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A Comprehensive Guide on How to Become a Foreign Nurse in New Zealand

In order to become a nurse in New Zealand, you must acquire a nursing degree that meets the standards of NCNZ, a work experience as a nurse for two years within the last five years, a nursing license from your country of origin, a minimum of the passing score in the IELTS or OET and the CAP, proof of fitness, and an application submitted to the CGFNS International site. Although there are several requirements needed for a foreign educated nurse to work in New Zealand, several nurses prefer to work in the country due to the attractive salary and benefits. The high demand for registered nurses in the country due to aging populations is another factor on why nurses choose to work in New Zealand.

About the Country

The locals in New Zealand are the most humble, genuine, and funniest people, allowing you to instantly feel at home when you are in the country. The people are most laid back and have an optimistic attitude towards life. This could definitely help you feel more comfortable being in a foreign country. Aside from that, there is also a low crime rate in the country, as New Zealand ranked as the 14th safest country, based on the Internations 2019 Expat Insider Index. 

The climate in New Zealand is temperate and warm all throughout the year, which implies that there are more sunny days than rainy days. The North Island stays warm and bright during the winter months, whereas the South Island might be experiencing snow. Regardless of the season, nature enthusiasts will definitely appreciate the country’s abundant outdoor activities, which include skiing, and surfing. In addition, New Zealand is one of the countries that have the most beautiful and diverse landscapes in the world. Untouched beaches, jungles, deserts, fjords, glaciers, and mountains could all be found in the country. 

New Zealand is also a peaceful and relaxing country. In fact, the large cities are not overcrowded, as New Zealand has a population density of 18 individuals per square kilometer. As a result, if you live in the countryside, the distance between you and your neighbors could be hundreds of kilometers. Therefore, if you’re looking for a quiet life, then New Zealand is the country for you. 

According to the president of the Filipino Nurses Association and a Ministerial appointee to the Nursing Council of New Zealand (NCNZ), Monina Hernadez, among the 59,000 nurses in New Zealand, 10 percent of them are Filipinos. This could ease your worries of being alone in a foreign country. In fact, you could even opt to join the Filipino Nurses Association of New Zealand in order to meet fellow Filipino nurses in the country. This could definitely help if you are feeling homesick and wish to have a companion from your homeland.

Type of Nurses

There are three main types of nursing practices in New Zealand, which include Registered Nurses, Enrolled Nurses, and Nurse Practitioners. Each nursing specialty has its own set of educational requirements, license requirements, and scope of practice.

Registered Nurses (RN)

To become a registered nurse, you must  hold a Bachelor of Nursing degree with a minimum course duration of three years. It must be equivalent to the 7th level of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority Framework. The responsibilities of an RN include direct patient care and case management, developing nursing practice standards and quality assurance procedures, directing complex nursing care systems, conducting clinical research, teaching in nursing programs, and working in a variety of settings. 

Registered nurses may choose to specialize in the following areas: Aged Care, Primary Care, Child and Adolescent Nursing, Mental Health and Addiction, and Intensive Care. They may also choose to acquire work in nursing practice, health management, research, or teaching. 

Enrolled Nurses (EN)

In order to become an Enrolled nurse, you must complete an enrolled nursing program with a minimum course duration of 18 months. The program must be at par with the fifth level of the National Qualifications Framework, and it must also be recognized by the Nursing Council. ENs work in community, residential, and hospital settings under the supervision and delegation of a registered nurse or nurse practitioner to provide nursing care and health education to people of all ages. They are often under the direction of an RN or an NP.

Nurse Practitioners (NP)

Nurse practitioners are highly trained, self-contained health care providers with extensive education, clinical experience, and established competence. They are legally allowed to practice at a higher level than a registered nurse. To become an NP, you must have a minimum of four years experience in your chosen field of specialty, as well as a master’s degree focused in clinical studies.

Some of their responsibilities include diagnosing patients, conducting and analyzing diagnostic and laboratory tests, administering therapies for the management of health needs, and prescribing medicine within their scope of practice.

Work Sectors

RNs in New Zealand may work in several sectors. Some of which are Nursing Homes (aged care), Mental Health & Addiction Treatment Centers, Primary Care, Intensive Care, Ambulatory Surgical Centers, Clinics, Doctor’s Offices, Dialysis Facilities, Imaging and Radiology Centers, Orthopedic Rehabilitation Centers, Birth Centers, and Child & Adolescent Nursing. The work sectors may vary in terms of requirements for the nurses to be qualified to work in the particular area.


The salary of a nurse is highly dependent on their respective qualifications, education, specialization, and work experience. An RN in New Zealand earns an average salary of $66,300 (₱2,380,892) annually, or an hourly rate of $34 (₱1,220.97). Nurses who have more experience in their respective fields have higher salaries. For instance, entry-level nurses earn an initial salary of $60,450 (₱2,170,813) annually, while the highest-paid nurses earn $83,543 (₱3,000,103.66) annually, or even more. Similarly, entry-level clinical nurses in the country have an average salary of $94,233 (₱3,383,991.1) annually, whereas the nurses with the most experience could earn as much as $97,680 (₱3,507,775.94).

Demand for Nurses

As the populations in New Zealand continue to age, the demand for nurses in the country continues to increase. According to the New Zealand Nurses Organization, statistics show that by 2035, an estimate of half of the total nurses will retire, which means that there will be more nursing job vacancies. 

In fact, aged care registered nurses are in the long-term skill shortage list maintained by the Immigration of New Zealand, due to the shortage of aged care nurses in the country. With this, the government is actively promoting skilled registered nurses from other countries to work in New Zealand’s elderly care system.


There are 220 hospitals in New Zealand, and are classified into two major categories: public and private hospitals. Some of the major regional public hospitals in the country include Whangarei Hospital, Wellington Hospital, Waikato Hospital, Middlemore Hospital, Christchurch Hospital, and Auckland City Hospital

Southern Cross Healthcare Group is known as New Zealand’s sole national private hospital network. Other important private surgical centers include MercyAscot, Ormiston Hospital, Royston Hospital, St. George’s Hospital, Braemar Hospital, and Mercy Hospital

Educational Requirement

In order to be able to work as an international nurse in NZ, you must have graduated with a Bachelor of Nursing degree, or any other degree within the 7th to 8th levels of the New Zealand Qualifications Framework that is approved by the Nursing Council of New Zealand (NCNZ). 
You must also be a licensed or registered nurse in your home country. The nursing license must be active and could come from your country’s regulating organization. For instance, the organization for nurses coming from the Philippines is the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC).


Foreign-educated nurses must have a minimum of 2 years, or 2,500 hours of working as a nurse within the last five years prior to being qualified to work in the country.

Although there is no assurance that you will be approved for registration, you may still apply for the credential verification service even if you have not reached the minimum years of experience. However, you are not qualified to apply for registration if you have no post registration experience.


English Language Proficiency Test

New Zealand is a country where English is the primary language, therefore, you must be able to demonstrate your ability to read, write, listen, and speak English in order to qualify for employment in the country. With this, you must pass any of the English proficiency tests listed below. You may acquire the minimum score in more than one sitting, provided that the required score was met within 12 months from the first test.

If you studied, practiced, or held a nursing license in a country such as the United States of America (USA), the United Kingdom (UK), Canada, or Ireland, you are excused from passing the aforementioned tests. In the CGFNS, you can request a waiver of the English Language Proficiency Requirements. If you don’t need to take English Proficiency examinations, you can do so with NCNZ’s permission.

Occupational English Test (OET)

The Occupational English Test (OET) is a specialized exam designed to evaluate the English language skills of healthcare professionals who would be working in a country that predominantly uses the English language. International healthcare councils in 15 countries, including Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand, and Ireland, recognise the OET test results. A minimum score of 350 from each of the four sections, namely, listening, reading, writing, and speaking, must be acquired.

You may learn more about the test on the OET website.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) – Academics

A minimum score of 7 from each of the sections, reading, writing, listening, and speaking, must be obtained in order to pass the IELTS and work as a nurse in New Zealand.
You may learn more about the test on the IELTS website.

Other Requirements

Competence Assessment Programme (CAP)

The Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 requires registered and enrolled nurses who have been out of practice for five years or more to complete a competency assessment program before being granted a practicing certificate. The programme assesses if you are competent and possess the necessary skills to practice nursing in New Zealand. It is a mandatory prerequisite that includes 8-12 weeks of theory and clinical training. Accredited nursing schools, district health boards, and district health service providers all offer CAPs. CAPs often take six to twelve weeks long. 

You may be exempted from completing the CAP if you are currently a registered nurse in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, Singapore, United States of America, or Canada. This is because the healthcare system in these countries holds similarities with that of NZ. 

Fitness to Practice

It is required for international nurses to accomplish an International Criminal History Check (ICHC) for every country that you have resided in for twelve months or more within the last ten years. This could be completed on the Fit2Work website.

If you have resided in NZ for a minimum of six months, you must accomplish a criminal history check through the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).


In order to complete the CGFNS credentials verification process, you are required to submit the necessary documents and qualifications to the CGFNS. The CGFNS will send you a report after the process. Once you have received your report, you must send a request to CGFNS and forward it to the Nursing Council. It may take a maximum of three working days to receive your report. Once you have received an email inviting you to accomplish the application process for registration, you must apply to the Nursing Council, who will evaluate your application based on seven standards. Once you have finished the criminal history checks and the CAP, you must apply for an Annual Practicing Certificate, which serves as your entitlement to practice as a  nurse in the country. 

Make sure to prepare the necessary documents and to study for the English proficiency exam in advance, so that you will not encounter any other delays in the process. Once you have successfully completed the steps above, you are now one step closer to becoming a nurse in New Zealand.


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