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The Truth About Registering as an Internationally Qualified Nurse in Australia

There are stories here, tales there, hearsay everywhere. There is no prescription for gossip, so we've decided to update this old, archived post that is unexpectedly still being searched for and read.

Jennifer Aranda, Crispin Aranda | Originally posted on August 3, 2014; updated October 18, 2016

The Truth About Registering as an Internationally Qualified Nurse in Australia

In this edition, we are sharing some  verifiable facts - "truths" - that hopefully, will help you make a decision on the best option to gain that most coveted prize: Australian permanent residency and practicing your profession as an RN in Australia.

Truth #1.  To work in Australia as a nurse, you must apply for registration and subsequently be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (or NMBA) and meet the Board’s registration standards.

Truth #2.  If your intention is to apply as a Skilled Migrant, you would need to complete a skills assessment from the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council (or ANMAC). ANMAC assesses your skills as an internationally qualified nurse or midwife should you intend to migrate to Australia under the General Skilled Migration program.

Truth #3.  The NMBA only takes into account, your qualifications to determine if your qualifications are substantially equivalent to an Australian qualification.  The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (or AHPRA) is the organization responsible for the registration and accreditation of 10 health professions in Australia, including nurses and midwives.  On behalf of the NMBA, the AHPRA will assess your application for registration as an Internationally Educated Nurse. However, neither the AHPRA and NMBA will be able to assist you in job hunting or employer matching or even, influencing a decision regarding your employment.

Truth #4.  You can apply for registration to the NMBA but if your credentials do not meet the current legislative and registration standards, the NMBA will close your application.  However, if you complete a bridging program and have not first been assessed and referred by the NMBA, you may be refused registration even if you have successfully completed the bridging program. In addition, If you complete a bridging program that is not approved by the NMBA, your application for registration will be refused.

Truth #5.  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, to meet the requirements under section 53(c) by completing further study and assessment against 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 #6.  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 #7.   In general, Post Study work arrangements may be made that will allow graduates to remain in Australia temporarily after they finish their studies. To be considered eligible, you must: have completed a single qualification that requires at least two academic years (92 weeks of study) or several qualifications with an aggregate two academic years of study AND; completed the aforementioned program(s) in no less than 16 months.  A bridging program, that is usually 3 months in duration, DOES NOT fit in this category.

Truth #8.  As a student visa applicant, you must prove that you are a Genuine Entrant and possess sufficient funds to cover your travel to Australia and your intended period of stay.  You must also demonstrate that you meet the annual income requirements IF you are required to show evidence of financial capacity.

Truth #9.  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).

Travel, tuition and living expenses for Bridging Programs for Registered Nurse (Division 1) Applicants

This table outlines the amounts in Australian dollars (AUD) that you need access to as a requirement for applying for a student visa.  Do note that the living expenses per year are quoted from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.  These amounts are the minimum required for this visa. They do not necessarily represent the cost of living in Australia.

Living Expenses








Every child of school age


The fees listed here are only from Approved Programs of Study for .  Whenever possible, we listed the 2017 tuition fees per institution.  As fees may change any time, you are encouraged to check the websites of these colleges and universities to get the latest fee structure. The following figures are EXCLUSIVE of material fee(s), accommodation or registration/enrollment fees.

Initial Registration for Overseas Nurses (IRON)

     Australian Centre of Further Education


     Deakin University


     Education, Training and Employment Australia


     Institute of Health and Nursing Australia (IHNA)


     Lonsdale Institute (unavailable to the public)


     Monash University (2015 tuition fee)


Entry Program for Internationally Qualified Nurses (EPIQ RN)

     Australian College of Nursing


     Sunraysia College of Health and Nursing (unavailable to the public)


     Southern Cross University (Grad Cert in Australian Nursing)


     University of South Australia (unavailable to the public)


English Language Skills Registration Standard

For registration in Australia, you must be able to successfully demonstrate that your English language skills will enable you to safely practice as a Registered Nurse.  This language requirement is one of the core standard required under the National Law.

  • If you grew up in a country where English is the primary language, then you will have to take the primary language pathway to demonstrate your competence in the language. 
  • If you studied for at least five years (full-time equivalent) in a recognised country, then you meet the standard through the extended education pathway IF you can prove that you studied at least two years in a full-time equivalent pre-registration program of study approved by the recognised nursing and/or midwifery regulatory body in any of the recognised countries.
  • Otherwise, if your qualification was not taught and assessed in English in one of the recognised countries, you will have to meet the standard through the English language test pathway.

The recognised countries (other than Australia) are: United States of America, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland and South Africa.  These countries gave health care delivery systems that are similar to Australia and, in most of these countries, health care is almost always delivered in English.

The following table lists the minimum scores for the acceptable English language tests:


Overall Score

Minimum Scores per Component



Minimum 7.0 in each component



Minimum B in each component



Minimum 65 in each component



Listening: 24

Reading: 24

Writing: 27

Speaking: 23

As listed in "Truth #9," there are several English language tests available for you to take.  Ideally, you must be able to demonstrate that you meet the standard in one test sitting.  If you have two test sittings in a 6 month period however, the National Boards will accept the results from both as long as certain minimum scores are achieved in each sitting.  If two tests were taken within a  6 month period and the first test was taken less than two years before your application, then you might meet standards provided you can present passing scores for each module.

Remember, before you ask to have the results of two English language exams credited to your application, be sure to read up on the additional criteria that you have to meet!



National fee (AUD$)

Application fee for general registration


Application fee for graduates of approved programs of study leading to registration as a nurse or midwife, excluding bridging programs


Application fee for limited registration


Application fee for non-practising registration


Application fee for endorsement of registration


Application fee for fast track application


Registration fee for general registration


Registration fee for limited registration


Registration fee for non-practising registration


Late renewal fee for general registration


Late renewal fee for limited registration


Late renewal fee for non-practising registration


Replacement registration certificate


Extract from the register


Copy of the register (if application is assessed as in the public interest)


Overseas assessment charge


Verification of registration status (Certificate of Registration Status)


Please note that:

  • On the initial registration, both an application fee and a fee for annual renewal of registration apply.
  • There are no fees for the registration of students.
  • No application fee applies when changing from general registration type to non-practising.
  • A fee applies when applying for non-practising registration and no general registration type is currently held by the applicant.

Unsolicited Advice

Nobody admires an immigrant mindset more that us at IVC. To forge ahead, grit one's teeth and prevail against all odds … that's the stuff of legends!

Unfortunately, many visitors to Australia fail when they try to ‘convert’ their visitor's status to ‘work’ which of course may be difficult to do. They waste precious time before being told by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection that their application cannot be processed from within Australia because their visa conditions expressly prohibit that.  Often in such situations, applicants would have to return home or risk falling out of status while waiting in futility. 

And just because one person is rumored to have been successful in finding employment after completing a bridging course doesn't mean that you will. Check how many people have actually been able to do so versus the number who have failed. And, make sure you always operate within the spirit and the letter of immigration law.

So, here's Truth #10 ...

Truth #10.  What's truth today, may not be true tomorrow.

Do your due diligence and check the official websites of Australian government agencies/departments to gather as much information or protocol updates as you can before embarking on a course of action that may be a waste of your time and financial resources.  We've listed some of the websites that we ourselves use when we have to answer inquiries on the fly.  Good luck in using these!

Authors & Contributors

Jennifer Aranda

Jennifer Aranda

Jennifer S. Aranda is the COO of IVC Immigrant Visa Center, Inc.

Crispin Aranda

Crispin Aranda

Crispin R. Aranda is an established International Visa Conselor and Immigrant Advocate. He is the president of IVC and is in several migration radio programs.

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