Jun 24, 2024

Nurses in training. Photo by Shanepeter.

If you are a Registered Nurse, Licensed Practical Nurse or Registered Psychiatric Nurse who graduated and practiced outside of Canada, you need to apply to the National Nursing Assessment Services or NNAS in order to be able to work as such in Canada.

The NNAS is a partnership of Canadian nursing regulatory bodies whose role is to streamline the application and approval process for internationally educated nurses.
Only nurses who had acquired a post-secondary education may be eligible; high school or on-the-job training are not accepted.
Here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Create an account at NNAS. It is highly recommended that you read the NNAS Handbook first and make sure you will have all the required documents in place or that they will be easy to collect, as the account and payment for the application only last for 12 months. After the first 12 months and if your report has not been yet processed, you may have to pay an extra fee to extend it for another 12 months.
  2. Pay the fees: only Mastercard and Visa are accepted. The current (December 2016) fee is $650 per applicant.
  3. You may have to wait up to 48 working hours to get your account ID activated for the NNAS application. Once you have paid, you can leave the website at any time and come back to continue submitting documents but you will not be reimbursed should you decide to cancel the process.
  4. Submit notarized and certified copies of two IDs. At least one should have an acceptable photo of you. Examples are passports, driver’s licenses or any other forms of government issued ID. These IDs need to be current (not expired).
  5. Print the appropriate forms (from the NNAS account you have created) for education, your country regulatory body and practice/employer. You will need to fill out, print, sign and send these forms to all the post-secondary institutions outside of Canada where you studied nursing, to your country certification or regulatory body, and to your former employer or practicum place. They will have to fill out the rest of these forms and submit them directly to the NNAS once completed.
  6. Submit results from an eligible English test. Eligible tests include IELTS (Academic version) or CELBAN. Make sure you check the Handbook for minimal required points. (These tests cannot be more than six months old, so make sure you don’t take them too early. They are also costly so prepare before registering for a test. If you get points below the expected, you may have to pay again and wait up to 6 months to re-take them).

What you need to know:
Once you have sent all the requirements and your school, employer and regulatory body have all sent the completed forms and supporting documentation to the NNAS, NNAS will create a report that is sent to the regulatory body you have chosen - RN, LPN or RPN. If you want more than one report and regulatory body to be involved, you will need to pay an extra fee and indicate this in your application.
The regulatory body - RN, LPN or RPN - may have recommendations or other requirements for you to be officially authorized to work as a nurse under their certification.

The process may take months or even years depending on your level of education and experience and how they compare to Canadian standards. Other factors that may delay or complicate the report include your level of English (and results on the English tests), the amount of time your school, former employer and regulatory body take to submit the documents to the NAAS and any inconsistencies in the application. You will also be expected to cover for costs involved in the process from official translation of documents, certification and notarization of documents, tests, couriers, etc. Check with a local immigrant support agency to find out about programs that may help you navigate this process.

For alternative pathways, while you are waiting for your full certification to work in Canada, check my previous article (Alternative Career Paths for Internationally Educated Nurses)

Alternative Career Paths for Internationally Educated Nurses (First of a two-part series) 

About the author:

Argentinian born Silvia Di Blasio is a Certified Career Counsellor, Life Coach and an immigrant herself. With a passion for sustainability, food security and resilient communities, Silvia shares her time and skills through diverse projects including writing, blogging, facilitating workshops, coaching and consulting.Silvia works as a Case Manager helping immigrants to get back to their pre-landing occupations at the Career Paths Program at ISSofBC.

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