A Primer for Getting Your Nursing License in Another State

compact nursing license RN reciprocity states

By Jennifer Larson, contributor

Updated: July 2019  

There can be many reasons for moving across state lines. Perhaps you want to live closer to family, or you’re giving the travel nursing lifestyle a whirl. Maybe you want to test the waters in a new city with a temporary assignment, or you’re looking for a new permanent nursing job.

Regardless of your reason, you will need to make sure you have a valid nursing license for the state in which you’ll be working. But where do you start?

Five steps to get your nursing license in another state 

1. Determine your state’s licensing requirements and know the RN reciprocity states 

Are you planning a permanent move to a new state, or a considering a short-term travel nursing assignment? The first step in the process is to determine the licensure requirements in your current and future home state. Find out if your state participates in the multistate Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), which recognizes licenses from other states that are members. There are currently 33 states participating in the original compact, which allows registered nurses and licensed practical/vocational nurses whose primary residencies are in those participating states to practice across state lines without having to get re-licensed in other participating states.

See the current list of nurse compact states and learn about the enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (eNLC)which was implemented in January 2018.

2. If you live in a compact state  

If you already live in one of the nurse compact states and will be practicing in another compact state, the process will be relatively simple. Your multistate nursing license will allow you to practice in another participating state.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) explains it this way: “A nurse with an active compact (multistate) license wanting to practice in another compact state does not need to complete any applications nor pay any fees as the home state license is accepted as a privilege to practice in other compact states.”

But if you plan to move from one compact state to another and change your state of primary residency, you’ll need a nursing license from that state. If your license is in good standing, you just apply for licensure by endorsement from your new state board of nursing. You have 30 days after you establish residency and become employed. The NCSBN notes, “Because the state’s licensure by endorsement process may take more than 30 days, it is suggested you apply early.” And don’t forget to notify your former state’s board of nursing that you are no longer a resident.

If you live and are licensed in a nurse compact state, but you plan to get a job in a state that is not one of the RN reciprocity states, you will have to apply for a license in that new state. Contact your new state’s board of nursing, or visit the board’s website and apply for licensure by endorsement. And if you’re actually moving to that state, you’ll need to inform your former state board of nursing (the compact participant) that you are no longer a resident, so your multistate nursing license can be changed to single-state status.

3. If you live in a non-compact state 

If you’re moving from a non-compact state to a compact state, you will need to apply for licensure by endorsement from your new state’s board of nursing. You may even be able to keep an active license in your own state in some circumstances.

If you’re moving from a non-compact state to a non-compact state, you’ll just need to contact the state board of nursing and apply for a new license there.

4. Ask for help 

Confused? If you’re applying for work through one of the more reputable travel nurse agencies, the recruiters and placement experts can help you figure out what to do.

“The big thing is we can tell you where to start,” noted Brandi Gallegos, senior recruitment manager with Onward Healthcare. “We also know who to call if something is getting held up.”

But a recruiter or agency representative cannot apply for licensure for you, cautioned Melanie Douglas Major, a recruitment manager with NursesRx. They can, however, provide some guidance to help you along the path, as they’ll have the most up-to-date information about state licensing time frames and know about any recent changes.

Your travel nursing agency may also be able to expedite the process in some states, and many will pay the fees for your new nursing license.

“Some licensing processes can be lengthy, so it is best to consult a recruiter regarding your plans and goals with travel so they can help you with realistic expectations,” said Major.

For example, since some states can take much longer to issue new nursing licenses than others, Gallegos said she might advise you, “If you’re in a compact state and want to go quickly [to a new job], go to another compact state.” Or she will be able to give you a heads up about states that have longer turnaround times and help you plan accordingly.

You can also turn to NCSBN’s Nursys, a national database for nurse licensure verification for nurses in all states participating in the Nurse Licensure Compact as well as other jurisdictions that choose to participate. You can visit to access the Licensure QuickConfirm application, which allows you to look up your license status, or you can use the License Verified feature to verify your current license to a board of nursing to obtain a new license in another state. There’s also a feature for employers called e-Notify where managers can get licensure status updates about their nurses.

5. Start early 

The bottom line: as with many bureaucratic processes, it’s always better to get the nurse licensing process started as soon as possible, just in case you hit any bumps along the way. Search for nursing jobs in your specialty with, and talk to a recruiter about the states where you want to work.’s staffing partners are available to answer your questions about nurse licensure and travel nursing jobs across the country. 


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