Canada is facing an increasing shortage of nurses and is actively recruiting internationally educated nurses (IENs) to help fill this gap. As of 2023, there are over 134,500 vacant positions in Canada’s healthcare sector with the number expected to rise in the coming years.
This presents a major opportunity for IENs around the world looking to immigrate to Canada and establish their nursing careers. The process of getting registered as a nurse in Canada for IENs has historically been complex and time-consuming.
However, in recent years major efforts have been made by provincial nursing regulatory bodies across Canada to simplify and expedite this process.
2024 will see even more improvements making it easier than ever for IENs to get their credentials recognized and find nursing jobs in Canada.
To be eligible to work as a registered nurse in Canada, IEN candidates must:
- Have completed post-secondary nursing education and been licensed outside of Canada
- Demonstrate English or French language proficiency
- Get their international nursing credentials assessed
- Pass the NCLEX-RN licensing exam (in most provinces)
- Meet additional requirements depending on province
Nursing Education & Licensing
IENs must have completed a nursing diploma or degree program comparable to Canadian standards. Their international nursing license will also need to be verified.
A key part of the registration process involves getting your international nursing credentials assessed by an authorized credential evaluation agency.
This involves submitting proof of your nursing education, training and any licenses/registrations you hold to determine if they are equivalent to Canadian standards.
Some major agencies that provide this service include World Education Services (WES), International Credential Assessment Service of Canada (ICAS), Comparative Education Service (CES), International Qualifications Assessment Service (IQAS), and International Credential Evaluation Service (ICES).
Most provinces require IENs to prove English or French language proficiency at benchmark levels aligned with professional nursing requirements.
Once their credentials are verified, IENs must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to demonstrate they have the necessary knowledge and critical thinking abilities expected of a registered nurse in Canada.
The NCLEX-RN is administered by provincial nursing regulatory bodies. IENs will need to register and schedule the computer-based test after their application has been approved.
Individual Province Requirements
In addition to the above, certain provinces may impose additional requirements such as proof of recent nursing practice experience or undergoing a supervised practice assessment. IEN candidates should thoroughly research the specific registration process for their intended province of practice.
Streamlined Registration Process Updates for 2024
Many positive changes are happening across Canada to reduce barriers and simplify the registration process for IENs:
Faster Credential Verification
- Credential assessment times have been shortened from upwards of 6 months down to 5 business days through the new Expedited Service.
- This service is currently available for IENs looking to get licensed in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island.
- Starting in 2023, Alberta will be the first province to implement a new streamlined registration process where IENs can undergo a one-stop assessment for their education, language and competency.
- The benefit is IENs only need to go through one assessment process instead of separate verifications.
- Many provinces are introducing special funds and scholarships to sponsor IENs through the registration and integration process:British Columbia – IEN Integration and Registration Program
- Ontario – $342 million over 5 years to hire and integrate IENs
- Nova Scotia – Fee waivers and dedicated IEN practice consultants.
- Bridging programs are being expanded to help IENs fill knowledge gaps and meet additional clinical hour requirements in an accelerated manner.
- Provinces are funding integration coordinators and dedicated staff focused exclusively on assisting IENs transition to practice.
Step-by-Step Process for IENs Seeking Registration in 2024
While each province has its own registration process, the general steps IENs can expect to follow are:
- Research – Determine which province you want to work in and review all requirements
- Assessment – Get your nursing credentials evaluated by an authorized agency
- Language – Take an approved English/French proficiency exam if required
- Application – Submit registration application to provincial regulatory body
- Licensing Exam – Register for and pass NCLEX-RN
- Integration – Complete any bridge training or supervised practice period
- Registration – Once approved, can officially practice as an RN!
Focusing application efforts on provinces offering the most streamlined and supportive registration processes can help capable IENs get licensed to practice more quickly. The key is for IENs to start researching early and be prepared to submit all necessary documentation.
This will allow you to get through the registration process efficiently and be work-ready to fill much-needed nursing positions opening up across Canada.
Job Opportunities for IENs in Canada 2024
The job outlook for nurses in Canada continues to be very strong. Here are some key highlights:
- Over 200,000 job openings for nurses expected between 2022-2031 (Government of Canada)
- Provinces urgently recruiting international nurses to meet growing healthcare demands Ontario plans to hire 13,000 nurses over 5 years (Universal Adviser)
- BC projecting over 26,000 openings by 2031 (Immigration.ca)
- High retirement rates contributing to demand – over a third of openings from replacing retiring nurses (Immigration.ca)
- Competitive nursing salaries – registered nurses earn an average of $66,000 to $95,000 per year (Y-Axis)
- Strong career advancement and specialty opportunities
In particular, Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) are an in-demand category where over 1,500 additional candidates will be needed in the coming years. (Immigration.ca) For IENs who obtain their nursing license in Canada, there is an abundance of job openings across acute care, long-term care, community and rural health settings.
Canada’s simplified and accelerated registration process combined with extensive nursing job prospects make 2024 an ideal time for IENs to establish their careers.
Focus application efforts on provinces offering dedicated integration support, get credential verification done early, and research job vacancies aligned with your specialty interests.