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Do you want to move to Australia to work as a nurse? One of the advantages of being trained as a nurse is that you have the potential to work overseas.

Many nurses move to Australia to not only hone their skills in a different environment, but to experience the adventures of living in a new country.

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For Sydney-based dermatology nurse, Rachel Hines, making the move from Ireland to Australia was always a dream.

“Pretty much every country has a need for more nurses. So as a nurse, we are definitely in demand employment wise”

“I was a bit of a cliché – since I was a teenager I wanted to move to the beach in Australia and live like they do on ‘Home and Away!”

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As Ms Hines found out, however, it’s important to be aware that every nation has specific requirements that you must fulfil in order to immigrate and be eligible to work as a nurse. 

This article provides you with an up to date explanation of the criteria and the steps you need to take to work as a nurse in Australia.

Step 1 – Do your qualifications and experience meet the requirements of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia?

In order to be allowed to work as a nurse, and before you will be able be considered for a migration to Australia based on the fact that you are a nurse, you will need to meet the registration requirements of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).

There are five criteria that are used in assessing your application for registration:

Criterion 1 – Proof of identify

You will need to provide a range of 'proof of identity' documents including:

  • Biostatistical page(s) of your passport
  • Change of name documentation (marriage certificate, decree nisi, deed poll)
  • A passport-sized photo taken in the last six months
Criterion 2 – English language proficiency

You must demonstrate the required score in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Occupational English Test (OET) for Nurses, Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic or Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) iBT.

You only need to pass one of these tests, not all of them. The results are only relevant for two years after examination.

IELTS  You must achieve a minimum score of seven in each of the four components - listening, reading, writing and speaking.

OET – You must achieve a minimum score of B in each of the four components – listening, reading, writing and speaking.

PTE – You must achieve a minimum overall score of 65 AND a minimum score of 65 in each of the four communicative skills - listening, reading, writing and speaking.

TOEFL iBT – You must achieve a minimum score of 94 AND the following minimum scores in each section of the test – 24 listening, 24 reading, 27 writing and 23 speaking.

Criterion 3 – Meet Australian nursing and midwifery education standards.

If you are qualified as a nurse in one of the following countries with a bachelor degree (at level 7) or a diploma (level 5)* as well as further education, and you are registered as a first level nurse in one of these countries you are likely to meet the equivalent qualification as a nurse qualified in Australia:

  • Canada
  • Hong Kong
  • Republic of Ireland
  • United Kingdom
  • New Zealand
  • United States of America
The NMBA has found that nursing qualifications in the following countries may meet the requirements of quality assurance and accreditation in Australia:

  • Belgium Flanders
  • Chile
  • Pakistan
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Singapore
*If you only have a diploma from one of the countries listed above you will require an assessment of your further education or experience to determine if you are deemed to be equivalent to a nurse qualified in Australia.

Nurses from countries not listed above will require individual assessment to determine whether their qualifications and experience will be recognised by the Board.

All applicants must provide graduation certificate and basic transcripts.

Criterion 4 – Professional practice

You must provide evidence of having practised as a nurse or midwife in the five years prior to submitting your application.

You will be required to submit professional references that must meet the following criteria:

  • Be on official letterhead
  • Be written by a direct supervisor who is a nurse or midwife
  • Be dated
  • Contain an official signature
Criterion 5 - Demonstrate that you are fit to practice in Australia

You must prove that there has been no previous proven disciplinary proceedings against you, that there are no restrictions on you arising from mental incapacity, that there are no restrictions on you arising from physical incapacity, that you have no criminal history which would preclude you from working as a nurse or midwife in Australia.

What do I do if I don’t meet AHPRA’s requirements?

If you don’t meet the requirements because your qualifications or experience are not recognised, you might want to consider pursuing a 'Training visa - subclass 407’ to allow you to undertake a bridging program to improve your skills.  More information is available via the following links:

Step 2 – Submit your application for registration with AHPRA

If you think you meet the criteria in step 1, then submit your application for registration to the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia. Click here to view and download the form.

Step 3 – Get a VISA

Once you are registered with AHPRA as a nurse you then need a VISA to be allowed to live and work in Australia.  There are a number of VISA’s available.

If you are able to secure sponsorship by an employer, one of the following VISA types will be appropriate:

If you are not sponsored by an employer, you can pursue a VISA under the General Skilled Migration (GSM) provisions of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Click here for more VISA options under the GSM

If you want to come to Australia for a working holiday, and you are aged between 18 and 30, click here for details on Working Holiday Visa’s.

The great benefits of working abroad

Ms Hines’ advice is to not “let the admin work put you off.”

“Yes, there’s requirements and rules and the like, but that’s pretty standard for most countries.”

“For me, it was all worth it. I was working in a small county in Ireland and there wasn’t much chance of me advancing with my nursing.”

“Here, there are so many opportunities. I’ve worked in large clinics, with a lot of different specialists, many different cases, and the experience has been amazing.”

“And outside of work, it’s just been a really great life experience too. I’ve gotten to travel around a bit, meet heaps of new friends, try new things like scuba diving.”

“Plus, I never get tired of living near Bondi beach!”

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Charlotte Mitchell

Charlotte is a published journalist and editor, with 10 years of experience in developing high-quality content for national and international publications.

With an academic background in both science and communications, she specialises in medical and science writing. Charlotte is passionate about creating engaging, evidence-based content that equips the community with important information on issues around healthcare, medicine and research.

Over the years, she has partnered with organisations including the Medical Journal of Australia, Cancer Council NSW, Bupa, the Australasian Medical Publishing Company, Dementia Australia, MDA National, pharmaceutical companies, and state and federal government agencies, to produce high-impact news and clinical content  for different audiences.