January 23, 2024

California Nursing License Guide for RNs

A nurse sits and studies for the NCLEX so he can apply for a California state nursing license.

Did you know that California is the top-paying state for registered nurses, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics? This is one of the factors that make the Golden State a popular location for nurses. Whether you are a new nursing graduate or a seasoned nurse moving to California for the first time, you will likely need to apply for RN licensure before you can work in the state.

Below we’ll explore the top resources for nurses applying for licensure in California, as well as the steps you can expect to take to apply or renew your license.

Table of contents:

Quick reference and resources for California nurse licensure

eNLC: No

Walk-Through: No

Temp License: Yes

Nursys: No

California Board of Nursing website

Nursing Licensing FAQs

How to apply for a nursing license in California

Once you’ve conquered the NCLEX-RN exam, it's time to secure your nursing license in California.

1. Confirm your eligibility:

Ensure you meet the eligibility criteria set by the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN). This includes graduating from an approved nursing program and passing the NCLEX-RN.

2. Create an account on the California BRN website:

Head to the California BRN website (https://www.rn.ca.gov/) and create a personal account. This account will serve as your portal for managing your application.

3. Access the online application:

Log in to your account and access the online application form. Ensure you complete all the required fields accurately. Be ready to provide personal information, education history, and details about your NCLEX-RN exam.

4. Submit application fee:

Pay the application fee as specified by the California BRN. The fee covers the processing of your application and is non-refundable.

5. Fingerprinting and background check:

California requires fingerprinting and a criminal background check. Follow the instructions provided by the BRN to complete this step. This process ensures compliance with the legal requirements for nursing licensure.

6. Transcripts and verification:

Submit official transcripts directly from your nursing program to the California BRN. Additionally, if you hold or have held licenses in other states, the BRN may require verification from those states.

7. Await authorization to practice:

Once your application is reviewed and approved, the BRN will issue an Authorization to Practice. This document signifies that you have met the requirements and are eligible to practice as a registered nurse in California.

8. Check license status:

Keep a close eye on the status of your license through the California BRN website. You can track the progress of your application and verify when your license becomes active.

How long does it take to get a California nursing license?

The processing time for a California nursing license can vary based on factors such as the volume of applications and the completeness of your submission. Typically, it takes several weeks to a few months. To check the status of your application, utilize the California BRN online portal or contact their office directly.

How California RN license by endorsement works

Application by endorsement allows RNs licensed in other states to apply for a California nursing license. The California BRN recommends nurses apply online and follow these provided instructions. You can expect the process to follow these general steps:

1. Confirm eligibility:

Before applying, ensure you meet the eligibility requirements for endorsement. You must hold a current and active license in another U.S. state, territory, or Canada.

2. Create a BreEZe account:

Visit the California BRN website and create a personal BreEZe account. This account will be your online portal for managing your application.

3. Select “RN Endorsement”:

From your BrEZe account homepage, select “RN Endorsement” under “Start a New Application or Take an Exam”.

4. Submit documents:

Once you’ve completed your application, you’ll have the chance to attach any documents that are requested.

5. Pay application fees:

At the time of application, you’ll be asked to pay the associated fees via credit card. These fees may vary depending on your application status. 

6. Apply for a temporary license if needed:

For nurses who require more immediate licensure, California offers temporary nursing licenses that are valid for six months. In order to apply for a temporary license, you must first submit your application for licensure by endorsement. 

7. Check license status:

Keep a close eye on the status of your license through the California BRN website. You can track the progress of your application and verify when your license becomes active.

How to renew your California RN license

Nursing licenses in California must be renewed every two years. To renew your license:

1. Complete continuing education:

Fulfill the required continuing education hours as outlined by the California BRN. Explore some of the top 30 CEU courses for California in our blog.

2. Renew online:

Utilize the California BRN online portal to renew your license. Pay the renewal fee and ensure all required information is up-to-date.

3. Verify your license status:

After submission, check the California BRN website or contact their office to confirm the status of your renewal.

Is California a compact nursing license state?

No, California is not part of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC). Therefore, if you are moving to California from a compact state or vice versa, you will need to apply for licensure in the new state. Learn more about the NLC and which states are part of the nursing compact.

Whether you are applying for a new license, seeking endorsement, or renewing your existing license in California, following these guidelines and referring to the official resources provided by the California BRN will help you navigate the process seamlessly. Always stay informed and updated with the latest requirements for a successful and hassle-free licensing experience.

Information around licensing requirements and process is subject to change. It’s advisable to check all licensing requirements and processes via the California Board of Registered Nursing.

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