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The latest immigration and visa news for the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and select European countries - straight from the leading immigrant advocates in the Philippines.

The Truth About Registering as an Internationally Qualified Nurse in Australia

There are stories here, tales there, hearsay everywhere. As there's no prescription for gossip, we curated several "truths" for you if you intend to practice as a Registered Nurse in 2019

The Truth About Registering as an Internationally Qualified Nurse in Australia

In this edition, we are sharing some  verifiable facts - "truths" - that will help you decide the best option to gain the most coveted prizes which are:

  • A license to practice in Australia as a Registered Nurse and work toward;
  • Permanent residence.


Truth #1. To work in Australia as a Registered Nurse, you must apply for registration.

  • For you to apply for registration, you must meet the standards of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia or NMBA.
  • The NMBA assesses and evaluates your nursing credentials whether these are "substantially equivalent to an Australian qualification." If the answer is yes, you are now considered an Internationally Qualified Nurse or IQN.
  • Once you are a Registered Nurse, you may apply for work or skilled immigration. For the latter though, you will also have to meet other eligibility factors.


Truth #2.  As an IQN applying for skilled immigration, you must comply with the skills assessment procedure.

  • It is the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council or ANMAC that oversees skills assessment.
  • ANMAC also considers work experience to determine if you are qualified for skilled immigration, not only credentials.
  • Because of the above, in rare cases, some applicants may be approved for skilled immigration but don't meet the requirements of the NMBA.


Truth #3.  Australia's National Registration and Accreditation Scheme is implemented by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency of AHPRA.

  • The Initial Registration for Overseas Nurses (IRON) programme is a quality bridging programme for IQNs to practice in Australia.
  • An IRON (commonly known as bridging programs among Filipino nurses) may last up to three months in length.


Truth #4. When you apply for registration to the NMB, your credentials will be assessed based on eight criteria.

  • Once ready in 2019, AHPRA/NMBA will be reducing these criteria to three.
  • Many Registered Nurses, including applicants from the Philippines, usually do not meet all criteria. Assessment of Philippine RNs usually fail at:
    • The qualification being considered the equivalent of an Australian bachelor degree;
    • Inclusion of a minimum of 800 hours of workplace experience providing exposure to a variety of healthcare settings; 
    • The curriculum of the program of study focusing on various aspects of nursing practice with contemporary nursing practice as its main focus. The core health professional knowledge and skills and specific nursing practice knowledge and skills:
      • Must be based on current and best available evidence and;
      • Are applied across the human lifespan and;
      • Must include health/nursing research, health policy and evidence-based inquiry throughout the course content.
    • Completion of an assessment in medication management including administration of medications (including calculations), pharmacokinetics (study of bodily absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion of drugs), among other topics.


Truth #5. The NMBA already announced that it will be transitioning to an Outcomes-based Assessment, known as OBA in the "second half of 2019."

  • You might qualify for the OBA if you are an IQN holding relevant, but not "substantially equivalent qualifications."
  • If you meet the mandatory registration standards as well, then there will be no need for you to take a bridging program.


Truth #6. The NMBA has already recommended the following factors and requirements for establishing an OBA :

  • The overall assessment process includes both a cognitive and behavioural component;
  • The cognitive assessment, which is a computer-based multiple-choice questionnaire, must be passed before the behavioural assessment is attempted;
  • The behavioural assessment will be in the form of an objective structure clinical examination or OSCE where you will have to demonstrate the skills of an entry-level nurse;
  • An orientation program is proposed for all IQNs applying for registration in Australia.
  • The orientation will:
    • Include an online assessment to introduce you and the other IQNs to Australia and the Australian healthcare system;
    • Cover topics regarding the diversity of the Australian culture and will be completed once registered with the NMBA. This will be a condition of your registration until you complete it;
    • Be provided by your employer, based on NMBA guidelines.


Truth #7. If you do not qualify to apply for NMBA registration under the OBA, you will be required to enroll in a Bridging Program.

  • A " bridging program" is a program of study approved by the NMBA that enables internationally qualified nurses (or IQNs)  and midwives, who  do not qualify for registration under section 53(b) of the National Law. Completing the program will allow you to meet the NMBA’s standards for practice. 
  • If you do not wish to take a bridging program, you may upgrade your current nursing qualification either in Australia or overseas.  If you choose the latter option, you must ensure that the country you are upgrading in meets accreditation requirements.


Truth #8.  Your application for a visa is adjudicated and issued only by Australia's Department of Home Affairs.

  • The DHA was formerly known as Department of Immigration and Border Protection or DIBP.
  • Neither the NMBA or AHPRA or ANMAC can issue you a visa.
  • For a successful application, you must prove you are qualified for the visa you are applying for.
    • If you intend to complete a bridging course in Australia that is about three months or less in duration, you may apply for a Visitor Visa (Subclass 600). 
    • If you intend to enroll in a longer program or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program or a Master's degree, you will have to apply for a Student Visa (Subclass 500). 
    • Some of the universities and colleges offering a bridging program may prefer that you apply for a Student Visa though and NOT a visitors' visa.


Truth #9. Until the changes are in place by 2019, the current registration procedures listed below, remain in place:

  • Ability assessed as meeting the registration requirements
  • Ability to meet the immigration requirements
  • Complete application form and provide all documentation to AHPRA
  • NMBA will assess whether applicant meets the requirements for registration
  • If successful, registration issued “in principle” or with conditions including taking bridging course and subsequent supervised practice. 
  • Apply for immigration, usually in Australia since the Philippine RN completed the bridging course and complied with other registration requirements while in Australia.
  • Obtain a work visa through a qualified Australian employer/sponsor;
  • If eligible, pursue permanent residency for skilled migration through SkillSelect.
  • Begin working as temporary migrant or permanent skilled migrant.


Truth #10.  The NMBA requires proof of English language proficiency. If you are required to sit for an English language exam, you may choose between the following:

  • International English Language Testing System academic module (IELTS Academic);
  • Occupational English Test (OET);
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL iBT); and
  • Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic).




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