Travel Nurse Licensure Compact: What to Know

Health Carousel Travel Nursing
December 1, 2022
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Although travel nursing offers tremendous opportunities, navigating the requirements of multi-state licensure can deter some from pursuing this path. Fortunately, The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) has developed the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC). This makes it possible for nurses to work in multiple compact nursing states on a single compact nursing license.


The Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) was developed in 1999 with the goal of addressing regional nursing shortages and expanding access to telemedicine. Under the agreement, nurses licensed in one compact state are able to work in other compact states without obtaining a new license. 39 states are currently part of the enhanced nurse licensure compact, and a few additional states have pending legislation.


Nurses must be a resident in one of the compact states in order to obtain a multi-state registered nurse or RN license. Residency is determined by the state in which you file your income taxes.

Nurses must pass an FBI criminal background check. There are two pathways to obtaining a compact nursing license: endorsement and initial licensure.


The good news is that you may already have a compact license. If you declare a state that participates in the NLC as your primary state of residence and are licensed in that state, there is no additional paperwork to fill out. Your nursing license is a multi-state license. The states currently participating in the NLC include:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana  
  • Iowa
  • Kansas  
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin  
  • Wyoming

If you decide to establish residency in a compact state to obtain a multi-state license, the length of time to complete the process will depend on several factors. The FBI background check is the most cumbersome step, as it can often take 30 days or more. The state board of nursing will also require information from your school of nursing if you are applying for initial licensure, or from another state or jurisdiction if you are applying for licensure by endorsement. On average, it takes four to six weeks to complete the nursing licensure process.

Advice & Tips for Getting Licensed (from experts and testimonials)

Next, let’s review some common questions about travel nursing and compact licenses. If you’re interested in learning more about travel nursing and compact state guidelines, click here.

How Do Travel Nurses Get Licensed?

Travel nurses can obtain a compact nursing license quickly if they already reside in a compact state and hold a state nursing license. You just need to submit an application for a compact nursing license and pay the fee.

However, the licensing process will look a little different if you do not currently hold a nursing license. You will need to fill out a nurse license application and submit nursing license requirements, which can vary by state. Typically, required documentation includes proof of passing your nursing boards, transcripts, and proof of graduation from a board approved education program. Then, you will need to pass a background check, submit fingerprints, and show photo proof of identification (i.e. driver’s license). Once you obtain your permanent license, you can apply for compact licensure.

Nurse Licensure Compact States Fast Facts

  • There is no such thing as a travel nursing license. However, many travel nurses choose to obtain a multistate nursing license or compact state license. This is so they can travel to other compact states and not have to obtain additional licensure.
  • If you reside in a compact state and have a compact nursing license, you may practice nursing in other compact states. 
  • You will have to obtain an individual nursing license to practice nursing in non compact states. 
  • Some travel nurses choose to take a travel nursing job in a non compact state, so they apply for temporary licenses. A temporary license allows you to practice nursing while waiting for your permanent license.


If your state of primary residence is not part of the NLC, don’t worry. You can still work as a travel nurse and the paperwork required for obtaining multiple state licenses is straightforward. Nurses without a compact license will need to apply for an individual state license in every state where they take a travel assignment. Luckily, most states offer temporary nursing licenses that allow travel nurses to obtain permission and start their travel assignments before the process of obtaining permanent licensure is complete.

Are you looking for your next adventure? Travel nursing agencies offer top pay, great assignments in world-class hospitals, and the opportunity to learn a variety of valuable skills. Don’t let the complexities of licensure requirements dissuade you from enjoying the benefits of travel nursing.

Questions about travel nursing licensure requirements? Contact a HCTN recruiter today.

Author Bio

Rebecca Brunelle is a pediatric nurse practitioner with experience in telephone triage, pediatric critical care, and pediatric cardiology. She is currently living in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Since moving abroad, she has kept active in the nursing profession by doing international missions, writing nursing blog posts, and working in copy/editing for nursing curriculum.

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Find the Travel Job that’s Right for You

Interested in how the pay stacks up in other states not on this list? Our trusty Super Nurse sidekicks are standing by to answer any questions you have. Click below to get information on opportunities in other states!

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