Connetics USA Blog

Understanding the NCLEX RN for Internationally Educated Nurses

April 26, 2022

For an international nurse preparing to move to the US, the NCLEX is a journey that must be navigated to achieve the nurse’s American Dream. This article shares information about the NCLEX RN for international nurses, as well as the steps a nurse must take to complete the exam.

What is the NCLEX?

NCLEX stands for National Council Licensure Examination. Every US nursing state board approves the exam in order to evaluate whether a nurse is ready to practice entry-level nursing in the US. You must pass the NCLEX to obtain a nursing license in the US.

The exam is offered in countries all over the world. Check out our Worldwide NCLEX Testing Center list to locate and contact the NCLEX testing center nearest to you.

How does the NCLEX work?

The NCLEX exam is a computerized adaptive test (CAT): each question you receive is selected based on your performance on previous questions. Based on your skill level, the CAT ensures that the questions are not "too hard" or "too easy."

The test will have a minimum of 75 questions, and a maximum of 145 questions. You will have up to 5 hours to complete the exam.

The first question will be relatively easy—below the level of minimum competency. If you answer it correctly, the computer selects a slightly more difficult question. If answered incorrectly, the computer selects a slightly easier question. Continuing to do this throughout the test, the computer is able to determine your level of competence. The test will continue until a definite pattern has been identified (either a pattern of “above the passing standard” or “below the passing standard”), the maximum number of items has been reached, or you run out of time (ROOT).

NCLEX questions are categorized into 4 major client need categories:

  1. Safe and effective care environment
  2. Health promotion and maintenance
  3. Psychosocial integrity
  4. Physiological integrity

The NCLEX is a pass/fail examination; no numerical score will be provided after the exam. To pass the NCLEX, the candidate’s performance must be above the passing standard in all test plan categories. One “above the passing standard” area will not balance a “below” area. All state boards have the same passing standard for the NCLEX; one state is not easier than another to pass.

To review the NCLEX Test Plan in more detail check out: https://www.nclex.com/2019_RN_TestPlan-English.pdf

To review the list of NCLEX FAQs check out: https://www.nclex.com/faqs.htm

NCLEX Preparation and Process for Foreign Educated Nurses

The NCLEX process has standard steps for all internationally educated nurses. The State Board of Nursing (BON) you apply to impacts the timing of your journey. It includes board-specific requirements, the time it takes for all of your required documents to be submitted for processing, and whether your documents meet the requirements upon initial board review.

Not all BONs have the same requirements, which is why the process for some nurses may vary. To begin applying for the NCLEX as a foreign-educated nurse, you must be able to meet the following general requirements:

  1. Submit the complete State BON application
  2. Pay all fees associated with the application
  3. Complete a criminal history report/background check
  4. Provide verification of foreign nursing licenses
  5. Provide verification of educational qualifications/credentials evaluation

*Some states require proof of recent nursing work experience

If you meet the general requirements, here are the eight steps to successfully complete the NCLEX:

1. Commit to Studying and Stay On-track

Preparation for the exam is essential to achieving your American Dream! The application process should proceed concurrently with your study program, with no long gaps in study in the months prior to your exam date.

2. Choose a State BON to Apply for Licensure by Examination

Choosing the right BON is extremely important! Each BON has specific criteria for international nurse candidates applying to take their NCLEX examination. Processing agencies can assist you with the NCLEX Application. If you would like to receive assistance from one of our partners, IPASS Processing, please scan your documents and email your credentials to requirements@ipassprocessing.com. They will conduct a FREE assessment for you -- just mention Connetics USA. You may also check out their website at www.ipassprocessing.com for more information.

There are some important documents that can help to determine which BON may be the most appropriate for your application:

  • Transcript of Records
  • High School Diploma
  • College Diploma
  • Home Country License
  • Passport

After your documents are assessed, processing agencies can advise you to apply to the appropriate BON. They should also provide a listing of the required fees, which can be paid online.
Certain requirements may vary between states including:

  • Education requirements. Some states require more classroom or clinical site training in certain topics (e.g., maternity or psychiatric nursing); and
  • English proficiency requirements (even if your nursing program was taught in English)

NCLEX TIP: Some BONs only supply a pass letter, but do not issue a license at the time you pass your NCLEX. It is best to apply with a state that will issue your license at the time you pass. Avoid filing with states that will not issue a nursing license without a social security number. You can endorse your original license to another state later in the process. It’s not uncommon for a US nurse to hold licenses in several states.

3. Submit the Application for Licensure by Examination and All Required Documents for Evaluation

Submit the “License by Examination” application and any required documents to your desired BON to apply for permission to take the NCLEX. Start the application process at least 6 months in advance. This will give the BON time to approve your application and send you an Authorization to Test (ATT) code. It will also give you enough time to fix any issues or errors that may come up during the application process.

NCLEX TIP: Most boards will not keep your application active any longer than 1 year. If you have not fulfilled all requirements before the end of that year, your documents will be discarded and you will have to restart the process. --

Find an application on your state’s BON website. In your search engine type “_______ State Board of Nursing” (for example Texas). Click on your state’s BON website in the results list. On the website, click “Applicants” or “Applications and Forms.” You will be redirected to a page that contains access to the application, and instructions on how to fill out the application.

NCLEX TIP: Many BONs have a separate set of instructions for international nurses applying for Licensure by Examination. Be sure to read these carefully to understand what is expected.

Fill out an application online if you have a computer. Be sure to include all of the required information, including your personal identification and education information. You will also need to provide your school’s 10-digit code. Before submitting your application, review the information to make sure it is correct. Then pay the licensing fee with a credit card or an electronic check. You can ask your school of nursing for its 10-digit code, or you can obtain it from the following spreadsheet: https://www.ncsbn.org/NCLEX_Educational_Program_Codes.pdf.

Alternatively, you can download and fill out a paper application from your state’s BON website if you prefer. Be sure to include all of the required information. To pay the licensing fee, make a payment to your state’s BON - follow instructions from the board’s website for acceptable payment methods. Once you complete the application, mail it with the check to your state’s BON address.

4. Study while Pending Approval from the State BON

Wait for your exam approval … and use the time wisely to study and ensure your readiness improves with time. Due to the volume of the  applicants BON is assessing, the waiting time may take around 6-8 months. Set time aside several days each week to study the content, practice exams, and rationale review.

5. Register with Pearson Vue

Register with Pearson Vue once you have your BON approval receive your ATT. Using the ATT your exam date can be scheduled based on the test center location and available date and time you select. Currently, NCLEX Test Plan 2019 is being used. The NCLEX test plan will change In April 2023.

Visit the Pearson VUE website to register online. Go to http://www.pearsonvue.com/nclex/ to register online. Click “Register” on the webpage. Fill out the registration application. Include a valid email address and your school’s 10-digit code. Pay the $200 registration fee with a VISA, MasterCard, or American Express credit card.

NCLEX TIP: When you register with Pearson Vue, the name you use must match your government issued ID (e.g. Passport) and other identification you use. If your name on the ATT does not match your ID presented at the testing center, you will not be allowed to test. Any fees you paid for that exam appointment will not be refunded, and you will have to pay the fees again.

Call Pearson VUE NCLEX candidate services to register over the phone. If you are American or Canadian, call toll-free at 1-866-496-2539. Make sure to have your credit card ready to pay the $200 registration fee over the phone. The center is open Monday through Friday from 7 AM to 7 PM Central Standard Time.

  • For those who live in Asia Pacific regions, call +852-3077-4923 (not a toll-free number).
  • For those who live in Europe, the Middle East, or Africa, call +44-161-855-7445 (not toll-free).
  • For those who live in India, call 91-120-439-7837 (not a toll-free number).
  • For those who live in a country not listed, call 1-952-905-7403 (not a toll-free number).

If the BON denies you eligibility to take the test, re-register after 365 days. After registering with Pearson VUE, your account will remain active for 365 days. This gives you time to be approved by the BON to take the NCLEX. If the BON does not approve your application before 365 days, you will need to re-register. You will also have to pay the exam fee again.

  • If the Nursing Jurisprudence Exam (NJE) and Pearson VUE registration are not complete when the BON reviews your application, it may not approve it
  • Do not re-register before your current account expires. If you do, the second registration will be processed and denied

6. Schedule your Test Appointment at a Pearson Vue Testing Center

Once the board has approved your application, confirmed your eligibility to take the NCLEX exam, and verified your registration with Pearson VUE, you should receive your ATT. From there, you'll be able to schedule your test appointment.

Receive your Authorization to Test (ATT)

  • If you are approved by the BON, you will receive an email with the ATT you used to register with Pearson VUE. The ATT contains your authorization number, candidate number, and an expiration date
  • Immediately after you receive your ATT, check the name on your ATT and verify that it matches your identification EXACTLY. If it does not, contact Pearson VUE immediately
  • ATT’s are typically valid for 90 days, but some may expire before or after 90 days. You must test within the BON's specified time period
  • If the BON approved you, but you did not receive your ATT, or lost your ATT, call NCLEX Candidate Services at 1-866-496-2539

Schedule your exam appointment online if you have a computer. Go to the Pearson VUE website at http://www.pearsonvue.com/nclex/ and sign in with your username and password. Request a date and time to take the exam at your preferred testing center. If you are a first-time test taker, you will be offered an appointment within 30 days. If you are a repeat candidate, you will be offered an appointment within 45 days.

  • If your original time or date is unavailable, you will be offered an alternative time or date. If the new date or time does not work for you, you can decline it and schedule an appointment that is later than 30 to 45 days
  • Do not wait until your ATT is almost expired to schedule an exam appointment. If you do, you may have to re-register and pay another exam fee

Call NCLEX Candidate services to schedule an exam appointment. Make sure to have your ATT and Passport, or other identifying information, on-hand. Request a preference date and time over the phone.

  • Living in the U.S. or Canada, call toll-free at 1-866-496-2539
  • Living in the Asia Pacific regions, call +852-3077-4923 (not a toll-free number)
  • Living in Europe, the Middle East, or Africa, call +44-161-855-7445 (not a toll-free number)
  • Living in India, call 91-120-439-7837 (not a toll-free number)
  • Living in a country not listed, call 1-952-905-7403 (not a toll-free number)

NCLEX TIP: There are fees associated with scheduling your exam at an International Test Center location. For a breakdown of Fees check out https://www.ncsbn.org/1203.htm

Check your information once you receive your confirmation email. After you schedule your exam appointment, you will receive a Confirmation of Appointment email. Make sure all of your information is correct in the email. Additionally, check online to make sure that your exam appointment has been scheduled.

If you do not receive a confirmation email, or if any of your information is incorrect, call Pearson VUE NCLEX Candidate services.

7. Exam Day

Attend your exam appointment at the testing center. Review the exam day process to ensure you take acceptable identification with you, arrive on-time for your exam and follow the procedures of the exam center. *If possible, we recommend you visit the location of the exam center before your day of testing to ensure you know the location and how to get there on-time on exam day.

For more information ON EXAM DAY, click here: https://www.ncsbn.org/exam-day.htm

8. Getting your NCLEX Results

Wait for 48 hours (US Time) for the official result of the examination from Pearson Vue. In some cases, your state board will post your license online when you’ve passed NCLEX. Every state has their own process.

For more information AFTER THE EXAM, click here: https://www.ncsbn.org/after-the-exam.htm

After passing the NCLEX, Connetics USA can begin the employment sponsorship search. When your employer sponsor is secured, the filing of your EB3 immigrant visa will begin. The NCLEX is your golden ticket to interview with Connetics employers, making your American Dream a reality.