Is International Travel Nursing Right for You?

Image of professional woman smiling at camera
Written by Ann Real, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
A nurse chooses her international travel nursing destination.

Are you a nurse with a sense of adventure, looking to broaden your horizons and make a positive impact on healthcare on a global scale? International travel nursing offers a unique and rewarding career opportunity for registered nurses (RNs) to travel to different countries to work temporarily in healthcare facilities. But before you pack your bags and embark on this journey, it’s essential to consider if this career path is the right fit for you.

If you’re thinking of joining the ranks of international travel nurses, this article is for you. We’ll explore all the ins and outs of this exciting profession, covering how to get started, top destinations, salaries, and pros and cons.

A graphic of a career summary .

What Is International Travel Nursing?

An international travel nurse is a healthcare professional who embarks on short-term assignments in healthcare facilities outside of their home country. Similar to domestic travel nurses, they may be hired on a contract basis by travel nursing agencies to fill urgent staffing needs in medical facilities.

International travel nursing agencies link nurses with global assignments tailored to their preferences and skills, as well as a facility’s needs. Alternatively, some nurses choose to seek jobs abroad independently by networking, applying directly to hospitals, or using online job platforms.

Where Do International Travel Nurses Work?

International travel nursing jobs can be found in various countries. Yet, certain destinations stand out for U.S. nurses. Here are some top picks to consider.

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Germany
  • New Zealand
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom

Another way to work internationally as a nurse is to get employed in an organization that has international roles for nurses, such as:

How to Become an International Travel Nurse

Becoming an international travel nurse can be a rewarding career path. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how U.S. nurses can become international travel nurses:

1. Earn a Nursing Degree

The fastest way to become a nurse is to earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN). For a more comprehensive education, you can choose to pursue a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree, which may be preferable for international work.

2. Obtain Nursing Licensure

To become an RN, you’ll need to pass the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses) and submit all required documentation to your state’s board of nursing.

3. Gain Experience

Next, gain some solid nursing experience. You can choose to focus on one specialty or explore various fields to gain a diverse set of skills, preparing you to work in different healthcare settings. Some options include:

Some nursing specialties might give you the opportunity to travel abroad right away, such as:

4. Get Certified

If you want to boost your credibility and upgrade your skill set, you can choose to pursue certification. Consider getting specialty certification if you plan to focus on a particular patient population. Another good option to consider is the Transcultural Nursing Certification (TNC), since you’ll be working with people with diverse cultural backgrounds.

5. Pick a Country

Keep in mind, international travel nursing requirements vary by country. Much like getting a license endorsement in another state, it can involve lots of paperwork. Here are some top global destinations and their requirements:

6. Research Agencies

There are several agencies that specialize in placing nurses in international assignments. Research and compare these agencies to find the right match for your goals. Look for agencies with a good reputation, transparent contract terms, and strong support services for their nurses, including helping out if you have any issues while traveling internationally.

The number of U.S.-based international travel nursing programs is limited, so it might be easier to find such an agency in the country you choose. Here are a few international travel nursing agencies to get you started with your research:

7. Apply for a Visa and a Job

To work abroad, you’ll need to apply for both a job and a visa. Whether you’re applying through an agency or directly to a healthcare institution, you’ll need a solid travel nurse resume. Additionally, for the visa application, common documents requested include:

  • Valid passport
  • Nursing license
  • Proof of certifications and qualifications
  • Employment offer
  • Medical examination
  • Immunization record
  • Background check
  • Proof of language proficiency
  • Visa application form
  • Proof of financial means

The Pros and Cons of International Nursing

Being a nurse who travels internationally comes with its own set of unique challenges and rewards. Here are some pros and cons associated with this profession:

Pros of international nursing:

  • Adventure and travel: You’ll get to travel, explore new places, and experience different lifestyles while earning a living.
  • Professional growth: Working abroad offers chances to learn new medical techniques and develop nursing skills.
  • Cultural immersion: Nurses can explore different cultures, customs, and healthcare practices, broadening their understanding of culturally congruent care.
  • Good pay: International nurses often enjoy higher pay, tax benefits, housing allowances, and other perks.
  • Personal development: Living and working abroad helps nurses grow personally and gain confidence and independence.
  • Networking: Nurses can build a global network of professional contacts, opening doors for future opportunities.

Cons of international nursing:

  • Licensing challenges: Getting licensed in foreign countries can be complex and time-consuming.
  • Legal and ethical differences: Nurses working abroad may encounter differences in legal and ethical standards, as well as unfamiliar healthcare practices, which could be challenging.
  • Language barrier: Communicating in foreign countries can be tough due to language differences, leading to stress.
  • Cultural adjustment: Adapting to new cultures and healthcare systems can be stressful.
  • Job security: Contracts are usually short term, which can lead to uncertainty about future assignments.
  • Family separation: Being away from family can strain relationships and cause feelings of isolation.

International Travel Nursing Salary

The typical travel nursing salary in the U.S. is about $100,700 per year. It’s important to understand that when traveling internationally, your international nurse salary will largely depend on which country you are visiting. Here are some examples:

  • Australia: $123,402 (AUD) per year
  • Canada: $106,104 (CAD) per year
  • New Zealand: $107,563 (NZD) per year
  • Germany: €68,395 (EUR) per year
  • United Arab Emirates: 227,592 (AED) per year
  • United Kingdom: £56,340 (GBP) per year

International Travel Nurse: Frequently Asked Questions

Can travel nurses work internationally?

Yes, travel nurses can work internationally, but the process typically involves additional steps, such as applying for a nursing license in the country of destination and obtaining the necessary work visa or permits.

How long are international assignments?

International assignments can vary in duration, but they may range from a few weeks to several months. However, due to the tedious process of visa application and obtaining a license in a new country, these contracts tend to be longer than typical domestic travel nursing contracts.

What are living arrangements like during assignments?

Living arrangements during international assignments can vary depending on the specific assignment and location. Some nurses might get housing from their employer or receive an allowance to find their own place. In some cases, the housing may not be provided.

Will I be responsible for visa and flight fees?

In many cases, the agency will cover certain expenses, such as flight and visa fees, but that largely depends on the specifics of your contract.

Apply for Nursing Jobs Today on IntelyCare

IntelyCare specializes in helping nurses find their place in the working world. Get a glimpse of what interventional travel nursing is like by exploring travel nursing jobs around the U.S.