Your Guide to the Locum Tenens DEA License


DEA licensing for locum tenens

The federal government Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) enforces drug laws and regulates drug use and distribution in the United States.

Anyone who wishes to administer, prescribe, or dispense controlled substances, including Advanced Practice Providers (APPs), Physician Assistants (PAs), and physicians, must hold a DEA license.

Although state medical boards don’t control this aspect of licensing, you must be registered in order to practice. Also, according to the Controlled Substances Act, you must have a separate DEA registration for each state of professional practice.

For physicians and APPs considering working locum tenens in multiple states, it’s essential to understand how to manage DEA registrations. Unfortunately, the process of applying for your DEA license isn’t always straightforward or expeditious. Therefore, having a reputable locum tenens agency on hand to advise you is invaluable.

Here we outline the process of obtaining a DEA license for locum tenens.


The options for locum tenens DEA registration

The DEA has outlined several options for locum tenens providers:

Separate DEA licenses

You can apply for separate DEA registrations in each state where you plan to practice. The process takes around a week to issue the license and another week to arrive in the mail.

Facility registration

If your locum tenens contract is within a hospital or clinic setting, you could use the facility’s DEA registration instead of applying for independent licensing. However, the facility must agree that this is necessary and permitted.

Transfer registration

You could transfer your existing DEA registration from its current state to another. To request this action, you must contact the Registration and Program Support Section at 1-800-882-9539, or you can use the online forms.

If the DEA approves, they will issue a new certificate with updated details, which takes 24-48 hours to process. You can then print the documentation instantly from the DEA website.



Several exceptions apply to the DEA licensing regulations, including:

  • If you practice at multiple locations within a state, you don’t need to register at each one unless you maintain supplies of controlled medications at every site.
  • If you’re a contractor of the Indian Health Service or work for an Indian tribe or tribal organization, that’s regulated by the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act. In this case, most only require active DEA registration. However, Alaska requires a DEA license for the state.
  • If you have fee-exempt status DEA registration because you work directly with an agency of the U.S., such as the military or veterans’ affairs.


The general process for registering for a DEA license

If you’re applying for a DEA license for the first time, you’ll need to request a Form 224 application form. There are two options:

  • Apply online at the Department of Justice website. Note that you can only use this resource as a new applicant.
  • Call the DEA Registration Unit toll-free at 800-882-9539. They can arrange to mail you a form within ten working days or connect you with the nearest DEA Diversion Field Office.

If you complete a paper form, be sure to check the following details before you submit your application to the DEA:

  1. Complete the application entirely.
  2. Sign and date the form.
  3. Enclose the fee or enter your credit card details.
  4. Mail the application to Drug Enforcement Administration, Registration Section/DRR, P.O. Box 2639, Springfield, VA 22152-2639

Renewing your DEA license

You must renew your DEA registration every three years. Unlike state medical licenses, DEA registration renewal dates correlate to the initial registration date. Although, when you first register with the DEA, they may issue an initial registration period between 28 and 39 months. Subsequent renewal periods will be for three years.

To renew your DEA registration, you must submit Form 224a, that’s automatically mailed to you around 60 days before your registration expires. Therefore, it’s critical to report any changes of address in writing to the DEA.

You have one calendar month after the expiration date of your registration to submit a renewal application, or you must reapply as a new registration.


Copies of DEA certificates

Should you need to request a duplicate certificate because yours is lost, damaged, or destroyed, you can do so upon request at no additional cost.

To do so, complete an online duplicate certificate request, and you should receive your duplicate certificate within eight working days.