Becoming a nurse in Canada as an international student involves several steps, from education to licensure, and eventually employment. Here’s a detailed guide on how to navigate this path:

1. Understand the Canadian Nursing Landscape

Firstly, familiarize yourself with the Canadian healthcare system and the nursing profession in Canada. Nursing roles are generally divided into Registered Nurses (RNs), Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), and Nurse Practitioners (NPs). Each has different responsibilities and requirements.

2. Educational Requirements

  • Choose the Right Program: Look for nursing programs that are approved by the Canadian nursing regulatory body of the province or territory you wish to work in. Programs vary from diplomas for LPNs to bachelor’s degrees for RNs and master’s degrees for NPs.
  • Apply to a Nursing School: As an international student, you’ll need to apply for admission to a Canadian nursing school. Requirements can include academic transcripts, proof of English or French language proficiency (IELTS, TOEFL, or CELPIP), letters of recommendation, and personal statements.
  • Student Visa: Once accepted, you’ll need to apply for a Canadian study permit, providing proof of acceptance, proof of identity, proof of financial support, and a letter of explanation.

3. Licensure

After completing your nursing education, you must obtain a license to practice in Canada:

  • National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN): For RNs, passing the NCLEX-RN is required. Some provinces might have additional exams for LPNs or NPs.
  • Register with a Provincial Regulatory Body: Each province and territory has its own regulatory body for nurses. You must register with the regulatory body in the province or territory where you plan to work.

4. Canadian Experience

Gaining Canadian nursing experience can be crucial. Consider opportunities like co-op programs, internships, or volunteering to build your resume and network within the Canadian healthcare system.

5. Immigration Options

As an international student, there are several pathways to stay in Canada post-graduation:

  • Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP): Allows students who have graduated from eligible Canadian designated learning institutions to obtain an open work permit to gain valuable Canadian work experience.
  • Express Entry: Skilled work experience as a nurse can make you eligible for immigration through the Canadian Experience Class within Express Entry.
  • Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP): Provinces may nominate candidates for immigration based on local labor market needs. Nurses are often in demand.

6. Permanent Residency and Citizenship

With work experience and/or a job offer, you can apply for permanent residency through programs like Express Entry or PNP. Eventually, you may qualify for Canadian citizenship.

7. Continuous Professional Development

Nursing in Canada requires continuous learning. Stay updated with the latest practices and regulations by engaging in professional development activities and joining nursing associations.

Tips for Success

  • Research Thoroughly: Each province or territory may have different requirements and processes for international nurses.
  • Plan Financially: Ensure you have sufficient funds for tuition, living expenses, and the immigration process.
  • Seek Support: Utilize resources like the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) and provincial nursing colleges and associations for guidance and support.

By understanding and navigating these steps carefully, international students can successfully become nurses in Canada, contributing to the country’s healthcare system.


The salary of nurses in Canada varies significantly depending on their designation (Registered Nurse, Licensed Practical Nurse, Nurse Practitioner), experience, province or territory of employment, and the specific healthcare setting they work in. Here’s a general overview of nursing salaries in Canada, keeping in mind that these figures can fluctuate based on the factors mentioned:

Registered Nurses (RNs)

  • Average Salary: For RNs, the average salary can range from CAD $65,000 to over CAD $90,000 per year. More experienced RNs or those in specialized fields can earn at the higher end of this range or even more.
  • Entry-Level: New graduates starting as RNs can expect salaries in the lower end of the range, around CAD $65,000 to CAD $70,000 annually.
  • Top Earners: With advanced experience, specializations, or management positions, RNs can earn upwards of CAD $90,000 annually.

Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs)

  • Average Salary: LPNs typically earn between CAD $50,000 and CAD $65,000 per year. The range depends largely on experience and the work setting.
  • Entry-Level: New LPNs can expect to start towards the lower end of this salary range.
  • Top Earners: Experienced LPNs, especially those in supervisory roles or with specialized skills, can earn towards the higher end of the range.

Nurse Practitioners (NPs)

  • Average Salary: NPs have advanced degrees and can diagnose conditions, prescribe medications, and perform other duties beyond the scope of RNs, earning between CAD $90,000 and CAD $120,000 or more annually.
  • Entry-Level: New NPs might start on the lower end of this range but quickly advance as they gain experience.
  • Top Earners: NPs in senior positions or with specialized practices can earn significantly more, sometimes exceeding CAD $120,000 annually.

Factors Affecting Salary

  • Province/Territory: Salaries can vary widely by location due to differences in demand, cost of living, and government healthcare funding. For example, nurses in more remote or northern regions might earn more to compensate for the higher cost of living and the challenges of working in these areas.
  • Healthcare Setting: Nurses working in hospitals generally earn more than those in long-term care facilities or community health settings.
  • Overtime and Shift Premiums: Many nurses have the opportunity to increase their earnings through overtime, night shifts, and working on holidays, which often pay at premium rates.

Additional Considerations

  • Benefits: Besides their salary, nurses often receive comprehensive benefits packages, including health insurance, dental and vision care, life insurance, and pension plans, which can significantly add to the overall compensation.
  • Union Representation: In many cases, nurses are part of a union, which negotiates wages, benefits, and working conditions on their behalf, leading to variations in compensation across different regions and employers.

When considering a nursing career in Canada, it’s important to research specific salary information related to the province or territory and the type of institution you’re interested in working for, as these factors will greatly influence your potential earnings.

How to Come to Canada as a Nurse?

Immigrating to Canada as a nurse involves a multi-step process, tailored to ensure that candidates meet the professional and legal requirements for nursing in Canada. The immigration pathways are designed to attract skilled nurses who can contribute to the Canadian healthcare system. Here’s a comprehensive guide to navigate this journey:

1. Credential Assessment

  • National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS): Start by applying to the NNAS if you’re an internationally educated nurse (IEN). The NNAS evaluates your nursing education and experience against Canadian standards. This assessment is the first step for RNs, LPNs, or RPNs (Registered Psychiatric Nurses) planning to work in Canada, except for Quebec.

2. Choose an Immigration Pathway

Several immigration programs can facilitate your move to Canada as a nurse:

  • Express Entry: Canada’s main immigration pathway for skilled workers. Nurses can apply under the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), Canadian Experience Class (CEC), or Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP). Your Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score, based on factors like age, education, work experience, and language proficiency, will determine your eligibility.
  • Provincial Nominee Program (PNP): Provinces and territories nominate candidates based on their specific labor market needs. Nurses are in high demand in many provinces, making PNP a viable option.
  • Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot: A community-driven program designed to bring skilled workers to rural and northern communities.
  • Atlantic Immigration Pilot: Aimed at attracting skilled workers to Canada’s Atlantic provinces: New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.

3. Language Proficiency

  • Demonstrate proficiency in English or French through standardized tests like the IELTS, CELPIP (for English), or TEF, TCF Canada (for French). Language proficiency is crucial for both the immigration process and for obtaining a nursing license in Canada.

4. Provincial Licensing

  • After passing the NNAS assessment, apply to the nursing regulatory body in the province or territory where you wish to work. Each has its own requirements and may require you to pass additional exams, such as the NCLEX-RN for RNs or the Canadian Practical Nurse Registration Examination (CPNRE) for LPNs.
  • You may also need to complete a Bridging Program or additional coursework to meet provincial standards.

5. Apply for Permanent Residency

  • With your nursing credentials recognized and a job offer in hand (optional for some immigration programs), you can apply for permanent residency through your chosen immigration pathway.
  • Ensure you meet all other requirements of your immigration pathway, such as work experience, education, and settlement funds.

6. Prepare for Arrival

  • Once you receive your permanent residency, prepare for your move to Canada. This includes finding accommodation, understanding the healthcare system, and familiarizing yourself with the community where you’ll live and work.

7. Continuous Professional Development

  • After arriving in Canada and starting your nursing career, engage in continuous learning and professional development to maintain your license and stay updated with Canadian healthcare practices.

Tips for Success

  • Stay Informed: Immigration policies and procedures can change. Regularly check updates from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and provincial nursing regulatory bodies.
  • Professional Support: Consider consulting with an immigration lawyer or a registered immigration consultant for personalized advice and to ensure your application meets all requirements.
  • Networking: Connect with professional nursing associations in Canada and other IENs for support and guidance.

Becoming a nurse in Canada as an immigrant requires careful planning and dedication. By understanding and systematically following these steps, you can navigate the process of contributing your skills to the Canadian healthcare system.

Pax Law can help you!

Our immigration lawyers and consultants are willing, ready, and able to assist you. Please visit our appointment booking page to make an appointment with one of our lawyers or consultants; alternatively, you can call our offices at +1-604-767-9529.

Categories: Immigration


Eleini · 28/06/2024 at 11:38 am

I’m an LPN and I have 3 years experience in surgery and L&D nursing and I want to work and study there to become an RN, how can I move to Canada with my family please?

Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Call Us Now