The pandemic has exacerbated the need for nurses in Canada. One of the ways to fill job vacancies in the industry is to offer pathways to permanent residency for foreign nurses.
Canada was experiencing nursing shortages even before the pandemic. Since COVID-19 swept the world in March 2020, the federal and provincial governments have been adding programs to encourage more nurses to come into the labour force.
Ontario, for example, is planning to invest $342 million over the next five years to hire more than 13,000 healthcare workers to the province. BC has promised to provide up to $16,000 to about 1,500 internationally educated nurses to cover application fees, English language tests, and educational upgrading. Also, Quebec is investing $65 million to recruit and train nearly 1,000 nurses from francophone countries.
With all these incentives for nurses, you may be wondering how you can move your career to Canada. Or if you are in Canada already, you might want to learn which immigration programs are available to you.
Before we list some of the main immigration pathways for nurses, it is good to keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list. Canada has more than 100 economic immigration programs alone. Because nursing is oftentimes considered “skilled work” nurses may be eligible for just about any program that has “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 NOC skill level A and the code is NOC 3012. Licenced 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 were invited to apply in a given provincial immigration draw. Keep these in mind as you learn more about Canadian immigration programs for nurses.
Express Entry programs for nurses
Express Entry is an online system that manages immigration applications for the federal government. Hopeful Canadian immigrants submit their profiles to the system and get a score based on the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS).
Express Entry candidates get points based on their skilled work experience, age, education, and official language ability, among other factors. The highest-scoring candidates get invited to apply for permanent residence in bi-weekly Express Entry draws.
Although draws for CEC and FSWP candidates have been paused during the pandemic, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced that they would return in early July. Also, the processing standard for new applicants would return to six months.
The FSWP requires an applicant to have at least one year of continuous work experience within the past 10 years in a skilled occupation. The work experience may have been completed abroad. An FSWP applicant also must score a Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 7 in English or French on 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.
The CEC requires one year of skilled work experience within the last three years. The work experience must have been completed in Canada. People applying with work experience at an NOC 0 or A skill level (such as registered nurses) must have at least a CLB 7. Those applying with NOC skill level B experience need a CLB 5.
Neither program requires a person to have a job offer, but having one may increase your likelihood to receive an invitation to apply for permanent residence.
Provincial Nominee Program
Although the federal government gets the final say on who can immigrate to Canada, the provinces can nominate certain candidates through the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). Some PNPs are dedicated specifically to nurses, others just require skilled work experience. Sometimes, PNPs will hold immigration nomination draws specifically for nurses.
Multiple provinces have more than one program that welcomes nurses. Sometimes PNPs draw candidates from the Express Entry system and invite them to apply for a provincial nomination. If these candidates are nominated, they get 600 CRS points added to their Express Entry score. This award is more than enough to allow the candidate to be invited to apply for permanent residence.
Here is a list of some of the PNP pathways for nurses.
Quebec operates its own immigration system. While Canada still has the final say on Quebec immigration applications, certain programs like the PNP and Express Entry are not available in Quebec.
Instead, Quebec offers its Regular Skilled Worker Program and the Quebec Experience Program. Nurses may be eligible for either of these programs. Both of these programs require the workers to have a working knowledge of the French language.
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