The pandemic has exacerbated the need for nurses in Canada. One way to fill industry vacancies is to offer pathways to permanent residency for foreign nurses.
Canada had a nursing shortage even before the pandemic. Since COVID-19 swept the world in March 2020, federal and provincial governments have added programs to encourage more nurses to join the workforce.
Ontario, for example, plans to invest $342 million over the next five years to hire more than 13,000 health care workers in the province. BC has promised up to $16,000 to approximately 1,500 internationally educated nurses to cover application fees, English language tests, and educational upgrades. Quebec is also investing $65 million to recruit and train nearly 1,000 nurses from French-speaking countries.
With all these incentives for nurses, you may be wondering how you can move your career to Canada. Or if you are already in Canada, you may want to know what immigration programs are available to you.
Before we list some of the major migration paths for nurses, it is good to keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list. Canada has over 100 economic immigration programs alone. Because nursing is often considered “skilled work,” nurses may be qualified for almost any program that includes “skilled work” as a requirement.
NOC code and skill level are important for eligibility
Nursing falls into one of two categories in the Canadian government’s National Occupation Classification (NOC). Registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses fall under skill level A NOC and the code is NOC 3012. Licensed practical nurses, NOC 3233, fall under skill level B.
These codes and skill levels are important in determining which immigration programs you are eligible for, what other criteria you must meet for a particular program, and whether you are invited to apply for a specific provincial immigration withdrawal. Keep this in mind as you learn more about Canadian immigration programs for nurses.
Express Entry Programs for Nurses
Nurses may be eligible for the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) and the Canadian Experience Class (CEC). These two federal immigration programs are administered by the Express Entry system.
Express Entry is an online system that manages immigration applications for the federal government. Canadian immigrants who hope to submit their profiles submit to the system and receive a score based on the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS).
Express Entry candidates earn points based on skilled work experience, age, education, and formal language ability, among other factors. Candidates with the highest scores are invited to apply for permanent residence in the fortnightly Express Entry draws.
Although the drawings for CEC and FSWP candidates have been suspended during the pandemic, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser has announced that they will return in early July. Also, the standard of processing for new applicants will go back six months.
The FSWP requires the applicant to have at least one year of continuous work experience within the past ten years in a skilled occupation. The work experience may have been completed abroad. An FSWP applicant must also score a 7 on the Canadian Language Testing (CLB) test in English or French in all four language competencies: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. In addition, they must 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.
CEC . eligibility
CEC requires one year of skilled work experience within the past three years. Work experience must have been completed in Canada. Persons applying with work experience at NOC skill level 0 or A (eg registered nurses) must have at least CLB 7. Those applying with B-level experience in NOC need CLB 5.
Neither program requires a person to have a job offer, but having one may increase the likelihood that you will receive an invitation to apply for permanent residence.
Regional Nominee Program
Although the federal government has the final say on who can immigrate to Canada, provinces can nominate specific candidates through the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). Some PNP programs are for nurses, others require only skilled work experience. Sometimes, PNPs will conduct immigration nomination drawings specifically for nurses.
Many counties have more than one program that welcomes nurses. Sometimes the PNP draws candidates from the Express Entry system and invites them to apply for a provincial nomination. If these candidates are nominated, they will receive 600 CRS points added to their Express Entry points. This award is more than enough to allow the candidate to be invited to apply for permanent residence.
Below is a list of some of the PNP pathways for nurses.
Ontario is inviting nurses to apply through the Human Capital Priorities Track.
British Columbia offers the Healthcare Professional category under the Immigration Skills and Express Entry pathways.
Saskatchewan recently launched the EOI International Health Worker Group specifically for nurses.
The Nova Scotia Labor Market Priorities stream occasionally holds raffles inviting nurses to apply for a regional nomination.
The Internationally Educated Nurses (IEN) Program in New Brunswick is a pathway for foreign nurses who can speak English or French.