Ready for the frontlines: Five things internationally-educated nurses need to know about getting licensed in Canada

Canada is facing a shortage of nurses, which has created an opportunity for internationally-educated nurses to work on the frontlines across the country.

Accreditation and Licensing,Career Success and Planning,Education and Training,Financial Planning,In-demand Jobs

June 16, 2022

Estimated reading time: 3.5 minutes 

In summary:  

  • Career opportunities for internationally-educated nurses (IENs) in every part of Canada are strong and are expected to continue.
  • The National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS) is the first and most critical stop on an IEN’s journey to become licensed to work in Canada. Those looking to work in Quebec must apply to that province’s nursing regulatory body, the OIIQ.
  • Understand the nursing requirements and competencies demanded by the provincial regulatory body where you wish to live and work.

Canada is facing a significant shortage of nurses, brought on by a rapidly aging workforce and the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Canadian health care system. This has created an opportunity for internationally-educated nurses (IENs) to step in and contribute on the frontlines of patient care across the country.

Playing a crucial role caring for Canadians they can expect strong job security, competitive salaries, benefit packages and professional development support, however the path to becoming a licensed nurse in this country is complex.

If you are an IEN looking to learn more about the steps needed to become a nurse licensed to work in Canada, visit Windmill’s Educational Pathways.

GayleWaxman and Meghan Wankle Web

To help IENs navigate the Canadian licensure process as quickly and easily as possible, Windmill connected with Gayle Waxman (left), Executive Director of the National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS) and Meghan Wankel (right), Program Coordinator, Pre-Arrival Supports and Services at CARE Centre for Internationally Educated Nurses. They offered five pieces of advice to IENs to help them understand the accreditation process.

Give yourself plenty of time.

NNAS is the first stop on the journey to becoming licensed in Canada (except those looking to work in Quebec, they apply to the OIIQ and it can take between nine months and a year for the processing of all education credential documents and existing licenses to be completed. You need to take proactive steps beginning with familiarizing themselves with the NNAS handbook to understand what to expect from the assessment phase of the licensing process. 

Understand the nursing competencies and skills required in the province or territory where you want to work.

Review the nursing competencies and requirements in the province or territory where you will be living and working. You must successfully meet each requirement before being granted a licence but the order in which the requirements can vary from province to province. After completing their NNAS assessment, each applicant receives a guidance letter outlining which steps are needed to meet provincial requirements. It is recommended to visit the individual regulatory websites in your destination province for detailed information regarding these requirements.

BONUS TIP: Meghan Wankel of the CARE Centre for Internationally Educated Nurses speaks about the licensure process and the importance of highlighting your career skills to prospective employers.

Windmill Microlending · Bonus Tip from Meghan Wankel


Focus on nursing education that’s been approved by a provincial regulator.

It is advised that if a regulator requires educational preparation as a condition of licensure, you should only take courses and programs endorsed by that regulator. If a course hasn’t been approved by a regulator, it may benefit you personally but it may not help you get licensed.

Strengthen your language and communications skills.

A high level of language fluency is required by nursing regulatory bodies and so is understanding of Canadian communication norms for successful integration into the country’s health care system. Language practice is a helpful tool that can position you for success on your path to getting licensed. 

Be prepared for the costs.

It is important to note the costs of the nursing licensure process from assessment to qualifying exams and bridging education program fees. These can range between $10,000 and $15,000 Canadian dollars. Windmill’s affordable loans can be used by IENs to pay for the costs of the Canadian licensure process.

Find a full list of Canada’s nursing regulatory bodies, responsible for licensing in each province and territory, here.

Are you an internationally-educated nurse looking to find out if you are eligible for a low-interest loan from Windmill Microlending? Take our two-minute eligibility quiz to find out.

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