The emergence of increasingly transnational geographies of policies on governance presents many ethical challenges. This is particularly so in the context of the circulation, regulation and distribution of human resources for health (HRH) in low-resource settings. While the ethics literature has focused primarily on the implications of foreign assistance of various kinds, there has arguably been more limited attention on the ethical implications of policy transfer, which (as Russell Prince observes) links this process with the extension of the hegemonic ‘regimes of truth’ that define policy norms. Drawing on ongoing qualitative research in Timor-Leste, we first provide an empirical account of the HRH landscape in Timor-Leste with the aim of demonstrating how various competing and potentially incompatible ethical goals and governance features cohere as a matter of systemic arrangements. This phenomenon reinforces our proposition that the construct of an emerging health system like that of Timor-Leste’s is ‘more-than-national’. We then examine the ethical and regulatory implications of such an assemblage on quality of care, as well as the ultimate goal of achieving universal health coverage. We conclude with some reflections on how qualitative research on HRH, with focus on geographies of health, could be developed to better support normative deliberation and evaluation.