Part of being a travel nurse (a large part even) is the exciting opportunities that open up for you in new and exotic locations.  Of course this is contingent upon having the ability to practice in whatever state you are planning to visit for the next 13 weeks.  Enter the wonderful and headache-inducing world of licensure.

The first thing to check is whether or not your current license is considered “compact”.  At this time, there are 25 states that are established members of this compact agreement, meaning that they will accept your active license in their state.  With half the country available to you immediately, this is certainly the most hassle-free option to get to work right away.

If your original license came from a member state, it most likely is a compact license.  You can check this by looking up your own license on the appropriate state Board of Nursing (BON) website.  Under certain conditions, you can apply for compact status if your license does not yet hold that designation and provided you are residing in a compact state.  Below is a list of compact states:


Idaho                                   Montana                              North Dakota

South Dakota                       Nebraska                            Utah

Colorado                              Arizona                               New Mexico

Texas                                   Wisconsin                           Iowa

Missouri                               Arkansas                            Mississippi

Kentucky                              Tennessee                         North Carolina

South Carolina                     Virginia                               Maryland

Delaware                              Maine                                New Hampshire

Rhode Island


If you are looking to work in a state that is not a part of the compact agreement, you will need to examine the process of licensure in that state.  Every state requires different criteria (of course), but here are a few suggestions for things that are commonly requested:

-A completed and current application

Some of the Boards do change the application so if you have one that you printed out a while ago and have been hanging onto it for the perfect moment, it’s probably best to simply go to the Board website and complete the latest incarnation online.  Otherwise you risk a rejection and go immediately back to square one.


Every state has their own fee table but I think estimating that you will spend between $50 and $200 will keep you in most of the ballpark ranges.  It’s not cheap but some companies will reimburse for licensure under certain conditions so be sure to save your receipts!

-Criminal background check and/or fingerprints

Some states are more egregious with these requirements than others but you can get some idea of what you’re getting into by visiting the state’s BON website.

-Employment verification

This is simply to determine that you are actively working in the healthcare field.  You could also be asked to provide education verification, if you have been in school recently.

-Proof of citizenship

This will become more of an issue with the passage of the Enhanced Licensure Compact agreement toward the end of next year, but expect this to be requested, just in case!  If you would like to learn more about the Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact, either to get updates or to personally get involved, visit the site here: www.nursecompact.com/about.htm


Another question we get frequently is, “how long will it take to get my license?” and this is the most difficult thing to predict.  Some of the states known for taking a very long time, such as California, can move quicker than expected on occasion.  And some states can drag it out due to paperwork errors, mail delays or smudged fingerprints.  There are a few walk-through states where you can have licensure in hand that day, provided you visit the BON in person and have all necessary documentation with you but those are definitely the exceptions.  On average, you can expect a typical licensure wait time to be between 4-6 weeks so planning ahead early is definitely advised.  One factor that will always delay your application is if you file it near a graduation month so please consider that, as well…thousands of new grads in the workforce all at once will not speed things up for you!

Ultimately, we recommend you contact the state BON and simply ask them what the average wait time is for licensure.   It make take some time to get through with your question but if you are still in the strategizing phase of your next assignment then you should be fine.  Here is a link to each state’s BON, where you can get your specific questions answered and begin your travel nursing journey:


Good luck!


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