HomeWork in CanadaCan Internationally Educated Nurses (IEN) Work in Canada?

Can Internationally Educated Nurses (IEN) Work in Canada?

The government of Canada has made it possible for Internationally Educated Nurses to work in Canada. This also goes a long way in enhancing your path to getting a Canadian permanent resident.

Seeing the massive effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, there’s been a shortage of nurses and other health experts in Canada, thus Canada is in constant search of immigrants to help improve their health industry.


An average nurse earns an average of $70,405 yearly in Canada, so it’s definitely a profession worth diving into in Canada.

Who are Internationally Educated Nurses?

Internationally Educated Nurses (IEN) are nurses who got their education in nursing outside of Canada.

A major population of Internationally Educated Nurses in Canada are immigrants while the others come in as travel nurses or temporary foreign nurses.

Canada as a country is divided into 3 territories and 10 provinces, and all territories and provinces with exception of Quebec require all Internationally Educated Nurses to go through the National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS) to certify their eligibility as an IEN and finally get their nursing license in Canada.

All territories and provinces (with exception of Quebec) also require Internationally Educated Nurses to write an NCLEX test if their foreign nursing license doesn’t match the NNAS requirements.

The two most popular Canada’s economic immigration programs for foreign nurses include:

  • Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP)
  • Canadian Experience Class (CEC)

The above programs don’t require you to already have a job offer to join, rather they go a really long way in helping you to get your Canadian permanent residence.

How to Become a Registered Nurse in Canada?

You’ll only be qualified to work as an IEN in Canada once successfully registered and certified for work in Canada.

In the rest of this guide, we’ll describe how Internationally Educated Nurses can qualify to work as registered nurses in Canada:

  1. Create an online account with NNAS
  2. Open a file with a nursing regulatory body of your choosing
  3. Verify all necessary requirements for your nursing licensing
  4. Register with your choiced regulatory body

These steps can be broken down thus:

#1: Create an Online Account with NNAS

This would cost you roughly $650 with relative fees attached for additional services. Fees can be paid either via e-transfer, credit card, money order sent from Canada’s Post, or with a certified cheque.

Opening an online account with NNAS involves:

  • Submitting your proof of identity
  • Your nursing school filling up the NNAS Nursing Education Form
  • Sending of the NNAS Registration Form for filling by the nursing body which you are currently registered with and licensed
  • Filling of Nursing Practice or Employment NNAS form by institutions where you’ve worked as a nurse before application
  • Sendingof language test results

All forms should be sent directly by mail to NNAS by you and the institutions which you sent them out to fill up. The mails should be properly placed in envelopes, including the logo and address of the institutions to confirm their authenticity.

Though there’s an option to skip the language testing step on the NNAS dashboard and a few provincial regulatory bodies in Canada will allow you to submit your language testing results, later on; it’s always good to complete that step if your results are already available.

Assessment of Internationally Educated Nurses by NNAS is done based on the various types of nurses. You can also decide to be assessed as an RN, RPN, or LPN.

#2: Open a File with a Nursing Regulatory Body of Your Choosing

Once your file has been completely assessed by NNAS, it is then forwarded as an Advisory Report to the regulatory body which you stated on starting the application.

Below is a list of nursing regulatory bodies which you can choose from for your application:

Canada ProvinceRegulatory Body
AlbertaCollege and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (CARNA)
British ColumbiaBritish Columbia College of Nursing Professionals (BCCNP)
ManitobaCollege of Registered Nurses of Manitoba (CRNM)
New BrunswickNurses Association of New Brunswick (NANB)
Nova ScotiaNova Scotia College of Nursing (NSCN)
Newfoundland and LabradorAssociation of Registered Nurses of Newfoundland and Labrador (ARNNL)
OntarioCollege of Nurses of Ontario (CNO)
Prince Edward IslandCollege of Registered Nurses of Prince Edward Island (CRNPEI)
QuebecOrdre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec (OIIQ)
SaskatchewanSaskatchewan Registered Nurses Association (SRNA)

And for nursing regulatory bodies in each Canadian territory:

Canada TerritoryRegulatory Body
Nunavut and NorthwestRegistered Nurses of The Northwest Territories and Nunavut (RNANT/NU)
YukonYukon Registered Nurses Association (YRNA)

Note that nursing regulatory bodies may still conduct a reassessment of your submitted credentials, and once this is done, you will receive the necessary instructions and requirements for the next step.

#3: Verify all Necessary Requirements for Your Nursing Licensing

The 3-possible outcomes you will get in your NNAS Advisory Report:

  1. Comparable
  2. Somwhat Comparable
  3. Not Comparable

These can be broken down thus:

Comparable & Somewhat ComparableNot Comparable
Both outcomes are quite similar. They simply imply that your experience as an IEN and educational qualifications correspond to Canadian standardsThis simply implies that your nursing qualifications and educational qualifications do not correspond with Canadian standards.

If this’s your case, you’d be required to take the OSCE (Observed/Objective Structured Clinical Examination) or the NCLEX as described earlier.

#4: Register with Your Choiced Canadian Nursing Regulatory Body

By successfully passing your licensure step, you can then proceed to register for your Internationally Educated Nurses license.

At this stage, you’d also be required to provide proof of your legal status.


Internationally Educated Nurses can as well apply for a temporary work permit and residency quite easily in Canada. Working in Canada as a registered nurse temporarily makes it even easier to get approved for permanent residency by exploring programs such as the Canadian Experience Class and Provincial Nominee Programs.

Now I’d Love to Hear from You:

  • What do you think are the major issues faced by Internationally Educated Nurses looking to work in Canada?

Let me know by leaving a comment below!

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