Aim To identify the reasons why nurses continue migrating across international borders. Background International nurse recruitment and migration have been increasing in the last decade and recent trends show an increase in the movement of nurses between developing and developed countries, resulting in a worldwide shortage of nurses. Methods A manual and electronic database literature search was conducted from January 2004 to May 2010. Qualitative content analysis was completed for the final 17 articles that satisfied the inclusion criteria. Results Motivators to nurse migration were linked to financial, professional, political, social and personal factors. Although economic factors were the most commonly reported, they were not the only reason for migration. This was especially evident among nurses migrating between developed countries. Conclusion Nurses migrate for a wide variety of reasons as they respond to push and pull factors. Implications for nursing management It is important for nurse managers in the source countries to advocate incentives to retain nurses. In the recipient countries the number of international nurses continues to increase implying the need for more innovative ways to mentor and orientate these nurses.