Share this article

How to Become an International Travel Nurse

Gayle Morris, BSN, MSN
Updated February 1, 2023
Reviewed by
Our Integrity Network

NurseJournal.org is committed to delivering content that is objective and actionable. To that end, we have built a network of industry professionals across higher education to review our content and ensure we are providing the most helpful information to our readers.

Drawing on their firsthand industry expertise, our Integrity Network members serve as an additional step in our editing process, helping us confirm our content is accurate and up to date. These contributors:

  • Suggest changes to inaccurate or misleading information.
  • Provide specific, corrective feedback.
  • Identify critical information that writers may have missed.

Integrity Network members typically work full time in their industry profession and review content for NurseJournal.org as a side project. All Integrity Network members are paid members of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.

Explore our full list of Integrity Network members.

International travel nursing offers great pay and adventure. Take these steps to get your first international assignment.
Traveling nurse wearing scrubs and a face mask rides a European commuter train.Credit: sturti / E+ / Getty Images

Great pay and boundless opportunities are just some reasons why nurses choose travel nursing. The job options are a good fit for nurses who love to travel, discover new places, and want to broaden their skill set.

Travel nurses help temporarily fill shortages. In the U.S., assignments may range from 13-26 weeks, but international assignments are often at least one year.

European countries offer some of the highest-paying jobs. Benefits can include a housing stipend, travel costs, and partially covering food and other living expenses.

Travel nursing jobs within the U.S. are simple to arrange. Travel nursing internationally, however, has a few added prerequisites.

Discover how to become an international travel nurse, types of assignments available, and the required certifications.

How Long to Become:
4-6 years

Degree Required:

Job Outlook:
6% growth, 2021-2031
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Is an International Travel Nurse?

There is a global nursing shortage. Countries with shortages need to increase nurse graduates by an average of 8% annually. One out of every eight nurses works in a country where they were not born or trained. This is what international travel nursing looks like.

Travel nursing is available domestically. But you can also choose to travel and work internationally.

Nursing shortages have hit countries across the world and they require medical personnel to fill their needs. This offers travel nurses an opportunity to expand their skills and learn new medical techniques.

Many countries need to fill positions in nursing specialties. Hospitals, doctors’ offices, and outpatient care clinics are just some of the settings in need of international travel nurses.

The most sought-after nurses often have experience in emergency rooms (ERs)/ emergency departments (EDs) as an ER nurse, intensive care, and cardiac care. Nurses with experience as a labor and delivery nurse and in neonatal nurse care are also desirable.

Loading...Learn More
Visit Site
Loading...Learn More
Visit Site
Loading...Learn More
Visit Site

Steps to Becoming an International Travel Nurse

Becoming an international travel nurse is much like working as a domestic travel nurse. However, there may be additional requirements depending on your destination.

A nurse must hold licensure from the state board of nursing, which confers the registered nurse (RN) credential.

Earning this requires passing the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN). Some states have additional requirements.

To start your journey as an international travel nurse, take the following steps:

  1. 1

    Earn a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree.

    International travel nursing demands high-level nursing skills in your specialization. This starts with earning a four-year bachelor of science in nursing degree from an accredited school.

    A bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) improves patient care and prepares you for leadership and management positions.

    Nurses with an associate degree in nursing (ADN) may enroll in an RN-to-BSN degree bridge program to complete their BSN. If you are entering a BSN program with a bachelor’s in another field, consider accelerated nursing programs.

  2. 2

    Pass the NCLEX-RN exam.

    The National Council of State Boards of Nursing offers the NCLEX exam. It is a national exam all U.S states accept. The test demonstrates your clinical competency in nursing and decides if your state will issue you a nursing license.

    To take the exam, you must hold either an ADN or BSN, which can also help you develop a NCLEX study plan. You are tested on care management, pharmacology, and safety and infection control, among other areas. NCLEX practice questions are available through various study sites.

  3. 3

    Gain experience.

    To work and travel domestically, the best travel nursing agencies may want you to have at least one year of experience in your specialty. However, international travel nursing positions may require even more experience or nursing certifications. This depends on the country and the facility you’ll work from.

  4. 4

    Earn proper credentials.

    Domestic travel nursing requires that you have a nursing license in the state where you will be working. For international travel nursing, your destination country may have a longer list of requirements.

    This list can include a valid passport, visa to work in the country, and vaccinations needed before traveling. Some facilities may require special certifications. Others may require a language test to demonstrate proficiency before travel.

  5. 5

    Find employment.

    International travel nurses may work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, or outpatient clinics. While it’s not necessary to work with a travel nursing agency, it can help you look for work, finalize your contract, and move.

    Note the length of your contract as you decide on your location. Domestic travel nurses often work 13-26 weeks. International nurses may be offered one- or two-year contracts.

International Travel Nurse Schooling

As you consider your options as a travel nurse, know the educational and skill requirements you may need. Most organizations prefer a BSN degree.

BSN Degree

To work internationally, you need an undergraduate degree in nursing from a four-year program, such as an in-person or online BSN program. To apply for a graduate-level program, students often must hold a BSN.

  • clipboard-list

    Admission Requirements

    Admission requirements vary among nursing programs, but you need to hold a high school diploma or a GED certificate. Candidates also submit an application with a . Some schools have for the program. In some instances, the school may require an interview.
  • clipboard-list

    Program Curriculum

    You will be expected to complete courses in nursing fundamentals, physiology, mental health, pharmacology, , and ethics. Programs also have required .
  • clipboard-list

    Time to Complete

    You can complete a BSN program in four years if attending full time. If you are starting with an ADN, there are bridge programs you can complete more quickly while you are working.
  • clipboard-list

    Skills Learned

    Expect to learn basic skills, such as how to take vital signs or make a bed with someone in it. Nurses also learn how to insert a catheter, start an intravenous line (IV), and manage wounds. More advanced skills, such as ventilator management, are learned as work in a field that requires that skill.

Choosing a Specialization

Whether choosing to work in a nursing specialization or advancing your career through a graduate program, nursing offers the opportunity to specialize. Nurses graduating from a BSN program can choose to become certified in a specialty, which demonstrates their advanced knowledge.

For example, nurses may choose certification as a rehabilitation nurse, a pain management nurse, or in cardiac care.

Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) can choose to practice as a family nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology nurse practitioner, acute care nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, certified registered nurse anesthetist, and more.

The specialty you choose will help determine your opportunities as an international travel nurse.

International Travel Nurse Credentials

International travel nurses need a nursing license in the U.S. An APRN needs to take the certification exam in their specialty. After these two requirements, you will need a passport, visa, work permit, and any sponsorship for your destination country.

Each country may have its own list of necessary documentation. This can include professional references, birth certificates, immunization records, and proof that you can speak the language.


APRNs need certification in their specialty field. For example, those who want to become a family nurse practitioner (FNP) must pass the FNP certification exam. This is a valid, reliable demonstration of your competency in the field.

An RN may choose to have certifications that demonstrate advanced knowledge in rehabilitation nursing, pain management, or other specialty areas. Professional associations offer certifications that have specific requirements to maintain the credential.


Nursing requires state licensure that confers the credential of RN on the nursing candidate. To get the license, nurses must pass the NCLEX-RN.

Additional requirements depend on the state, including background and fingerprint checks, or school transcripts. Each state board of nursing has requirements to maintain licensure, including continuing education.

Working as an International Travel Nurse

Nursing gives you a unique opportunity to work and travel the world. The severe global nursing shortage has opened up opportunities for nurses who work in operating and emergency rooms, cardiac and neonatal units, and other specialties.

Countries with the highest salaries for travel nurses are Luxembourg, Switzerland, and the United States. However, they also have the highest cost of living. The average salary is $115,020 per year according to ZipRecruiter as of January 2023, or about $2,210 per week.

The simplest way to get into international travel nursing is to sign up with an agency that works with international organizations. They help refine your travel search based on your skills and past work experience.

Consider testing the waters as a travel nurse within the U.S. before exploring long-term contracts overseas.

Another option is working with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD, which has international jobs for nurses. The DoD works with you to ensure you have the necessary documentation to work overseas. You can receive job alerts for their international postings.

Beyond documentation, you need skills. Nurses should have communication, conflict resolution, and team player skills. Without a strong command of the local language, it is impossible to be successful.

The following are some common workplace settings for international travel nurses. Note that your specializations and certifications will help determine the positions available to you.


Organizations seek nurses who have specialty skills in the intensive care unit, emergency room, telemetry, or the operating room. These areas require critical thinking for nurses, initiative, and leadership.

Outpatient Care Clinics

In an outpatient setting, nurses must be proficient at triage, assessment, educating patients, starting IVs, and RN case management.

Doctors’ Offices

In a doctor’s office, a nurse needs mastery of communication, assessment, medication administration, wound management, and minor medical procedures.

Becoming an International Travel Nurse: FAQs

Do travel nurses go internationally?

Travel nurses can choose to travel domestically or internationally. To travel and work overseas, you need a license and certification in your specialty, passport, and work visa. You may also need to take a language test to prove proficiency and provide reference letters. While domestic travel assignments can last up to 26 weeks, international ones can last up to two years.

How much do international travel nurses make?

Travel nurses are well paid to offset the stress of living and working away from home. Travel nurse salaries depend on your nursing specialty and country placement. Your compensation package includes an hourly salary, housing stipend, and travel expenses. It may also cover food and other living expenses.

How do I become an international nurse?

The first step is to earn your BSN from an accredited school. After graduation, you must pass the NCLEX-RN and apply for a license in your state. Most travel agencies want new nurses to have at least one year of bedside experience. Many recommend two years to gain proficiency in a specialty to practice internationally.

Once accepted by an agency, it can take up to one year to gather the necessary documents required by the country if you do not already have them. This can include a passport, work visa, recommendation letters, and testing in the language. Some countries may also require sponsorship.

Where is the best place to work as an international travel nurse?

International travel nursing is an opportunity to travel overseas while working. The best place depends on your goals. For example, Luxembourg is one of the highest-paying countries, but they also have a high cost of living. Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia do not require learning a new language. The Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, and Bolivia can offer a chance to make a real difference in people’s lives.

Learn More About International Travel Nurses

Page last reviewed January 23, 2023