You put so much work into obtaining your nursing license that the mere idea of having to transfer it to another state can sound stressful. Fortunately, what you’ve already done is the heaviest lift, and the process of transferring is largely a matter of filling out some paperwork. That’s because even though every state has its own specific requirements for initial licensure, almost all of them include the same basics: graduation from an accredited school of nursing, passing the NCLEX-RN exam, and the various steps required to clear the criminal background check.
With those steps already completed, if you’re preparing to move, or travel to another state to practice, you need to start with two steps: checking your own license to see whether you have a multistate or uniform license, and checking the new state’s licensing requirements, which will generally be available on its board of nursing’s website.
If you are coming from and going to a compact state, your process will be fairly simple – otherwise, you’ll need to dig a bit deeper to find out how to get your RN license in another state. One way or another, this article will tell you everything you need to know about how to transfer your nursing license to another state.
- Why would you transfer your nursing license?
- What is a compact state?
- What to know when moving to another state
- What to know when you’re moving for military reasons
- Moving your nursing license to another country
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Why would you transfer your nursing license?
The top reason nurses give for needing to know how to transfer their nursing license to another state is the most obvious one — they’re moving. Whether your relocation is specifically for an exciting new job opportunity or for personal reasons, if you’re switching states, you’ll need to take care of switching your state of residency for licensing purposes.
You also might need to transfer your nursing license if you’re planning on working as a travel nurse. These exciting jobs offer the chance to learn new skills, meet new people, and explore new locations. However they can also involve a lot of extra challenges.
Military relocations are another common reason for moving, though if you or your spouse (or both of you!) are members of the military, you may be able to move without having to follow the same steps that civilians are required to take.
If your move is going to take you to a new country, transferring your license is a bit more complicated. Unlike moving from one state to another, different countries have different requirements, and you may need to complete a more in-depth evaluation process to prove that you’re qualified. Make sure that you thoroughly investigate what you need to do to establish your eligibility in plenty of time to ensure that you can resume your nursing practice as soon as possible.
What is a compact state?
Compact nursing states are those that have signed on to a “mutual recognition model” of nursing licensure requirements. What this means for you is that if you are an RN or LPN/LVN who lives in one of the 41 states that have signed the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), and you’re moving to another of those states, you will have a much easier time continuing your nursing practice. Nursing Compact states let their nurses practice in every other participating NLC state without having to apply for an additional license or having to take any additional courses. You can also provide virtual nursing care to patients in other NLC states.
To transfer from one NLC state to another (also known as a compact-to-compact transfer), you’ll just need to visit the board of nursing website in the state that you’re moving to and apply for licensure by endorsement. Sometimes this involves nothing more than paying a fee. Once you’ve completed the state’s application and it’s been approved, your old license will become invalid and you’ll be issued a new one.
What to know when moving to another state
Every situation is different, but it’s most likely that if you need to know how to transfer your nursing license to another state, you’ll fall into one of the four common situations described below. Pay close attention, because the one that applies to you will determine how you’ll need to time your applications.
Non-compact to non-compact state
- Apply for licensure by endorsement
- Must have active license from another state
- Contact state board of nursing where you’re relocating to make arrangements
Non-compact to compact state
- Apply for licensure by endorsement (before or after move)
- Must apply for licensure before working at new job
- If requirements are met, can apply for multi-state license
- Current license remains active until it expires
Compact to non-compact state
- Apply for licensure by endorsement (can apply after move)
- Once licensure approved, license becomes a single-state
- Notify board of nursing from former state about change in licensure
Compact to compact state
- Apply for licensure by endorsement. A new NLC Rule that takes effect on January 2, 2024 requires nurses moving from one compact state to another compact state to apply for licensure in their new Primary State of Residence (PSOR) within 60 days.
- Can continue to work on license from old state until new multi-state license is approved
- Previous license is deactivated once new multi-state license issued
What to know when you’re moving for military reasons
If you or your spouse are serving our country in the military, relocation is a part of your life, so knowing the steps for transferring your RN or LPN license between states — or even to a new country — should be part of your packing list! The good news is that there are special allowances in place that help make the process easier, including a military spouse interstate license recognition program. You can check with your military branch or the state board of nursing where you plan to move to see if this program is accepted, or if there are other steps you’ll need to take to get an RN license in a new state.
If you do need to apply for a new license and there’s a cost involved, check to see whether your branch of the military provides reimbursement.
Moving your nursing license to another country
Unfortunately, it’s not quite as easy to move your U.S. nursing license to another country unless you’re going to Australia, Denmark, or New Zealand. While these countries accept U.S. licensure and make the process fairly straightforward, others will require you to take examinations and pass their requirements. Be sure to do your research far ahead of your move so that you have gathered all of your appropriate documents and know exactly what you need to do.
It’s always a good idea to make sure that you have all of your paperwork and can verify your license in your current state of practice before applying for your new license. You can contact your state’s licensing board to request a verification or certification of your license. Once you have your documents in hand, you can move forward to apply for licensure by endorsement.
If you know you want to relocate but aren’t sure where to go, Incredible Health is here to help! You can check out the highest-paying states for RNs to get some ideas. You also can get some awesome advice from other nursing professionals on our Q&A forum for nursing professionals.
Yes. If your state is a compact state you may practice in any other compact state without having to reapply for a license.
This simple answer – it doesn’t have to be. All you need to do is find out what your new state requires. This could include background checks and fees.
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- About The NCLEX: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Exam. nclex.com. Accessed April 8, 2022.
- Moving to Another State. ncsbn.org. Accessed April 8, 2022.
- Nursys Nurse License Verification. nursys.com. Accessed April 8, 2022.
- Transferring Your Professional License: What’s Involved? militaryonesource.mil. Accessed April 8, 2022.
- Military Spouse Interstate License Recognition Options. dol.gov. Accessed April 8, 2022.
- The best countries for a career in Nursing. santaferelo.com. Accessed April 8, 2022.