What Licenses Do Travel Nurses Need? [Definitive Guide For 2023]

If you’re looking to become a travel nurse, obtaining your licenses might be the last thing on your mind. After all, nobody wants to deal with complicated paperwork and applications.

However, getting licensed is a prerequisite for practicing as a travel nurse, so it’s key that you have some understanding of how it works.

While travel nursing agencies and recruiters should be able to guide you through the process, it’s always smart to review what you’ll need in order to work in a different state.

So, in this post, we’ll explain the basics of travel nursing licensure so you can get through the applications and paperwork and start doing what you love–helping patients and traveling!

What Are Travel Nursing Licenses?

Travel nursing licenses authorize nurses to work in states outside of the state where they received their RN license.

At this point, most states in the US accept the eNLC, which we’ll discuss further on. Not every state makes things so easy though. As you’ll learn in this post, most of the states requiring additional licensure tend to be some of the more popular travel nursing destinations, like California.

However, as healthcare facilities become more strained for resources in every state thanks to high RN turnover and increased numbers of patients, access to nursing licenses seems to be improving all throughout the country. In fact, California has pending legislation to approve the eNLC. Additionally, states like Hawaii offer Walkthrough Licensure, which we’ll explain below.

Some states are in the process of implementing changes to travel nurse licensing, while others have pending legislation.

What Licenses Do Travel Nurses Need?

In order to work as a travel nurse, you’ll need to first obtain your Registered Nursing License. An RN license not only demonstrates to employers that you possess the essential skills necessary to practice as a nurse but also serves as a prerequisite for anyone in the field of nursing, including those seeking high travel nurse salaries.

Additionally, you’ll need to obtain one of the following licenses:

  • eNLC License
  • Walkthrough License
  • State-specific License

Below, we’ll walk you through what each of the licenses are to help you determine which one you should get to become a travel nurse.

What Is The eNLC License?

The eNLC License, or Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact, is a multi-state nursing license allowing you to work in your home state in addition to other states accepting the eNLC. States that recognize the eNLC are called Compact Nursing States.

This nursing license is convenient because it prevents nurses from having to get a separate license each time they work outside their home state. 

For example, a nurse from Alabama can transition to a healthcare facility in Arizona with no lengthy licensing application process. This improves patients’ access to quality care and allows healthcare facilities to fill staffing gaps much quicker.

Which States Accept The eNLC?

The following states accept the eNLC:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas 
  • Colorado 
  • Delaware 
  • Florida 
  • Georgia
  • Guam
  • Idaho 
  • Indiana  
  • Iowa 
  • Kansas  
  • Kentucky 
  • Louisiana
  • Maine 
  • Maryland 
  • Mississippi 
  • Missouri
  • Montana 
  • Nebraska 
  • New Hampshire  
  • New Jersey 
  • New Mexico 
  • North Carolina 
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma 
  • South Carolina 
  • South Dakota 
  • Tennessee 
  • Texas 
  • Utah 
  • Vermont
  • Virginia 
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin  
  • Wyoming 

Some states have approved the eNLC but are awaiting its implementation. They include:

  • Ohio (begins January 1, 2023)
  • Pennsylvania (law passed, awaiting implementation)
  • Virgin Islands (law passed, awaiting implementation)

Finally, some states have pending legislation regarding the eNLC: They are:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts 
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New York
  • Rhode Island 
  • Washington

So, not every state accepts the eNLC yet. Additionally, some states don’t even have pending legislation to utilize the license, including:

  • American Samoa 
  • Connecticut 
  • District of Columbia 
  • Hawaii 
  • Mariana Islands 
  • Nevada 
  • Oregon

Fortunately, however, there are two other types of licenses you can obtain which may allow you to practice in states not accepting the eNLC.

How To Get Your eNLC License

Fortunately, obtaining your eNLC license is actually pretty straightforward!

The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure you meet all the requirements for eNLC licensure

From there, you can upgrade your valid RN license from your home state to a multi-state license by going to your state board of nursing website. Using a search engine is typically the easiest way to find the right page.

For example, Googling “New Jersey eNLC application” brings you to this page, where you can find a link to the online application.

After completing your application, you’ll need to complete a fingerprint and background check. Your application should provide you with more in-depth details about how to go about this.

Finally, it could take a few days to a few weeks to review your application. Once approved, you’ll be eligible to work in any state where the eNLC license is accepted.

What Is A Walkthrough License?

A Walkthrough License is offered by some states, allowing travel nurses to obtain a temporary nursing license while they await permanent licensure in a particular state.

Some states accept both Walkthrough and eNLC licenses. This is because nurses from non-eNLC states still need a pathway to quick licensure.

For example, a nurse from Hawaii won’t have an eNLC license. However, they can still work in Walkthrough states without having to wait months to gain permanent licensure.

Which States Accept Walkthrough Licenses?

As of the end of 2022, only two non-eNLC states accept a Walkthrough License: Hawaii and New York.

All the walkthrough states include:

  • Arizona
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New York
  • South Carolina
  • Vermont

How To Get Your Walkthrough License

To obtain a travel nursing walkthrough license, you’ll basically complete the same steps as you would for the eNLC. 

Instead of searching for eNLC, however, you’ll want to tweak your search. For example, if you plan to practice in Idaho, start by Googling something like “Idaho walkthrough nursing license” or “Idaho temporary nursing license.” 

Be sure to look for a result from the state board of nursing, which typically ends with “.gov” in the URL.

From there, you should be able to find the appropriate online application. Like the eNLC, you’ll probably need to complete a fingerprint and background check.

Once your application is reviewed and approved, you’ll be able to start working in the state.

What Is A State-specific License?

A state-specific license is for nurses hoping to practice in states offering neither the eNLC or Walkthrough License.
Unfortunately, this type of licensure takes the longest to obtain. Unlike Walkthrough licenses, there is no way to gain temporary licensure in states that only accept a state-specific license.

Which States Only Accept State-specific Licenses?

While there is legislation pending to introduce the eNLC in a number of states, some still only accept a state-specific license.

The states currently only accepting state-specific licenses include:

  • Alaska (eNLC legislation pending)
  • California (eNLC legislation pending)
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Illinois (eNLC legislation pending)
  • Massachusetts (eNLC legislation pending)
  • Michigan (eNLC legislation pending)
  • Minnesota (eNLC legislation pending)
  • Nevada
  • Ohio (eNLC implementation goes into effect January 1, 2023)
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania (awaiting eNLC implementation)
  • Rhode Island (eNLC legislation pending)
  • Washington (eNLC legislation pending)

While the number of states only accepting state-specific licenses looks set to decrease thanks to pending legislation and implementation, as of the end of 2022, you’ll still need your state-specific license to practice in the states listed above.

How To Get Your State-Specific License

Obtaining your state-specific license is typically a lengthier and more complicated process than it is for the other two licenses. Every state can have different requirements and steps to complete, so we won’t provide a step-by-step breakdown.

Instead, we recommend working closely with a recruiter or travel nursing agency if you hope to work in a state that doesn’t offer eNLC or Walkthrough Licenses.

Remember, just because the state you want to work in only offers a state-specific license doesn’t mean you can’t work there–it may just require a little more time and effort!

Get Licensed and Start Travel Nursing

Nurse licensing can get complicated, so it’s probably best to work with a recruiter who can guide through the licensing process.

However, knowing how travel nurse licensing works will allow you to know what to expect.

To find travel nursing placement and obtain the appropriate licenses, click here!

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