How to immigrate to Canada as a nurse

Michael Schwartz, Shelby Thevenot
Published: April 25, 2021

The pandemic has exacerbated the need for nurses and other health professionals in Canada. Even before coronavirus swept the globe, Canada had been experiencing a shortage of nurses, and as such there are a number of immigration pathways targeting these healthcare professionals.

Nurses fall into one of two categories in the Canadian government's National Occupation Classification (NOC). Registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses are NOC 3012, skill level A, while licensed practical nurses are NOC 3233, skill level B. These skill levels are important, because they help determine what kinds of immigration programs that nurses can be eligible for.

As a result of the pandemic, Canada received fewer immigrants in 2020 than it had anticipated. But Canada still wants immigrants. In fact, it recently increased its immigration targets to the highest ever— over 1.2 million from now until the end of 2023. One way to help reach this total is by making it easier for individuals already in the country to make their temporary status permanent.

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Limited-time pathways for healthcare workers and students in Canada

On April 14, Canada unveiled six new streams for people currently working in the country. Two of these streams are dedicated to healthcare professionals, such as nurses. One is specifically for French speakers. Nursing student graduates may be able to take advantage of the new pathways for international students.

Canada is accepting up to 20,000 new permanent residents working in healthcare positions in the country, through a temporary program starting May 6. The application window will close on November 5, or when the intake cap is full, whichever comes first. The stream for French speakers is open to accept an unlimited number of permanent residents. Eligible candidates need one year of Canadian work experience in one of 40 eligible healthcare professions, and they need to be working at the time of their application. For their language requirements, they need a CLB or NCLC of at least 4 in order to be eligible.

These pathways for foreign nurses join the several that already exist at both the federal and provincial levels.

Do you live in Canada? Apply for PR under these news pathways!

Express Entry for nurses

Two of Canada’s leading existing federal economic immigration programs are the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and Canadian Experience Class (CEC). To be eligible for these programs, it is important to have skilled work experience.

The FSWP requires an applicant to have at least one year of continuous work experience in an occupation with an NOC skill level of 0, A, or B. This experience can be from anywhere, but must be within the last ten years. An FSWP applicant also must score a CLB 7 in English or NCLC 7 in French on all four language competencies: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. They must additionally score at least 67/100 on the six-factor test that assesses candidates' education level, language skills, and whether they have a job in Canada.

The CEC, meanwhile, requires one year of NOC 0, A, or B experience in Canada, within the last three years. Applicants must prove scores, across all four language competencies: CLB or NCLC 7 for people applying with NOC 0 or A occupations, or CLB/NCLC 5 for people with NOC B occupations. Neither program requires a person to have a job offer, but having one can significantly increase one’s likelihood to receive an ITA.

IRCC operates the FSWP and CEC using a tool called Express Entry, which is designed to process 80 per cent of completed applications in six months or less. EE uses what it calls the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) to score and rank different applications. The CRS assigns a score to candidates based on a variety of factors, similar to those used in the six-factor test for the FSWP. Periodically, IRCC conducts draws in the Express Entry pool, selecting the highest scoring EE profiles and sends them ITAs.

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PNPs for nurses

There are also several Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) for which nurses may qualify. Sometimes, there is a stream dedicated specifically for nurses only. Other pathways target several health professions, or they are open to skilled workers in general. Nurses fall into two categories that makes them prime candidates for economic-class immigration. Firstly, they are in high demand, and secondly they are working in a skilled occupation. New Brunswick Internationally Educated Nurses (IEN), British Columbia’s Healthcare Professional (Skills Immigration and Express Entry pathways) as well as Quebec's Regular Skilled Worker Program and the Quebec Experience Program are all avenues which nurses can pursue.

Multiple provinces have more than one program that welcomes nurses. Sometimes the federal and provincial programs interact. For example, a province may align some of its own streams with Express Entry. Streams to which this linkage happens are known as ‘enhanced’. If a person receives a nomination from an enhanced program, that person gains 600 points on their CRS score, effectively ensuring they will receive an ITA.

Find Out if You’re Eligible for Canadian Immigration

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