Relocating to another state as a registered nurse (RN) involves transferring your nursing license. Despite the initial apprehension this might cause, the process is straightforward, primarily requiring the completion of necessary paperwork. Each state has specific requirements for initial licensure, such as graduating from an accredited nursing school, passing the NCLEX-RN exam, and clearing a criminal background check. With these prerequisites already met, the next steps involve verifying your current license status and understanding the new state's licensing requirements, typically available on the state's board of nursing website.

Transferring your Nursing License Across States

Why Transfer Your Nursing License?


Nurses often transfer their licenses due to relocation for new job opportunities or personal reasons. Changing your state of residence necessitates updating your licensure to continue practicing legally.

Travel Nursing

Travel nurses experience diverse work environments and new challenges, necessitating the ability to practice in multiple states. This career choice often requires transferring your license to different states frequently.

Military Relocations

Military personnel or their spouses might need to transfer their nursing licenses when relocating. Special allowances, including interstate license recognition programs, facilitate this process, making it smoother than civilian relocations.

What is a Compact State?

Compact nursing states adhere to a mutual recognition model, allowing RNs and LPNs/LVNs in one of the 41 states under the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) to practice in other compact states without additional licensing requirements. This simplifies the process significantly for nurses moving between these states. Nurses need only to apply for licensure by endorsement on the new state's board of nursing website, often just paying a fee.

Steps for Transferring Your Nursing License

Non-Compact to Non-Compact State

  1. Apply for Licensure by Endorsement: Ensure your current license is active and contact the board of nursing in your new state.
  2. Follow State-Specific Requirements: These may include additional background checks, fees, or other documentation.

Non-Compact to Compact State

  1. Apply for Licensure by Endorsement: You can do this before or after moving.
  2. Obtain a Multi-State License: If you meet the requirements, this license allows practice in all compact states.
  3. Maintain Active Current License: Your current license remains valid until it expires.

Compact to Non-Compact State

  1. Apply for Licensure by Endorsement: This can be done after relocating.
  2. Transition to Single-State License: Once approved, notify your former state's board of nursing.

Compact to Compact State

  1. Apply for Licensure by Endorsement: A new NLC rule effective January 2, 2024, requires application within 60 days of moving to the new Primary State of Residence (PSOR).
  2. Continue Practicing on Current License: Your existing license remains valid until the new multi-state license is issued.

Military Considerations

Military families benefit from programs like the military spouse interstate license recognition, easing the transfer process. Check with your military branch or the state board of nursing for specific steps and possible fee reimbursements.

International Transfers

Transferring a U.S. nursing license internationally is more complex, except for countries like Australia, Denmark, or New Zealand. Most other countries require passing additional examinations and meeting specific requirements. Thorough research and preparation are essential for a smooth transition.

Next Steps

  1. Verify Your Current License: Contact your state's licensing board for verification or certification.
  2. Gather Documentation: Ensure you have all necessary paperwork.
  3. Apply for Licensure by Endorsement: Proceed with the application process in your new state.

Transferring your nursing license to another state, while initially daunting, is a manageable process with proper preparation. By understanding the specific requirements of your new state and ensuring all documentation is in order, you can continue your nursing career without interruption.


Can You Practice Nursing in Multiple States?

Yes, if your state is a compact state, you may practice in any other compact state without reapplying for a license.

Is Transferring Your License Between Non-Compact States Difficult?

It doesn't have to be. Simply find out your new state's requirements, which may include background checks and fees.

By following these detailed steps and understanding the nuances of nursing license transfer, you can ensure a smooth and efficient transition to your new state, allowing you to continue providing essential care to your patients.

Paul Olzak, MBA, CPRP

Joining PracticeMatch in 2021, Paul supports Client Sourcing's proactive recruiting model that generates a robust prospect pool, creates an effective and efficient recruiting experience and identifies key metrics to ensure optimal performance for the client. Paul has a commitment to learning, development and passion for building a team of recruiting professionals to leverage their national footprint which benefits its client organizations and their candidates. Prior to joining the PracticeMatch team, Paul served as Medical Staff Development Officer at University Hospitals, Lake Health Region in Cleveland, Ohio.