A Guide on NCLEX for Foreign Nurses

The National Council License Exam (NCLEX®) is a test that each nurse must pass in order to obtain a license to practice nursing in the state where they will work. In the U.S., licensing is under the authority of each individual state, not the federal government. Nurses cannot apply directly to the NCLEX®, but must apply through one of the states. Unlike the CGFNS exam, the NCLEX-RN exams can only be taken within the U.S., including Guam or Saipan.

Although the CGFNS exam certificate will allow for the filing of the I-140 with a U.S. employer sponsor, some U.S. employers will require that the nurse pass the NCLEX® prior to departing and arriving in the U.S. to start employment. At one point in the past, the CGFNS web site asserted that the foreign educated nurses who obtained a passing score on the CGFNS exam werepredicted to have an 85% probability of passing the NCLEX®. However, U.S. employers are learning that these claims are questionable. In fact, the published statistics from the NCLEX indicated that foreign educated nurses pass NCLEX at a rate of about 40%. The NCLEX requires knowledge of the nursing role within the U.S. as well as the role of personnel such as LPNs. This will be a challenge to a foreign-educated nurse who has not worked in a U.S. hospital or is not familiar with the U.S. healthcare system. The NCLEX is a Computer Adaptive Test. The NCLEX is a unique test of experience which uses advanced computer programming,allowing the test to increase levels of difficulty for the individual test-taker, depending upon correct and incorrect responses to various questions.

States Requirements for Foreign Educated Nurses

Each state has unique laws and regulations for Registered Nurses (RNs). Differences are apparent between states in requirements for foreign educated nurses. Most states require that a foreign educated nurse have passed the CGFNS exam in order to apply to take the NCLEX exam. The following states maintain this requirement:

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Nurses who have passed the NCLEX-RN in states that do not require CGFNS may acquire the nursing license of another state through endorsements. Each state's Board of Nursing has its web site that lists the requirements on endorsement. More information about taking the NCLEX-RN exam can be found here.

(Updated 10/8/2012 by AG)

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