3 Types of Nurse Licenses Explained

3 Types of Nurse Licenses Explained

By Moira K. McGhee, Contributor

One of the biggest steps travel nurses must take is getting the right nurse license for the state they will be working in. Depending on the state, the process of application to completion can take days to weeks.  It's important to know the requirements of each state's RN licensing board to understand all the legalities of working there. Working with a recruiter will help illuminate the process as well as lift the burden solely off you. Read on to learn more about the nurse licensing process and the options available to you. 

The RN Licensing Process

The process of obtaining a nursing license is lengthy, beginning with attending a two or four year nursing program. Upon graduation, or just prior to graduation, you must contact the board of nursing (BON) in the state where you live or the state where you intend to work to obtain an application and licensing requirements. Each state's BON has its own criteria to determine whether you have the necessary skills to become a licensed nurse.

Every state requires you to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN) or practical nurses (NCLEX-PN) as part of the RN licensing process. Since this is a nationally recognized exam, you must only pass it once to qualify for a nursing license in any state. Some states also require a criminal background check.

Transfer an RN License to Another State

Should you decide to move to another state, you can transfer your RN license by applying for licensure by endorsement. If your RN license is in good standing and you've been actively working as a nurse, you don't have to repeat the entire RN licensing process. Your education and board examination are transferable. However, if you've been out of practice for a significant time period, you may be required to take refresher courses.

No matter your activity level, licensure by endorsement generally requires a background and nursing history check, and some states also demand you pass additional requirements. Getting a nursing license in another state is a strict process that typically takes one to two months.

RELATED: A Primer for Getting Your Nurse License in Another State

The Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact

Many states have joined a nurse licensing agreement, formerly called the Nurse Licensure Compact and now called the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC), which allows you to work in multiple states using a single license. Through the eNLC, there's no need to obtain multiple individual state licenses with separate licensing fees. You're eligible to upgrade to a multi-state license, if you're a legal resident of a compact state and hold an active RN license in good standing.

Transfer a Multi-state RN License

Just like a single state nursing license, multi-state licensing still requires a transfer if you move from one state to another. Depending on the situation, this could impact your multi-state eligibility, so be sure you understand what happens in each scenario.

When transferring from a non-compact state to a compact state, you must apply for licensure by endorsement, which will be a multi-state license. You may also keep your individual state license issued by the noncompact state, but you must continue to meet the annual requirements of this license, including paying a separate licensing fee.

When transferring from a compact to a non-compact state, you must apply for licensure by endorsement, and your compact license changes to a single state license. Your new license is only valid in the state you now call home, and the BON in your old state inactivates your compact license.

When transferring from one compact state to another, you can practice using your old compact license for up to 30 or 90 days depending on the state you've moved to. You must apply for licensure by endorsement one to two months prior to your move and complete a declaration of primary state of residency in your new home state. You're issued a new multi-state license and your old multi-state license is inactivated. Unlike with single state licenses, you can't hold more than one multi-state license.

The eNLC offers many benefits to traveling nurses, including the ability to work in multiple states without paying for multiple licenses and uniform licensing requirements.’s staffing partners are available to answer your questions about nurse licensure and travel nursing jobs across the country. 


* Indicates required field

© 2023 AMN Healthcare, Inc. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Ad & Cookie Policy
How can I help you?