Nurses are in high demand in Canada. The demand for nursing professionals is only expected to rise in the future. In order to practice as a nurse in Canada, you need to become a registered nurse (RN).

There are two parts to becoming a nurse in Canada. They are:
  • Becoming a Registered Nurse in Canada (RN)
  • Becoming a permanent resident of Canada
We will explore both these areas in two sections.

Section 1: Register in Canada as a Nurse — the Process:
There are several steps to becoming an RN in Canada. They are:

Step 1: Select a Canadian province you want to work in.
This step is a very critical step since provincial requirements for registration varies from province to province and there are different regulatory bodies in each province and territory. This is because healthcare in Canada comes under provincial jurisdiction. If you do not know where to start, refer to the list of nursing regulatory bodies in Canada.

Step 2: Get your credentials assessed by either the:
  • National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS); or
  • Canadian Nurses Association (CNA)
To do this step, you can set up an account with NNAS or CNA. There is a fee involved in this step. After this, you will have to submit your credentials for evaluation. This includes your education and work experience documents. Once the evaluation is complete, NNAS will send you an advisory report. This report is also sent to the nursing regulatory board.

If you wish to do so, you are allowed to apply directly to the regulatory body of your choice, though this will involve an additional fee. You can do this from your NNAS online account.

Please note that it is the regulatory body, not NNAS, which will determine if you are eligible to register. The regulatory body will also say whether you need additional assessment or if you must take additional courses.

Section 2: Immigrate to Canada (PR) as a Nurse:
The following options are available to foreign-educated nurses to immigrate to Canada.

Option 1: Federal Skilled Worker — Express Entry without Canadian Work Experience:
In order to qualify under the Federal Skilled Worker Program, you need to have your education credential assessment and your language test results done. Under this program, a job offer is optional. Once you meet the minimum requirements for the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) Program by scoring 67/100 in the FSW points grid, you can submit your application to the express entry pool. Regular draws are held in the pool and you could receive an invite from the pool — depending on your comprehensive ranking score (CRS) and the draw cut-off.

Option 2: Canadian Experience Class — Express Entry with Canadian Work Experience:
If you gain work experience as a temporary work permit holder in Canada, then you can apply for express entry under the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) category. You end up in the Express Entry pool, once you meet the minimum requirements for the Canadian Experience Class program, and are picked from the pool through regular draws. Being in the Canadian Experience Class pool is significantly better than being in the Federal Skilled Worker pool since draw cut-offs that target Canadian Experience Class from the pool are often lower than cut-offs of draws that include Federal Skilled Workers.

Option 3: Quebec Skilled Worker Program:
Nurses may also be eligible for the Quebec Skilled Worker Program (QSW) if they score at least 50 points on the Quebec selection grid.

The QSW accepts applications from people residing in Quebec all year, but only opens up intake periods for international applicants a couple of times a year, with limited quotas. Recently, changes were also made to the Quebec selection grid that reduced the points that nurses, among other professionals, could claim for their education.

That said, if you are eligible for QSW and able to submit an application, there are some advantages to the program compared to Express Entry:
  • There is no minimum required IELTS score. However, depending on your profile, you may need to have at least a certain score to qualify.
  • You don’t need an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) for your degree.
  • You don’t need settlement funds.

Option 4: Provincial Nominee Programs:
Another option for nurses to immigrate to Canada is using Provincial Nominations. For this, however, sometimes you might be required to have an Express Entry profile.

The Nova Scotia In-Demand Express Entry category of the Nova Scotia Nominee Program (NSNP), for example, is only open to candidates with an Express Entry profile who have experience in specific target occupations. Two of those targeted occupations are "Registered Nurses" and "Licensed Practical Nurses".

Option 5: Study to Immigrate:
Even if you aren’t currently eligible for any of the immigration options above, you may still be able to come to Canada. As an international student, you can build on your nursing degree to help advance your career, while living, studying, and even working in Canada.

Your Canadian education may even help increase your eligibility to immigrate permanently when you graduate. Keep in mind that Canadian immigration programs change all the time, so it’s impossible to guarantee that the eligibility criteria of any of the existing programs will be the same by the time you would graduate. That said, under the current system, a Canadian degree can make a world of difference.