How to Work as a Travel Nurse in Different States

How to Work as a Travel Nurse in Different States

As any experienced travel nurse can tell you, getting your nursing license for a new state can be quite an arduous task. This is because, one, it can be really frustrating applying for a registered nurse license for a different state every 3 months. And two, each state’s nursing license board has their own requirements and time frames.

Process Involved with Travel Nursing in a Different State

Most states require you to submit an application, proof of education and credentials, which need to come from your nursing school, and a license verification form.

However, some states require you to submit extra qualifying factors, ranging from letters of recommendation, supplementary exams, or specific required classes you may need to take before they give you a license. After all the paper work is submitted, each state has its own processing time ranging from 10 days to 4 months.

Some states also issue a temporary nursing license so you may be able to start work until you receive a permanent nursing license. In addition, some states give you the opportunity to walk-in and get a temporary nursing license the same day if you have all the necessary paper work. Even with that, the proof of education and credentials must come from your nursing school to the nursing license board before you apply for a walk in nursing license.

Finding State Requirements For Travel Nursing Licensure

So what do you do first? As soon as you decide where you want your next assignment to be, find out what you need to do to get your license in that state. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) has a listing of all the state boards and their contact information and is an invaluable resource.

Browse the state’s website to find what verifications, continuing education (CE) requirements, crucial dates, and other prerequisites must be completed. You can usually download the application from the website itself. Or you can request for one by mail.

Most states say that their nurse licensing process takes 8-12 weeks. So start early. For example, New York requires proof of education from the school you graduated from. They say that getting that proof is what takes the longest.

Normally, the nursing license boards are great to work with. They want to help you. And when you call, you will usually get the right answers. If you have any questions during the process, call them and ask for help. That is what they are there for.

On the application itself, make sure to be very thorough. Answer everything you can, and double check to see if you missed anything. Your application can easily be rejected if something is missing. These boards will not contact you if there is something wrong. They will just send your application back. It is your responsibility to stay on top of it and follow up as much as needed.

Next, you should make sure to complete any of the other requirements. Are there any special classes they expect you to take? Find out and take them.

Keep in mind that your recruitment company should reimburse you for any charges you incur to apply for your new license. Also, make sure to keep a copy of everything you sent in your application, in case it gets lost in the mail or anywhere else. Keep a set of all your records with you on your travels so you can have them whenever you need.

It really depends on your travel company if they will help you with your licensing or not. With many of these companies, the best you can hope for is if your recruiter calling to remind you to start the process for your next assignment.


However, with the advent of multi-state licenses, it has become much easier than in the past. Many states use a site called, a popular license verification service, to make the process easier. It verifies that you took your board exams and where you got your original nursing license from. License boards from most states use this site to verify your license. It costs about $30 when submitted online and this information is online for 3 months so the license boards can look at this information and verify your license. Some states, however, do not use nursys. They may have their own verification form. Therefore, it is extremely important to know what the requirements are before you apply for your nursing license.

Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC)

Also, under the mutual recognition model of nurse licensure, RNs and LPNs/LVNs who are licensed in their primary states of residence can practice within any state that has passed the Nurse Licensure Compact legislation. Currently, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin have implemented the Compact.

Temporary vs. Permanent Licensure

In the event you cannot get a permanent license right away, you might be able to get a temporary license that will last for up to 6 months. California is one such state that works this way. If you plan to do only one 3 month assignment, all you need is the temporary. But you should probably get the permanent anyway. You never know, your plans could change. You don’t want to have everything to fall by the wayside because you failed to take a couple more steps and get your permanent license.

For example, in California, it is better to actually show up in Sacramento and get your temporary license in person, then wait for it to arrive by mail. This is the “walk in” process mentioned earlier. It is much faster and easier. The only thing needed for the walk-in temporary license for California was the application, finger prints, and the payment mentioned on the application. The nursing verification from Nursys and the proof of education and credentials from your nursing school needed to be submitted before you go for the walk-in.

Once again, the important thing to remember is to know all the requirements to apply for the nursing license in the state you want to work in, before you apply. Make sure you read the website, the application, and the requirements thoroughly so no time is wasted.