ien how to become a nurse in canada

IEN Guide – How to Become a Nurse in Canada

An Internationally Educated Nurse or IEN is a nurse who obtained nursing education outside Canada. Majority of IENs are immigrants but some are also travel nurses and temporary foreign workers.

IENs here have a different pathway of becoming a nurse in Canada. Basically, it depends on the rules of the province where you want to obtain your license. Another important factor is the extent of nursing education obtained outside Canada.

Understanding Different Provinces’ Rules for IEN

In general, there are ten provinces in Canada – British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador. There are also three territories – Yukon, Nunavut and Northwest Territories.

All provinces and territories except Quebec require undergoing through the National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS). It’s a non-for-profit organization that conducts assessment of educational, foreign license and work experience documents to determine the eligibility of an IEN to obtain a nursing license in Canada.

All provinces and territories except Quebec also require successfully writing the NCLEX test if their foreign license doesn’t meet reciprocity requirements.

Quebec has its own process of recognizing IENs’ eligibility for nursing license reciprocity.

Step-by-Step IEN Guide on How to Become an RN in Canada

1. Open a File with NNAS

Before anything else, you should create an online account with NNAS and start processing your documents. They require the submission of the following documents:

  • Proof of identity duly notarized or certified as true copy
  • NNAS Nursing Education Form filled up and sent by your nursing school
  • NNAS Nursing Registration Form filled up and sent by the registration body where you have a nursing license
  • Nursing Practice or Employment NNAS Form filled up and sent by the institutions where you previously worked as a nurse
  • Language Testing results

Remember that the forms should be mailed directly to NNAS by the institutions who filled them up. The envelopes should also bear the institution’s logo and address to further prove authenticity.

There is an option to skip submission of language testing results in the NNAS dashboard. Some provincial regulatory bodies allow submission of language testing results at a later date. On the other hand, the College of Nurses of Ontario allow waiving this requirement by providing other evidences of language proficiency.

The assessment of documents are being done by types of nurses. You can choose to be evaluated as an RN, LPN or RPN.

Opening a file with NNAS costs $650 USD. Other fees also apply for additional services.

2. Open a file with the nursing regulatory body of your choice

Once NNAS finish evaluating your file, they will send the Advisory Report to the regulatory body you chose upon opening the application. They will also include a direct link to open a file with your choice of regulatory body in your NNAS dashboard.

Here are the nursing regulatory bodies in each province:

On the other hand, here are the nursing regulatory bodies in each territory:

Even though the NNAS Advisory Report is final, nursing regulatory bodies may still do a reassessment of the credentials submitted. After completing the evaluation, they will send instructions about the requirements.

3. Comply with the nursing regulatory body’s requirements for licensing

In general, there are three possible outcomes in the NNAS Advisory Report – Not Comparable, Somewhat Comparable and Comparable.

Not Comparable means that your nursing education and experience are not comparable to Canadian standards. In this case, applicants are usually required to take the Observed/Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) or complete a bridging program in a nursing school. After passing OSCE or after completing the bridging program, the applicant can take the NCLEX test.

Somewhat Comparable and Comparable means that your nursing education and experience are similar to Canadian standards. In this case, applicants are typically advised to take the NCLEX test right away.

4. Register with the regulatory body

Basically, the only step required before license registration is the licensure test. All provinces except Quebec require NCLEX for the licensure test. When you successfully passed the NCLEX test, you can proceed with license registration.

Before registration, a proof of legal status is required by most provinces. Citizens, permanent residents and temporary foreign workers with valid work permits are eligible to register their nursing license in Canada.

It’s also necessary to pass the regulatory body’s jurisprudence exam before registration. You can take the exam online. It’s an open-notes test so you can also open resources while taking the exam.

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  1. Hi, thank you for this information!
    I just had a question, can I still apply to become a RN in Canada without the local license of the country I finished my BSN program in? Just as a fresh graduate? The issue is, I am not a citizen of this country hence, I can’t take their local board exam.

    And do you know how long will be the bridging programs if the advisory report shows “not comparable” as a result?


  2. Hi, I had already passed NCLEX exam but I got a nursing degree outside Canada. What are the bridging courses which may waive OSCE? Thanks

    1. Common courses they want are gerontology, Community Nursing(Canada setting) you can take it online at Athabasca University in Alberta and St. Xavier University in Nova Scotia. If you passed NCLEX apply for reciprocity in Ontario, some applicant’s bridging requirements was waived because they have licensed in the US. I hope this info helps you. Good luck.

  3. Hi I have passed NCLEX already but still I have to satisfy safe practice and language requirements to CNO. Is there any school which provide such specific program just safe practice and language ?

  4. hello dear
    if you have USA license but not practicing nursing there
    I’m international educated nurse practicing the nursing oversees
    waiting for the NNAS REPORT
    what can I expected from NNAS report and what i will expected to complete from the CNO to ask me with time frame please
    thank you

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