Fee Reduction

Effective August 1, 2018, an applicant for initial nurse licensure may apply for a reduction of the initial fee that's equal to 10% of this fee. To qualify for the applicant's federal adjusted gross income must be at or below 180% of the federal poverty guideline based on the applicant's household size. Visit the United States Department of Health and Human Services website to determine eligibility before submitting Form 3217.

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Frequently asked questions

Is Wisconsin a Compact Nursing License State?

Yes, Wisconsin joined the original Nurse Licensure Compact on January 1, 2000, and signed the new eNLC into law on on December 11, 2017. The State implemented the eNLC was implemented on Jan 19, 2018.

How many continuing education (CE) units do I need to renew my license?

At this time, the Board doesn't require any continuing credit hours for Wisconsin RN license renewals.

How much is a temporary nursing license in Wisconsin?

Temporary nursing licenses in Wisconsin are $10 and are valid for 3 months or until the license holder receives notification that they've failed the NCLEX licensing exam, whichever comes first. Nurses can apply for renewal of their temporary license one time for a total duration of 6 months.

How do I verify my nursing license in Wisconsin?

Nurses may request verification of their Wisconsin RN license be sent to another state online through the Nursys website. For any other questions contact the DSPS at (608) 266-2112 or [email protected].

How do I renew my Wisconsin registered nursing license?

You must renew your Wisconsin RN licenses every even-numbered year on or before March 1. RNs may complete their renewals online through the DSPS Health & Business Renewal Application, with an electronic payment required. You may also submit Wisconsin RN license renewals using a paper renewal form. Please call (608) 266-2112 to request a paper form.