Thanks to Canada’s open and progressive policies on immigration, there are dozens of ways for foreigners to enter the country and reside here legally. Students, freelancers and skilled workers can all find immigration programs that will lead them to permanent residence. But one of the best strategies is to move to Canada as a caregiver or a nurse.

Nurses and caregivers belong to one of the most in-demand professions in the world. Certainly in Canada they are some of the most highly sought after workers. And with high demand comes a relatively high salary. Without the kind of education needed to become a doctor, an experienced caregiver or a licensed nurse can expect to make a pretty decent living here. Not only that, but they can also make a positive difference by serving and improving the lives of the lives of others.

In the following article we’ll explain what sort of experience and background you need to become a nurse or caregiver in Canada. We’ll also get into some of the best choices of immigration programs for those professions.

Nursing and caregiving jobs in Canada

As the Baby Boomer generation ages and retires, they are leaving many vacancies in the workplace and putting a tremendous demand on health care services and facilities. Even as younger Canadians complete their studies, acquire valuable skills and earn their diplomas and degrees, there are simply not enough to meet the need for health care providers.

According to national employment statistics, the demand for qualified nurses and caregivers is higher than any other profession in the country. In Canada’s largest population centers, Montreal and Toronto, skilled nurses will find an enormous selection of jobs and opportunities. But even in the more rural areas and remote territories, there is a great need for nurses. Their value and pay scale might even be considerably higher in those regions where physicians are scarce. Where doctors are not available, nurses end up taking on many of their responsibilities.

Registered Nurse (RN)

Generally, a bachelor’s degree is required to work as a registered nurse. Individuals must then pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). It is also necessary to register with the provincial or local regulatory agency.

After earning a 4-year degree and a license, nurses can take additional courses to specialize in certain areas of nursing and medicine. This is not required, but many employers and health care facilities will encourage nurses to obtain extra training and certification in fields like pediatric nursing, critical care nursing, or hospice care.

With a master’s degree in nursing and further examinations, one may be certified to work as a Nurse Practitioner (NP). Nurse Practitioners can assume additional responsibilities including ordering and interpreting tests and writing prescriptions.

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN)

Just like RNs, LPNs are currently and will continue to be in great demand throughout Canada as the nation’s population continues to age and put an increasing demand on the health care infrastructure. But unlike RNs, practical nurses usually only need a 2 or 3-year diploma to qualify. In this slightly less skilled position, LPNs ordinarily work under the direction of a physician or RN.

After completing the necessary training, an LPN will easily find job openings all across Canada, although their earning potential will be slightly lower than that of an RN.

Registered Practical Nurse (RPN)

This job title is used in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. RPNs must complete a 2-3 year diploma. Duties and responsibilities of an RPN are basically the same as those of an LPN or LVN in the rest of Canada.


Canadian Immigration recognizes two classes of caregivers. Like nurses, caregivers provide personal care for those with limited abilities due to age or medical conditions. Caregivers, however, do not ordinarily require specific education and certification. Hands-on experience is the most important factor.

Live-in Caregivers are full-time caregivers who live in the same home with their client or employer. These include full-time baby sitters (or nannies) and attendants who work with the elderly and those with severe disabilities. Home Child Care Providers and Home Support Workers typically perform similar in-home work but do not live in the same house.

Immigration Programs for caregivers and nurses

In most cases, education and training received in another country will be honored in Canada. However, nurses must still pass the standard examinations to become certified as RNs, LVNs and NPs. Canada places a high value on these professions and Canadian Immigration looks very favorably on foreigners with backgrounds and experience in nursing and caregiving. They will find a variety options to legally live and work in the country.

Study Permit

If you don’t already have a degree or professional experience as a nurse or caregiver, one of the best immigration strategies would be to conduct your studies in Canada. If you are accepted into an accredited school or university in Canada, then obtaining a study permit will be a very straightforward process. With the permit, you can live and even work a part-time job in the country. Upon completion of your studies, you can usually apply for a change of status if you wish to remain in Canada. Temporary residents and graduates from Canadian schools will have a fairly easy time becoming permanent residents if they so desire.

In addition a letter of acceptance from a Canadian school, prospective students will also need to show a clean criminal record. And students (or their families) must have the financial resources to support themselves during their time Canada.

Check out our in-depth article for complete details on How to Move to Canada as a Student, including how to change your status and legally stay in the country after graduation.

Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP)

For those who already have professional credentials and/or experience in nursing, the Federal Skilled Worker Program is an excellent option. The IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) assesses FSWP applicants according to a point-based system. The scoring looks at six factors, including age, education, work experience, whether you have a valid job offer, English and/or French language skills, and adaptability (how well you’re likely to settle in Canada).

Having an actual job offer is helpful to qualify for this program, but not essential. Because nursing is a skill in such high demand, those with nursing experience will score higher and have a great chance of qualifying. Once accepted, candidates will enter the Express Entry pool which leads to permanent residence.

Take a look at our article on Moving to Canada as a skilled worker for more details on the FSWP and the Express Entry System.

Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs)

Besides the federal program (FSWP), each province and territory in Canada has its own programs for foreign skilled workers. These various programs can accommodate potential immigrants in all different circumstances. There are immigration streams for those with or without job offers, for those applying from outside Canada or from within, and for individuals with or without work experience in Canada.

With such a variety of programs, it’s not difficult for a trained nurse to find a PNP that suits their circumstances. And because they are specific to different provinces, these immigration streams make sense for immigrants who already know which part of Canada they want to move to. But they can also help prospective immigrants select a geographic region where their skills are most needed.

See our comprehensive article on Canada’s Provincial Nominee Programs for complete descriptions and criteria for eligibility.

Home Child Care Provider Pilot and Home Support Worker Pilot Programs

These two pilot programs, launched in June 2019, aim to make it easier for caregivers to come to Canada and stay as permanent residents. In some cases, these caregivers may be like family members of other immigrants. Consider nannies and long-term personal attendants of recent immigrants. These programs are one more way that Canadian Immigration works to help keep families together. (See our article on Moving to Canada with a Family.) In other cases, caregivers can simply come and look for temporary work in a field with plenty of job openings.

Qualified applicants can come to Canada through these programs and obtain an open temporary work permit. This means they don’t need a job offer, but are permitted to come and look for temporary work, so long as they are seeking a job as a caregiver. Those who do have a valid job offer may be eligible to apply for permanent residence. Caregivers with temporary work permits can also become eligible for permanent residence after two years of Canadian work experience.

“Canada is caring for our caregivers. We made a commitment to improve the lives of caregivers and their families who come from around the world to care for our loved ones, and with these new pilots, we are doing exactly that,” says Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s Minister of Immigration.

Go to the Canadian Immigration website for more details on eligibility and how to apply.

Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP)

As of August 2019, this program is closed to new applicants. Candidates can apply for permanent residence through the LCP only if they already have 2 years of related work experience and are already working in Canada with an LCP work permit.

Visit the government website to learn more about the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP).

Additional assistance

At ARIANNE Relocation we have been helping students, families and professionals move and get settled in Canada for more than 20 years. We have a wide range of products and services to help you make the transition more smoothly and successfully. We take great pleasure in guiding our clients through the sometimes confusing process of relocating, registering, and getting comfortable in their new city or country.

PHOTO CREDIT: Hush Naidoo (Unsplash)