There are no standard rules when it comes to licensure required in different States. There has been effort to standardize the process with the licensure compact where you can use your nursing license in the states involved in the program without having to recertify the license. There are more than a dozen states involved in the NLCA (Nurse Licensure Compact Administrators) program.
However, if the state you’re going to working in is not part of the program, the licensure process will differ from state to state, with differing CEU’s (continuing education units), processing time, cost and temporary license date expiration. Not many states offer permanent licenses.
Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be difficult to obtain a temporary license from most states. Just be aware that the rules and regulations governing licensure for the non-program states will more likely than not be different. For instance, in most states you don’t need to show your CEU’s to get the license but you may do if you’re renewing. To avoid being overwhelmed by the complexities of licensure in different states, the best thing to do first is to decide on a state you’d most like to work in and then do some research on how it works there.
One of the benefits offered by an agency is licensure reimbursements, though it’s usually a portion rather than the whole amount and paid once you’ve started your nursing assignment.
If you’re with a travel nurse recruitment agency, the agency should be able to advise you on the licensure required and how long it’s going to take to get the license and what you need to do. If you can’t wait and you’re desperate to travel straight away, asking your recruiter which states offer the easiest and quickest process to get licensed would be a good idea. There are some states known as ‘walk through’ states that can provide you with your license on the same day if you take the required paperwork into their office.
If you did have a choice to get a temporary license or a permanent one, there are advantages and disadvantages on obtaining one or the other. With temporary licenses there is a limited time period before the license becomes inactive, sometimes as short a period as 3 months. Therefore if you find yourself enjoying your work in that state and would like to extend your assignment or work in a different medical facility within the same state, at least with a permanent license, you have more flexibility.
There are benefits in renewing your license obtained in your home state. One is so that you can increase your tax benefits, but to do this, it means you have to keep a permanent residence in your home state and work from time to time. This is a possibility especially when you come home for an amount of time to see family and friends. However, you may not want to return to your home state and do not want the hassle of keeping a permanent residence, then if that’s the case, you can just keep the home state license inactive. Making the license status inactive is probably a good idea because it doesn’t cost anything to keep it inactive and the process is much easier if you want to re-activate the license than trying to reapply for your nurse licensure.
In the whole, the process of licensure is normally not a big problem that would stop you from traveling as the process is simple in the majority of states. It just helps to think about the licensure requirements when you’re timing your nursing assignments and organizing your various nursing commitments.