How to immigrate to Canada as a healthcare worker

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: January 7, 2024

Amidst an alarming shortage of healthcare workers across Canada, this article will provide an overview of how to immigrate to this country as a healthcare worker and acquire accreditation to find employment.

In September this year, CTV News released a story about three teens who were unable to find treatment at their local hospital, in Clinton, Ontario, due to an early closure of the facility’s emergency room. Specifically, the story notes that their local emergency department closed at 6 p.m. that night, forcing them to drive to another hospital 20 kilometres further away for medical care.

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As the story continues, it points out that emergency room closures across Canada are expected to continue “because finding people to work there is a key problem.”

Immigrating to Canada as a healthcare worker

Although the above story is just one example, it serves as a potent signal of a growing issue in this country: Canada needs more healthcare workers. Appropriately, the following will provide an overview of some immigration pathways available to foreign nationals looking to work in the healthcare industry across Canada.

Express Entry – Category-Based Draws: First conducted in June 2023, Express Entry category-based draws were introduced as a way for the federal government to target immigration candidates with specific recent work experience and skill proficiencies for permanent residence in Canada. This year, one of the five occupational target categories is healthcare.

Express Entry – Standard: “Standard” Express Entry draws focus on candidates who are eligible for immigration to Canada through one of three programs managed under this application management system – the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) and the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) – and rank candidates based on their Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score.

Note: Standard Express Entry draws are open to all eligible immigration candidates, not just healthcare professionals

Specific to healthcare professionals, foreign nationals who are trained as nurses may be eligible for the FSWP and the CEC.

PNPs across Canada: Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs), which are operated in all but two Canadian provinces and territories (excluding Quebec and Nunavut), are a way for local governments across Canada to select immigration candidates who they believe can best help address local labour market challenges.

Five examples of PNP streams available for healthcare professionals:

  • Ontario’s Human Capital Priorities Stream
  • British Columbia’s Healthcare Professional category is available under its Skills Immigration and Express Entry immigration pathways
  • Saskatchewan’s International Health Worker EOI pool (nurses)
  • Nova Scotia's Labour Market Priorities Stream
  • New Brunswick's Internationally Educated Nurses (IEN) program

Earning accreditation as a foreign healthcare professional in Canada

As a foreign national coming to Canada, getting into this country is only one step towards a career in healthcare. At this time, foreign healthcare professionals, including nurses, must obtain accreditation or licensing to work in their Canadian province or territory of choice.

Note: Since the licensing and accreditation process for healthcare professionals varies by region - because each province has its own institution that licenses internationally educated nurses (IENs) - it is important to note that an IEN who gets accredited in one province may need to go through another licensing process if they relocate to another Canadian province/territory.

What are the general steps involved in the accreditation process?

Again, the specific accreditation process for healthcare workers in each province varies. However, the following outlines the general steps an IEN must take to acquire accreditation to work in Canada.

1. Upon arriving in Canada, reach out to the appropriate regulatory body in the province. The right institution to reach out to will depend on the specific type of nursing license required. Regulatory bodies across Canada for IENs can be found here.

2. In most cases, the next step is completing an assessment through the National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS), which verifies an individual’s credentials against Canadian standards. This assessment also provides successful applicants with an Advisory Form that must be included with their upcoming application to the appropriate provincial regulatory body.

Note: Quebec and Canada’s three territories do not use NNAS. Instead, these four regions have their own assessment methods.

3. Once the assessment is complete and fees are paid, apply to the provincial regulatory body for the province you plan to practice in. This may require the completion of extra provincially required educational programs that an IEN needs to meet licensing requirements in a specific region.

For more: Read on here for more information about the steps different Canadian provinces are taking to speed up the healthcare accreditation process and get internationally educated healthcare professionals to work faster.

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