How to Become a Nurse in Australia (Guide for Foreign Nurses)


A Report by 1NURSE.COM PTE LTD, Sep 2021

An Overview of Nursing in Australia:

  1. The Career Pathway

  2. Salary of Nurses in Australia

  3. Working Conditions

  4. How to Apply as a Nurse in Australia

  5. FAQs

AUSTRALIA — the Land Down Under, is a country with magnificent landscapes and endless job opportunities for foreign nurses. Are you a foreign nurse who wants to work and live in Australia? You are a step closer to your dream by reading this post. 

Here at 1NURSE.com, our team has collated all information on the steps and requirements to prepare for foreign nurses aspiring to work and live in Australia. All it takes is an ounce of courage and a bucket full of patience to achieve your dreams. Keep reading this article to learn more. 

In a nutshell, if you're a foreign nurse who wants to work in Australia, you must have/be:

  • 36 months of paid clinical experience for the past five years

  • Educational equivalence that meets the standards of APHRA

  • Pass an English Proficiency Test (IELTS/OET/PTE/TOEFL)

  • Pass the MCQ or OSCE exams

  • Professional references

Section A: The Career Pathway

As of 2020, there are more than 400,000 registered nurses in Australia. 30% of those are foreign nurses. That’s approximately 118,000 migrant nurses that moved to Australia. In the years to come, it is projected that more immigrant nurses will work and live in Australia. 

The career way options for nurses in Australia include: Registered Nurse, Enrolled Nurse, Assistant in Nursing, and Nursing Practitioner. Each career has different educational attainment, but basically, the application process to Australia is similar. Here’s what you need to know about the different career pathways of nurses and their roles.

1. Registered Nurse

A Registered Nurse (RN)is licensed under the Nursed and Midwives Board. Moreover, an RN holds a higher level of professional responsibility and accountability. An RN can fulfil the role of a unit manager, nurse administrator, or team leader. Their duties include patient assessment, medication management, and giving specialised nursing care. 

2. Enrolled Nurse

An Enrolled Nurse works under the direct supervision of a Registered Nurse. An Enrolled Nurse may work directly or indirectly under the supervision of an RN but will still be responsible for their job responsibilities. 

An enrolled nurse can provide nursing care by monitoring a patient’s vital signs and blood sugar levels, assisting in hygiene care, and providing first aid. An RN may also delegate tasks to an enrolled nurse as long as under their supervision. An enrolled nurse typically has a 2-year course Diploma in Enrolled Nursing.

3. Assistant In Nursing

An Assistant in Nursing (AIN) is technically not a nurse. However, an AIN performs duties under the direct supervision of a Registered Nurse. The scope of work of an AIN may include assisting with personal hygiene, bathing, showering, sponge bath, managing toilet needs, bed repositioning, or mobility assistance. 

Assistant in Nursing go by other names like personal care assistant, aged care worker, health service assistant, or care support employees. As for the qualifications of an AIN, a Technical and Further Education (TAFE) is required. 

4. Nurse Practitioner

Lastly, a Nurse Practitioner is a registered nurse with an extended clinical role. Further education is required to become a Nurse Practitioner, typically 1-2 years of additional study such as a current practising certificate. As for the scope of work of a Nurse Practioner, this may include but is not limited to medication prescription and ordering diagnostic tests. 

In addition, you should complete a minimum of 3 years of post-registration experience in a specialised area. There must be evidence of Clinical Support that the employer is willing to facilitate an extended clinical practice within the workplace.

Section B: Salary of Nurses in Australia

Working as a nurse in Australia opens a lot of opportunities and means a high-paying salary. The nurses’ wages may vary on the location, work experience, qualifications and seniority of the nurse. Below is the salary of nurses in Australia; as of 2020, collected reports. 

State / City - Estimated Annual Salary in Australian Dollars
Assistant in Nursing
Enrolled Nurse
Registered Nurse
Clinical Nurse
Nurse Practitioner
Nurse Unit Manager
Director of Nursing

Source from Health Times Australia (Report as of 2020)

Section C: Working Conditions

  • Nurse-Patient Ratio: The patient-nurse ratio in Australia may vary. But to give you an idea, it may vary between 4:1 and 6:1. 

  • Hospital Equipment: Australia is known to have one of the best and most advanced medical facilities in the world. If you work as a nurse in Australia, you can expect the hospitals or healthcare facilities to be modern and well-equipped. 

  • Working Atmosphere: In Australia, the nursing workforce has a shortage. That is why foreign nurses are welcomed with open arms. You can expect a friendly working atmosphere. 

  • Shifting: Shifting in hospitals or healthcare facilities in Australia may differ. It can be between 8-12 hours long. Moreover, it can include nights, weekends, and public holidays. Typically, there are two days off a week. 

  • Patient Safety: It is expected that patient safety in Australia is of high standards. Australia’s healthcare industry is known to have one of the highest ratings of patient satisfaction. 

Section D: How to Apply as a Nurse in Australia - The 5 Criterions

ANMAC (Immigration)

A foreign nurse can apply through the General Skilled Migration Program. This is for skilled individuals or families considering permanently migrate to Australia. Since Australia has a shortage of nurses, nurses can apply to live and work in Australia under the General Skilled Migration program. 

Visa types under the General Skilled Migration Program are as follows:

  • 189 Visa: For skilled workers without any sponsor.

  • 190 Visa: For skilled workers sponsored by an Australian State or Australian Territory Government.

  • 491 Visa: For skilled workers sponsored by a family member.

  • Employer-Sponsored: For foreign nurses who will be sponsored by an Australian Employer. It can be a private hospital or healthcare facility.

  • NZ Independent Visa: If you're a foreign nurse and a current New Zealand Citizen who wants to transfer to Australia.

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Accreditation Council (ANMAC) assess the qualifications of an Internationally Qualified Nurse. The ANMAC assesses the applicant’s qualification to determine if a nurse meets the requirements for a skilled migrant worker. 

NMBA (Registration) Assessments

If you want to work as a nurse in Australia, you must complete your registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA). Then you must have your skills and qualifications assessed by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (APHRA).

Even nurses who apply under the General Skilled Immigration Program should meet the standards of the APHRA. Further details will be discussed below about the requirements or criteria foreign nurses should meet. 

Important Notes to Remember:

  • It’s important to remember that APHRA nor the NMBA are not involved with employment matters. 

  • As per recommendation, do not quit your current job unless your registration eligibility is confirmed. 

  • Foreign nurses who can practice in New Zealand can apply through the NMBA online application. 

  • The timeframe for the whole application process may differ for each applicant. 

Here are the five criteria foreign nurses should meet to work and live in Australia. So make sure before you start applying, all these requirements are prepared. 

Criterion 1 – Proof of Identity

You need to prepare your documents for Proof of Identity. The documents you can prepare are:

  • Biostatistical page of your passport

  • Documentation for change name (e.g., Marriage Certificate, Decree Nisi, Deed Poll)

  • A passport-sized photo that was taken within the past six months

Criterion 2 – English Language Proficiency

Since Australia is an English-speaking country, you need to prove that you can speak, listen, and comprehend the English language. You can choose to take either one of the tests stated below and meet the minimum score required:

  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System): You need a minimum score of 7 in each of the four components reading, listening, writing and speaking. 

  • OET (Occupational English Test for Nurses) with a minimum score of B in each of the four components reading, listening, writing and speaking. 

  • PTE (Pearson Test of English Academic) with a minimum overall score of 65 in each of the four components reading, listening, writing and speaking. 

  • TOEFL iBT (Test of English as a Foreign Language): You need to achieve a minimum score of 94, and the following minimum for each section — 24 reading, 24 listening, 27 writing and 23 speaking.

Criterion 3 – Educational Equivalence

A foreign nurse should meet the education requirements set by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA). All applicants should provide a transcript of records, diploma or a graduation certificate from their foreign nursing school. 

The transcript should have a breakdown of the number of hours in theoretical and clinical practice. Please note that the ANMAC may request additional documents that are not stated above. 

Foreign nurses with a bachelor’s degree in the following countries may meet the educational equivalence as a nurse in Australia:

  • Canada

  • Hong Kong

  • Republic of Ireland

  • United Kingdom

  • New Zealand

  • United States of America

Foreign nurses from countries not mentioned above will need further assessment of the education and clinical experience to determine if its deemed equivalent to the requirements set by the NMBA. 

Criterion 4 – Professional Practice

As for your professional practice, you need to have at least 36 months of paid clinical experience in the past five years. You need to provide evidence of your professional practice plus professional references.

Reference should include: 

  • Official letterhead

  • It should be written by the direct supervisor, who is a nurse

  • Should be dated

  • Must contain an official signature

You also need to include the contact information of each reference person; this should include:

  • Official email address of the hospital (personal emails from Gmail or Yahoo are not accepted)

  • The contact number of the organisation (personal numbers are not accepted)

  • Make sure to follow the Professional Reference Template and provide it to your reference person. Make sure to meet the strict requirements of the ANMAC and follow the format. 

Criterion 5 - Fitness to Practice

The fifth criterion is you need to prove your Fitness to Practice. What does this mean? You need to prove that:

  • You have no past or pending disciplinary proceedings against you. 

  • There are no restrictions on your physical and mental capacity.

  • You should have no criminal history. 

Section E: Visa Type

If you meet the requirements of the APHRA, wait for your registration certification. The next step is you need to get a visa to live and work in Australia. If you can secure a sponsorship via an employer, you can apply for the following types of visas:

  • Temporary Skill Shortage Visa

  • Employer Nomination Scheme (Permanent Visa)

  • Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (Permanent Visa)

  • Occupational Trainee Visa

  • Business Short Stay Visa (subclass 456’ to allow you to undertake a bridging program to improve your skills)

If you are unable to get a sponsorship by an employer, you can apply for a General Skilled Migration Visa under the provisions of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. 

Important Note: If you don’t meet ALL the five criteria mentioned above, you are not suitable for migration. If you don’t meet APHRA’s requirements, you can consider pursuing applying for another type of visa.

By law, the ANMAC cannot advise you on what you need to be suitable for migration — to find out the training and education requirements needed to become suitable, it is better to contact the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.

Section F: Examination

To practice in Australia, foreign nurses (Registered Nurse and Enrolled Nurse) should go through two examinations: NCLEX and OSCE. 

  • NCLEX: The National Council Licensure Examination is a standardised, computerised test that the AHPRA requires for foreign nurses to get a license. 

  • OSCE: Objective Structured Clinical Exam is a clinical exam to assess if the candidate can demonstrate a graduate-level nurse’s skills, knowledge, and competence. 

Important Note: If you’re a foreign nurse, who have passed the NCLEX in Canada or the USA for the past ten years, you can apply for an NCLEX Score Transfer Process. You need to have your scores transferred before applying for registration in the APHRA. You can simply email your request of transfer to the Nursing Regulatory Body, where you have passed the NCLEX.

Section F: FAQs

How Can an International Nurse Work in Australia?

An International nurse can work in Australia through the Employer Nomination Scheme. Foreign nurses under the age of 50 who has to meet the requirements and qualifications of APHRA may be eligible for the visa. If you want to work and live in Australia without employer sponsorship, you can apply through the Skilled Migration program. 

Is There a Demand for Nurses in Australia?

Yes, there is a demand for nurses in Australia. It is projected that there will be a shortage of 120,000 nurses by 2030. As the Australian population ages, more and more nurses will be in demand.

Are You Ready to Work and Live in Australia?

That’s it! Now that you’re aware of the requirements and the qualifications of applying as a nurse in Australia, you’re a step closer to achieving your goals. Just a last reminder that due to the COVID pandemic, there may be changes and delays in the processing of your application. 


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