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A Guide to CNA Recertification: How to Renew Your License

To continue working as a certified nursing assistant (CNA), you must renew your license after a certain period of time in order to keep it active. This process, also known as CNA recertification, is regulated by different licensing authorities from state to state, meaning the specifics may vary depending on where you work.

There are plenty of advantages to being a CNA, but you’ve got to keep your license active to enjoy them. If your license is due to expire soon and you are unsure whether or how to renew it, you’ve come to the right place. This guide will provide advice on CNA recertification requirements and how to navigate the license renewal process.

Requirements for CNA Recertification

A few months before your certificate’s expiration date, you should receive an email or letter reminding you of the need to renew your license. This should also list your recertification options, though you can also check your state’s nursing licensing board to determine your options for renewing. If you don’t receive this reminder, ensure that your contact information with the nurse licensing board is accurate and make any necessary changes.

Most states require you to renew your license every two years. There are several requirements for renewing your license. While these differ from state to state, there are some broad requirements that generally apply to all CNAs in the U.S.:

  • You need to work as a nursing assistant for a certain number of hours each year, as specified by the state nursing board, to get your license renewed. The status of your CNA license may change to inactive if you don’t work enough continuous hours.
  • You must have proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful presence, such as your birth certificate, Social Security card, naturalization certificate, permanent resident card, or passport;
  • You may need to submit to a criminal background check. If you have any convictions, you’ll need to submit an appropriate declaration of the criminal charges. If you fail to disclose any convictions or allegations during the background check, your renewal may not be successful.
  • Some states require candidates to meet continuing education requirements prior to each renewal. Consult your state’s nursing licensing board to review these requirements.

Steps to Renew Your CNA Certification

When it comes time to recertify, there are some steps that are common to practically all state licensing boards. Follow these general steps to ensure that you are able to continue working as a CNA without any unnecessary fees, processes, or interruptions to your career.

Step 1: Find Out the Prerequisites

You must find out the prerequisites for recertification in the state where you are currently working. If you want to begin working in another state, you should find out the regulations of that state, as each licensing board has different requirements. In fact, some states do not require license renewal at all, as long as you continue to work as a CNA.

Learn more about these requirements by clicking on the U.S. state or territory you are licensed in below, and checking the relevant section on license renewals:

AlabamaMainePennsylvania
AlaskaMarylandRhode Island
ArizonaMassachusettsSouth Carolina
ArkansasMinnesotaSouth Dakota
CaliforniaMississippiTennessee
ColoradoMissouriTexas
ConnecticutMontanaUtah
DelawareNebraskaVermont
FloridaNevadaVirginia
GeorgiaNew HampshireWashington
HawaiiNew JerseyWest Virginia
IdahoNew MexicoWisconsin
IllinoisNew YorkWyoming
IndianaNorth CarolinaAmerican Samoa
IowaNorth DakotaGuam
KansasOhioNorthern Mariana Islands
KentuckyOklahomaVirgin Islands
LouisianaOregonWashington, D.C.

Step 2: Obtain and Complete the Renewal Form

Most states have online renewal options in addition to paper forms, while some only offer the latter. If you have a choice, know that online applications are almost always processed more quickly than paper forms. Filling out this form will generally require some basic information:

  • Your contact information, date of birth, and Social Security number;
  • Verification of employment, your employer’s contact information, and your employer’s signature;
  • Proof of completion of in-service training or continuing education units, if required in your state.

Be sure to have this information available to streamline the renewal process. If your form requires an employer signature, prioritize getting that form to them as soon as possible. Once you’ve submitted it, your recertification application will begin to be processed.

Step 3: Submit to a Criminal Background Check

After receiving your renewal form, the CNA registry of your state may require that you submit your information for a criminal background check. If this applies to you, you’ll be required to let the board know if you are suspected or have been convicted of any criminal act.

The criminal background check may require that you personally go to a designated location to have your fingerprints taken, or you may be sent a packet in the mail to complete this process from home. Results rarely take longer than one week to be processed, particularly if you have a clear background.

Any legal difficulties and felony charges against you may hamper your recertification process. You must provide supporting documentation to either disprove or explain past convictions. Applicants with criminal backgrounds will generally be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Failing to provide supporting documentation will usually cause your application to not be processed.

Step 4: Provide Proof You’ve Met Continuing Education Requirements

To ensure you have the skills needed to perform your duties as a CNA, professionals in some states may be required to meet continuing education requirements in order to qualify for license renewal. Applicants in these states may have to submit proof to indicate that they’ve done so. This should include documentation that demonstrates that you’ve completed state-approved, accredited CNA programs or courses.

Specific continuing education requirements differ from state to state. In fact, some states have no such requirements for CNAs who are currently working. Some of these requirements are focused on keeping up-to-date with certain developments or new best practices within the field, while some state requirements simply require a set number of classroom hours. Options such as Red Cross CNA training classes may qualify for recertification purposes.

It’s important that you don’t indicate that you’ve completed these education requirements unless you have actually done so. Providing inaccurate information in this respect may make your application fraudulent, which can lead to disciplinary action if you are audited.

Step 5: Check Your Renewal Status

You can generally check the status of your recertification or renewal online by logging into your nursing licensing board’s website. Follow the advice provided earlier in this guide on license verification to accomplish this. Depending on the licensing board, whether you submitted an online or paper form, and your specific circumstances, it can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to process your renewal request.

When your application is processed, your information will be updated with the board. You may receive an email or letter confirming that your license has been renewed or, if more information is required, the steps you should follow to complete your recertification.

What Happens if Your License Expires?

It’s important that you avoid letting your license lapse. Forgetting to renew your license before its expiration date can lead to interruptions in your work and additional steps and fees that could have been easily avoided.

If you fail to renew your license by its expiration date, your certificate will become delinquent; as a result, you won’t be able to legally work as a CNA until it is renewed. Depending on your state’s requirements, you may have to complete additional steps to get recertified. This often includes meeting additional training requirements or paying a delinquency fee, in addition to the original renewal fee.

If your CNA license becomes expired for a long period of time — typically greater than two years — you may need to reapply for your certification. This is a much more involved process than a renewal application, and it includes all the fees and steps that a first-time applicant would follow, including the certification exam.

How to Verify Your CNA License’s Expiration Date

Check the expiration date of your CNA license to see when your license is set to expire. If you do not have access to a printed copy of your license, you should be able to access your CNA certificate online or request a new physical copy from your state nursing board. Keep in mind that some nursing boards are eliminating physical licenses in favor of digital alternatives, so you may be unable to get a new physical copy.

You may also be able to verify your license online to see its expiration date, among other details. Look on your nursing licensing board’s website for a “License Verification” or “License Lookup” tool, filter your search by CNAs, then enter your information. You may need to pay a verification fee to complete your search, but many boards offer this information free of charge. This should give you the information you’ll need to determine if it’s time to recertify.

If this is not an option in your state, you may need to visit the licensing office, making sure to bring along documentation to verify your identity.

What if Your CNA License Is Already Expired?

Has your license already expired? In many states, you can still get it renewed within a specified time frame, albeit with some additional fees and documentation. If your license has not been expired for more than a few months, reach out to your state nursing licensing board to explore your options.

If your license has been inactive for a long period of time, you may need to reapply for a license. If you are not eligible to renew based on your inability to meet one of the requirements above, and you’ll likely need to reapply for a new CNA license once you’ve addressed the requirement. In this case, you’ll need to pass a background check and take the state certification exam again to demonstrate your current knowledge.

If you don’t take the minimum hours of continued education and fail to qualify for the certification exam of the state, you may need to attend a new nursing program. This will give you the skills and knowledge needed to qualify as a CNA. If you need to take the certification exam again, be sure to take a practice test and review CNA exam tips to maximize your chances of success.

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