If you want to work abroad as a nurse, there are few better places to go than Canada. Every year, hundreds of thousands of immigrants move here to seek out a new life. Canada offers high wages, a friendly work environment, and considerate working hours. The national language is English, too, so if you can understand this article, it’s likely you won’t have any problem assimilating. Of course, regions, where French is spoken, are exceptions, but more on this later.

Canada is one of the most immigrant-friendly countries in the world. This is doubly true for the nursing industry as there is a shortage of Canadian citizens who are willing to work in the industry. Nursing degrees from all over the world are generally accepted, and solutions are provided to help those whose qualifications aren’t sufficient.

It’s important to remember that different provinces have slightly different requirements for foreigners to become registered nurses. This article is meant to provide a general guide for the country as a whole. In this article, we will be looking at the steps to becoming a nurse in Canada!

Steps to Become a Nurse in Canada

1. Study Nursing

Becoming a registered nurse in Canada requires a degree in the field. The exact rules vary by state. Some provinces, like British Columbia and Nova Scotia, assess each nursing applicant on an individual basis. Some, like Alberta and New Brunswick, require applicants from certain countries to take a Substantially Equivalent Competency (SEC) Assessment to make sure that their knowledge is up to Canadian standards. The SEC tests both theoretical knowledge and practical skills.

In some cases, foreigners can enroll in integration programs. The first step to start your journey on becoming a nurse in Canada is to study nursing program. These are aimed at helping those who have been educated outside Canada learn to work in the Canadian health system. Integration programs are highly personalized and involve plenty of practical learning. Many of them are sponsored by the government, which keeps fees at a minimum.

Of course, the easiest way for foreigners to become nurses in Canada is to study there. A bachelor’s degree in nursing here generally takes four years to complete. In most states, this is the minimum educational requirement for becoming a registered nurse, although Quebec accepts three-year certificate programs. Universities to consider include the University of Toronto, the University of Alberta, and the University of British Columbia. The state in which you plan to work should be an important factor in where you choose to study.

2. Demonstrate Proficiency in English and/or French

The language of day-to-day life in Canada is highly dependent on the state you live in. Places like Alberta and British Columbia use primarily English, while Quebec uses French. There are provinces for which you’ll need to know both languages, such as New Brunswick and Manitoba. Another important process of becoming a nurse in Canada is to prove that you are proficient in English and/or French.

While the IELTS is also accepted, many nursing applicants in the country take the Canadian English Benchmark Assessment for Nurses, or CELBAN. This test primarily tests applicants’ use of English in situations nurses would find themselves in. If you’re not a native English speaker and received a nursing education, this nurse may be easier for you. The minimum scores are 7 for speaking, 7.5 for listening, 6.5 for reading, and 7 writing. You’ll also need to get an overall of at least 7. At the moment, the CELBAN and the IELTS are the only acceptable tests.

In places like Quebec, you’ll need to demonstrate proficiency in French to become a registered nurse. The only accepted test in most states is the Test d’Evaluation de Français, or TEF. Other French tests like the DELF can’t be used because they don’t offer versions in Canadian French, which is quite different from the one spoken in France.

3. Apply to be a Registered Nurse in the State of Your Choice

If you received your education abroad, the next step to becoming a registered nurse is to have your credentials assessed. First, you’ll need to have your degree converted to the Canadian system by the World Education Service (WES). Next, the National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS) will determine whether your degree qualifies you to work in Canada.

Some documents you’ll need are a personal ID, your proof of English language proficiency, and a form filled out by your employer to verify your work experience. We recommend that you check the NNAS’s website for a full list of required documents.

After your application has been approved by the NNAS, you’ll need to apply to the nursing board in the province where you wish to work. Examples of these are the College of Nurses in Ontario, the British Columbia College of Nursing Professionals, and the College & Association of Registered Nurses in Alberta.

These boards often have their own requirements in addition to those set out by the NNAS, so it’s best to check out the website of the one you intend to apply to. Many state boards, for example, require applicants to take the NCLEX, a standardized nursing exam.

4. Get Work Authorization

Once you’re recognized as a registered nurse by one of the state boards, you’ll need to secure a visa to work in Canada. The final step to being an official nurse in Canada is to get work authorization. There are two main ways to get a work visa: the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).

The FSWP works on a point system and takes into account factors like education, language ability, and previous work experience. The PNP pathway is only available in states with a significant demand for nurses. This list includes Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario. Both these options lead to permanent residency.

If you want to work in Quebec, your best bet is to apply through the Quebec Skilled Worker program. This process can take up to three years and has its own set of requirements, including proficiency in French.


We hope that this article on Steps to Become a Nurse in Canada was helpful. Make sure to also check out the Available Programs in Canada!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hyun is the founder at Global Scholarships. He has received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College as well as $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for his undergraduate degree and has been offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. Read more about his scholarship journey here.

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