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How Foreign Nurses Can Obtain a License in Canada: A Comprehensive Guide

Canada, known for its high standard of living and excellent healthcare system, is a sought-after destination for many foreign-trained nurses. If you're a nurse trained outside of Canada and are considering practicing in this beautiful country, this guide is for you. Here, we'll walk you through the process of obtaining a nursing license in Canada, step by step.

1. Understand the Canadian Nursing Landscape

Before diving into the licensing process, it's essential to understand the nursing landscape in Canada. There are three main categories of nurses in Canada:

  • Registered Nurses (RNs): Provide direct care, educate patients, and advocate for their needs.

  • Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs): Offer basic care under the supervision of RNs or doctors.

  • Registered Psychiatric Nurses (RPNs): Specialize in psychiatric and mental health care.

Each province and territory in Canada has its regulatory body that oversees the licensing process for nurses. For instance, the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) regulates nursing in Ontario.

2. Credential Assessment

Before applying for a license, your educational credentials and nursing experience need to be assessed to ensure they meet Canadian standards. The National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS) is the primary body responsible for this.


  • Create an online account with NNAS.

  • Submit your nursing education, registration history, and employment details.

  • NNAS will evaluate your credentials and compare them to Canadian standards.

3. Choose Your Province and Regulatory Body

Once your credentials are assessed, decide where in Canada you'd like to practice. Each province/territory has its regulatory body, and you'll need to apply directly to them for licensure.

4. Pass the Required Examinations

After your application is reviewed by the regulatory body, you'll be required to pass a series of exams:

  • NCLEX-RN: For those seeking licensure as an RN.

  • CPNRE: For those seeking licensure as an LPN.

  • RPN Exam: For those seeking licensure as an RPN.

Reference: NCLEX-RN, CPNRE

5. Complete Additional Requirements

Depending on the province and the regulatory body, you might need to complete additional requirements such as:

  • Criminal record check

  • Jurisprudence exam

  • English or French language proficiency tests

6. Apply for Registration

Once you've met all the requirements, you can apply for registration with your chosen regulatory body. Upon approval, you'll be granted a license to practice nursing in Canada.

7. Seek Employment

With your license in hand, you can now seek employment in Canada. Many organizations, such as HealthMatchBC, can help foreign-trained nurses find jobs.

Reference: HealthMatchBC


Obtaining a nursing license in Canada as a foreign-trained nurse might seem daunting, but with the right information and preparation, the process can be smooth. Remember to stay updated with the requirements as they can change, and always refer to the official regulatory bodies for the most accurate information.

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