The Great White North: Travel Nursing in CanadaThere is a certain intrigue about International Travel Nursing. I recently had an opportunity to have a conversation with a Canadian Travel Nurse who requested to remain anonymous. We discussed some of the highlights of a US nurse working in Canada. My overall impression is that it's very similar to travel nursing in the US. Let's explore some of the benefits of travel nursing in Canada.

Q. Are there any significant differences between travel nursing in Canada and travel nursing in the US?

A. Contracts in the US are generally 13 weeks. In Canada, contracts can be as short as 1 week to as long as you want. The common contract length is 1-2 months but you can choose your length of contract – it’s all up to you. The longer, of course, the better for nurse managers.

Q. Are you able to choose your contract location? Hospital?

A. Yes, you can choose your location. You do have to be licensed in the different provinces. Nurse licensing in separate provinces is similar to the reciprocity that is offered between states in the US.

Q. Are hours guaranteed?

A. Hours are guaranteed and overtime is readily available.

Q. Are any 'tax-free' allowances offered? Explain?

A. Yes, there are 'tax-free' allowances like northern isolation allowances, per diem, etc. but it varies per assignment. The recruiter can discuss with you per assignment and it will show on your contract.

A Northern or Isolation Allowance is part of a person's wages or salary. It takes the form of a higher wage or salary, or is given in a lump-sum "allowance" payment. It is an employment-related benefit to attract employees to work in unusual or unfavourable circumstances. Its purpose is to assist employees in coping with the high cost of living in northern or isolated areas.  It is not a reimbursement of expenses. A parallel may be drawn between a Northern Allowance or an Isolation Allowance and situations where an employer factors the cost of living in the community where the claimant works in the calculation of the wages or salary. Regardless, whether the money is paid in the form of increased wages or salary, or as an allowance, it is income. See:

Q. Does the travel company cover transportation? Housing?

A. Yes, you have the options to fly at company expense or use your personal vehicle and be reimbursed mileage. If you fly and need a vehicle, the company can arrange a cab for transportation to/from work. Housing is company provided and varies; hotel, suite, condo. Housing is private. Nursing recruiters will generally arrange all of your transportation i.e. flights, hotel transfers and hotel reservations.

Q. What shifts do Canadian Nurses work? 8 hr? 12 hr?

A. Similar to the US, shifts will vary according to the hospital. Many hospitals utilize 12 hour shifts but 8 hour shifts are available as well.

Q. Typical Nurse:patient ratio?

A. There isn't a mandated nurse:patient ratio in Canada. Staffing levels are pretty manageable. Ratio's are dependent on the Unit worked.


  • ICU 1:1-2
  • OR 1:1
  • Med Surg: 1:4-6
  • LTC 1:10 -30

Q. What are your typical tasks/responsibilities in a shift?

A. It depends per Unit and I float in different Units. I also sometimes assume the Charge Nurse position. I worked ER, ICU, Med/Surg, Palliative, Rehab, OR, PARR, Ambulatory Care/Day Surgery/ OPD, L&D, and LTC.

Q. What is the starting pay for a new graduate in Canada?

A. New grad rate would be around $45 (cad)/hour, with northern allowance, per diem, sick pay, vacation pay, etc. Similar to the US, pay varies per state but the minimum is $45 and can go up to $55. If you work a specialty it could be higher and the more experience you have the higher it will be.


Nurse Registration:

Obtaining Work Permit:

List of requirements may include (via

  • Completed application form and two recent passport size photographs
  • Your present and previous passport or travel documents and those of any family members accompanying you
  • Copies of your birth certificate
  • Payment of processing fee ($150 CND per person)
  • Your educational certificates
  • Letters of reference from present and past employers
  • An offer of employment
  • Employment Validation (Labor Market Opinion) from Human Resources Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) 1
  • Registration with College of Registered Nurses of BC or College of Registered Psychiatric Nurses of BC (Provisional Registration will also be sufficient)
  • A medical examination by a designated medical practitioner on Canada's designated medical practitioner's list. A list of Practitioners can be obtained from Citizen and Immigration Services Web site:
  • Note: Medical instructions will normally be sent to you after you submit your application to the Canadian Consulate/Embassy; however it is recommended that the medical be conducted as soon as possible after the date that the application for a work permit is submitted to the Canadian Consulate/Embassy.
  • “Application for a work permit” (IMM 1295)
  • “Document Checklist” (IMM 5488)
  • “Original receipt form” (IMM 5401) or payment receipt for fees paid online. The full process can take anywhere between 8 and 16 months to complete.


This brief overview on travel nursing in Canada is not intended to be a replacement for your own research. Please check with the appropriate Government agencies on the details of working as a US citizen in Canada before you take the plunge. As with working in any foreign country, you will have to adhere to that countries rules and regulations. I would also suggest speaking to your tax expert and find out the US tax implications prior to tax season.

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