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Canadian Immigration Options for Nurses

Published on: March 21st, 2017
Last updated: March 9th, 2022

Nurses are in high demand across Canada; for this reason, there are many Canadian immigration options for nurses to choose from. As a nurse, you may be qualified to come to Canada as a skilled worker though one of the many economic immigration programs at both the federal and provincial level.

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There are four main ways that you can come to Canada as a nurse:

  1. Express Entry
  2. Quebec Immigration
  3. Provincial Nominee Programs
  4. Study in Canada

Express Entry

The occupational code for nurses is 3012, which falls under skill type A. This means nurses can qualify for Express Entry under the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSW) or Canadian Experience Class (CEC) if they meet the program requirements. To apply under the FSW program, candidates must score at least 67 out of 100 possible points based on factors like their education, age, work experience, and language proficiency.

Candidates who meet the minimum pass mark can submit a profile to the Express Entry pool. Once they’re in the pool, they receive a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score out of 1,200. Periodically, the highest-ranking candidates in the Express Entry pool are issued Invitations to Apply (ITAs) for permanent residence.

One of the greatest advantages to the Express Entry system is that there are no fees to submit your profile to the pool. You will only need to pay government processing fees and the Right of Permanent Residence Fee if you receive an ITA. If you are invited to apply for permanent residence, your application can be processed as soon as six months.

The minimum IELTS score requirement for nurses in Express Entry depends on the individual’s complete profile. You need to score at least 6.0 in each of the four language abilities to be eligible for Express Entry, but you may need a different score to meet the 67-point pass mark. The two cases below show two different nurse profiles.

Case #1: Priya

Priya has a Master’s in nursing from India, which her Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) indicates is equivalent to a Master’s degree in Canada. She’s 37 years old and has five years of work experience. When she took her IELTS last year, she scored a 7.0 in each language ability. See the table below for Priya’s FSW Points Breakdown:

EducationMaster's degree23
Language Profciency7.0/7.0/7.0/7.022
Work Experience5 years13
Arranged EmploymentNone0
Adaptability FactorsNone0
It appears that Priya is eligible to submit a profile to Express Entry, since she has passed the minimum 67/100 pass score. However, if Priya had only scored a 6.0 in each language ability, she would not qualify. That goes to show that meeting the minimum required IELTS score doesn’t always mean you will be eligible. The IELTS score that you need depends on your complete profile.

Case #2: Jayson

Jayson is a nurse from the Philippines. He has a Bachelor’s degree in nursing from the Philippines, which his Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) indicates is equivalent to a two year post-secondary degree in Canada. He is 28 years old, has six years of work experience, and scored 6.0 in each language ability on his IELTS. Jayson’s FSW Points Breakdown:

EducationPost-secondary degree - 2 years19
Language Profciency6.0/6.0/6.0/6.016
Work Experience6 years15
Arranged EmploymentNone0
Adaptability FactorsNone0
Unfortunately, Jayson does not qualify for Express Entry under FSW. There are a couple of things that he can do to improve his score though:

  1. If Jayson has a spouse or partner, they could take a language test. If they score at least CLB 4, Jayson can claim 5 additional points, making him eligible for Express Entry.
  2. Jayson can retake his IELTS. If he can improve his score so that he can claim at least 21 points for his language proficiency, he’ll qualify for Express Entry.
  3. He can try to find a job in Canada. If he has a valid offer job offer waiting for him in Canada, he can claim 10 points under the “Arranged Employment” factor.

Quebec Immigration

Nurses may also be eligible for the Regular Skilled Worker Program (QSW) if they score at least 50 points on the Quebec selection grid.

Eligible candidates may submit a profile to Quebec’s Arrima portal, which is ranked on another points system. The government of Quebec holds regular Arrima draws, where they invite candidates to apply for permanent selection. Nurses are often targeted in Quebec’s Arrima draws.

If you are eligible for QSW and able to submit an application, there are some advantages to the program compared to Express Entry:

  1. You don’t need an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) for your degree
  2. You don’t need to show minimum settlement funds

Provincial Nominee Programs

Another possible immigration option for nurses to immigrate to Canada is through a Provincial Nominee Program(PNP). PNPs are immigration programs run through a partnership between provincial governments and the federal government. Each province in Canada operates its own PNP with multiple streams, but every PNP leads to the same end result: Canadian permanent residence.

Some PNPs are only open to candidates who are already in the federal Express Entry pool. Receiving a nomination from one of these PNPs grants you an additional 600 CRS points, virtually guaranteeing you will receive an ITA.

Many PNPs require some kind of a connection to the province operating it, like family residing there or having past experience studying or working in the province. Other PNPs are designed to address skills gaps in the province by accepting skilled workers with experience in occupations that are in-demand in the province.

The Labour Market Priorities stream of the Nova Scotia Nominee Program (NSNP), for example, is only open to candidates with an Express Entry profile who have experience in specific target occupations. The challenge with this stream is that you cannot apply without first receiving an invitation from the province. However, on multiple occasions, this stream has invited nurses to apply for nomination. Another stream that operates this way is Ontario’s Human Capital Priorities Stream, which also often invites nurses to apply for nomination.

Study in Canada

Even if you aren’t currently eligible for any of the immigration options above, you may still be able to come to Canada. As an international student, you can build on your nursing degree to help advance your career, while living, studying, and even working in Canada.

Your Canadian education may even help increase your eligibility to immigrate permanently when you graduate. Keep in mind that Canadian immigration programs change all the time, so it’s impossible to guarantee that the eligibility criteria of any of the existing programs will be the same by the time you would graduate. That said, under the current system, a Canadian degree can make a world of difference.

For example, let’s look at Case #2: Jayson. If Jayson is unable to improve his FSW score, he could benefit from coming to Canada to study first. The second degree would let him claim additional points for his education, and his language proficiency would likely improve from living and studying in Canada. He would also be able to claim 5 additional points under “Adaptability Factors” for his past study in Canada. Since he is already only 5 points below the minimum passing score, he would qualify for Express Entry after graduating.

There are many options to choose from to immigrate to Canada as a nurse. Finding out which ones you qualify for can be overwhelming. If you’re interested in learning more about your options to immigrate to Canada, completing our free online assessment can help you take the guesswork out of your immigration process.

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