Becoming Accredited as an Internationally Educated Nurse in Canada: A Comprehensive Guide

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Canada is facing a critical shortage of healthcare professionals, affecting both Canadian residents and newcomers. This shortage leads to longer wait times for care, often provided by overworked and burned-out staff. Recent data from Statistics Canada reveals the severity of the situation, with 134,500 vacant positions in the healthcare and social assistance sectors as of May 2023, despite a decrease from the peak in January 2023. This shortage underlines the urgent need to expedite the accreditation process for internationally educated nurses (IENs) in Canada. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the steps and challenges of becoming accredited as an IEN in Canada, as well as the recent measures taken by provinces to streamline the process and address the growing demand.

The Challenge of Healthcare Shortages

Before delving into the accreditation process, it’s crucial to understand the gravity of the healthcare professional shortage in Canada. The shortage is not just a statistic; it’s a real issue that impacts the quality of care provided to Canadians.

A Growing Problem

The data from Statistics Canada indicates a high rate of job vacancies in the healthcare sector, even as the numbers decrease slightly. The shortage of healthcare professionals remains a significant challenge, and addressing this issue is essential for ensuring the well-being of all Canadians.

Overtime and Burnout

A study by Statistics Canada reveals that nurses who reported working overtime in 2022 averaged an extra 8.6 hours per week above their regular schedule. This increase in working hours compared to 2019 shows the immense pressure that healthcare professionals are under, leading to burnout and decreased quality of care.

Express Entry: A Ray of Hope

To alleviate the workforce shortage in Canada and relieve the burden on healthcare professionals, the government has introduced category-based selection rounds of invitations for Express Entry candidates. Within these categories, healthcare workers, including nurses, have the opportunity to receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA). However, obtaining an ITA is just the first step on the journey towards practicing as a nurse in Canada.

Provincial Responsibility for Healthcare

It’s important to understand that healthcare in Canada is a provincial responsibility. As a result, the licensing and accreditation process can vary significantly depending on the province you choose to settle in. Each province has its own nursing college, and if an IEN moves to another province, they will typically need to undergo another licensing process.

Starting the Accreditation Process

Upon arriving in Canada, an IEN must initiate the accreditation process by contacting the provincial college of nursing, acting as a regulatory body. The specific college an IEN needs to approach depends on the type of nursing license required.

NNAS Assessment

In most cases, the first step is to complete an assessment through the National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS). This assessment compares an IEN’s credentials with Canadian standards and provides an Advisory Form that must be included with the application to the provincial regulatory body. The NNAS assessment involves notarized identity documents, a Nursing Education Form, Nursing Practice/Employment Form, and Nursing Registration Form, all of which are sent by third parties.

Exceptions and Individual Assessments

It’s important to note that Quebec, Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon do not use NNAS and have individual assessment methods.

Provincial Initiatives to Expedite the Process

The lengthy accreditation process for IENs has been a major hurdle for many. In response to this, several provinces have taken measures to streamline the process and get qualified nurses into the workforce more quickly.

Nova Scotia’s Streamlined Approach

In May, Nova Scotia introduced a streamlined approach for IENs from seven countries, including the Philippines, India, Nigeria, United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Registered nurses from these countries who are considered in “good standing and good character” are eligible for registration and licensing in Nova Scotia immediately, with no additional requirements other than passing the national entrance exam.

Alberta’s Investment

In February, Alberta announced an investment of over $15 million to train and support more IENs. This funding includes $7.8 million for students to access up to $30,000 in bursaries and the creation of 600 new seats for nurse bridging programs in three Alberta universities.

British Columbia’s Fee Coverage

British Columbia now covers application and assessment fees for IENs, which can amount to more than $3,700. This initiative aims to remove financial barriers for internationally educated nurses.

Ontario’s Rule Changes

Ontario introduced several new rules in January to expedite the registration process, including requiring health regulatory colleges to comply with time limits for registration decisions, eliminating the requirement for Canadian work experience, and accepting approved language tests to reduce language proficiency testing for immigrants.

NNAS’s Expedited Credentialing Service

As of June 28, 2023, NNAS introduced a new expedited credentialing service for IENs. This service ensures that NNAS Advisory Reports will be released within 5 business days of receiving all necessary documents.


The shortage of healthcare professionals in Canada is a pressing issue that affects both Canadians and newcomers. The process of becoming accredited as an internationally educated nurse is complex and often time-consuming. However, provinces are taking steps to streamline the process and get qualified nurses into the workforce more quickly. It’s crucial for IENs to stay updated on the latest developments and initiatives in their chosen province, as these changes can significantly impact their accreditation journey.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long does the accreditation process for internationally educated nurses typically take in Canada?

The duration of the accreditation process can vary depending on the province and individual circumstances. Some provinces have introduced measures to expedite the process, while others may have longer waiting times.

2. Are there any financial support options available for internationally educated nurses in Canada?

Yes, some provinces, like Alberta and British Columbia, offer financial support in the form of bursaries and fee coverage to help IENs with the accreditation process.

3. What are the key documents and forms required for the NNAS assessment?

The NNAS assessment typically requires notarized identity documents, a Nursing Education Form, Nursing Practice/Employment Form, and Nursing Registration Form. These forms are sent by third parties, such as educational institutions and employers.

4. Are there specific language requirements for internationally educated nurses in Canada?

Language requirements may vary by province, but some provinces, like Ontario, have introduced measures to accept approved language tests, reducing the need for duplicate language proficiency testing.

5. How can I stay updated on the latest developments and initiatives in my chosen province for nursing accreditation?

It’s essential to regularly check the official websites of the provincial nursing colleges and regulatory bodies for updates on accreditation processes and any changes in requirements.

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