How to Transfer a Nursing License to Another State

Image of content creator sitting on a couch and smiling at camera
Written by Ayana Dunn, BSN Content Writer, IntelyCare
Content creator standing in front of green trees smiling for camera
Reviewed by Morganne Skinner, BSN Content Writer, IntelyCare
Nurse who transferred her license

Moving is tough — but luckily transferring your nursing license doesn’t have to be. In fact, the process of how to transfer a nursing license to another state is much simpler than it might sound. Don’t let this prevent you from looking for nursing jobs in locations other than your own. As long as you allow enough time for the state board of nursing to review your application, you’ll be ready to work shortly after you move. Below is a description of the process for a variety of unique situations.

Nurse Licensure Overview

Nurses must obtain a license to practice. A license proves a nurse has successfully completed an accredited nursing program, passed the NCLEX, and has no history that would deem the individual unfit to work with patients.

There is no single license that applies to the entire country; nurses must obtain licenses unique to the states in which they wish to work because each state has slightly different requirements.

That being said, many nurses can obtain a compact license after they get a single state license, allowing them to work in multiple states within the nurse licensure compact. Nurses with single state licenses can work in compact states and vice versa, but there are some stipulations that will be explained below.

Nurses can have multiple licenses. Acquiring a new license is called licensure by endorsement. In other words, your current state board of nursing approves you to work in the state to which you’re applying.

Licensure by Endorsement

Licensure by endorsement is how nurses obtain a license in a new state. It communicates to your new state that you’ve successfully practiced nursing in the previous state. To apply for licensure by endorsement, you must hold an active license in another state, U.S. territory, or Canada. The nursing school you attended must be accredited, and you need to have passed the NCLEX exam.

Most states offer both online and paper applications with which you must supply certain documents: fingerprint and background check results, license verification form, and nursing school transcripts. If disciplinary action has been taken against your license, expect to provide letters of explanation and recommendations, and any other requested documents pertaining to that incident.

The process of how to transfer a nursing license to another state can take anywhere between one week to six months. To avoid processing delays, make sure all of your documents are ready. Most importantly, check with your state board of nursing to ensure you’ve met the requirements unique to their jurisdiction.

Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC)

The requirements for how to transfer a nursing license to another state is made easier by obtaining a compact license, otherwise known as a multi-state license. It allows nursing license reciprocity in any of the 39 states within the nurse licensure compact (NLC). There are more states and territories pending legislation to become part of the nursing compact.

RNs must live in a compact state to obtain this license. You must also provide proof of residency, like a driver’s license, tax documents, or voter registration. RNs must have a single state license before acquiring a compact license.

To learn more, read our in-depth article about how to get licensed in nursing compact states.

If you’re moving from one compact state to another, you must apply for a license by endorsement. This is still less paperwork than not having a compact license or applying to work in a state that’s not a part of the NLC. You can still practice while waiting for the compact license to be officially enacted.

If you’re moving from a non-compact state to a compact state, you can apply for licensure by endorsement followed by obtaining a compact license. Before applying for a compact license, you must prove that the state is your new primary residence. You cannot work as a nurse until you’re licensed in that state.

If you’re moving from a compact state to a non-compact state, you must apply for licensure by endorsement for a single state license. You cannot practice in that state until the license is approved.

Advanced Practice Nurses

Advanced practice nurses (APRNs) are not eligible for compact licenses, so they must apply for a single state license. However, an APRN compact license is reportedly on its way. 

Travel Nurses

Travel nurses are subject to the limitations of compact and non-compact licensure. Most travel nurse agencies will assist nurses with obtaining licenses in another state and can even expedite the process. Check the agency’s terms and conditions for how to transfer a license to another state to find out the extent to which they help.

Military Spouses

Some states make exceptions for nurses who move often due to having a spouse in the military. These include issuing a temporary license, allowing you to practice with your out of state license, expediting the application process, and fee waivers. Check with the state to which you’re moving for details and reach out to access the resources unique to this situation.

Note that this article is not meant to be comprehensive. To make sure you fully understand the complete requirements that are applicable to your unique situation, contact your state board of nursing for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Start Looking for Great Job Opportunities

Now that you know how to transfer a nursing license to another state, it’s time to find your next nursing job. Pick and choose from the latest opportunities on IntelyCare jobs, the job platform designed just for you.