Filipino nurses are now the third largest ethnic group of nurses in New Zealand and they want immigration NZ to help solve the nursing shortage through an IQN (Internationally qualified nurses) /CAP (Competency Assessment Programme) visa category.

The proposed IQN/CAP visa category will be valid for 9-12 months to allow migrant nurses to complete the CAP, obtain a practising certificate, and look for a job as registered nurses.

New Zealand’s nursing shortage is predicted by the Nursing Council of New Zealand  to increase up to 15,000 by 2035. Immigration NZ can therefore help resolve this problem by facilitating the process of obtaining nursing registration for IQNs.

IQNs represent 26% of the overall practising nurse workforce in New Zealand. As of 31 March 2017, New Zealand has 52,711 practising nurses. Of these, 4,337 gained their nursing qualification in the Philippines, thereby, making Filipinos the third largest ethnic group (8%) in the overall NZ nursing workforce, after NZ European/Pākehā (62%) and other European (14%).

Requirements for New Zealand registration

Graduates of nursing programmes outside New Zealand, like most Filipinos, are required to satisfy the seven requirements for New Zeealand registration. These requirements are: submission of legal documents to prove identity; completion of a nursing qualification that is equivalent to level 7 or 8 on the NZ Qualifications Framework; high standard of written and spoken English (with at least a B for each band in an OET test or at least 7.0 for each band in an IELTS Academic test); current nursing registration overseas; fitness to practise; at least two years’ experience working as a registered nurse overseas, and completion of a competency assessment programme (CAP) to demonstrate competence to practise in the New Zealand context.

 Cost of applying for a Competency Assessment Programme in New Zealand

There are only 16 accredited programmes which offer competency assessment for registered nurses that are approved by the Nursing Council of New Zealand (as at May 2018).

Enrolment in a programme costs an international applicant around $6,100 to $10,500 plus 15% GST on top of costs for visa application and processing of legal documents, sitting an English exam, travel to New Zealand (about $1000 – $2,100 one-way, economy class), accommodation (about $2000 for eight weeks), other living expense, medical tests (about $1,000), insurance, uniform and other study expenses.

So all told the best case (no repeat examinations or re-application required) total expenses for an international applicant for completing the CAP in eight-weeks would be $17,000 – $21,000 on a tight budget.

On the other hand enrolment in a programme for a domestic applicant, costs around $1,500 – $2,300.

It would take years for a Filipino family to save the CAP enrolment fee, plus a huge bank debt and loss of family assets. Thus, a repeat medical test or visa application or a re-sitting of an English exam would be a huge blow to the scarce resources available to a Filipino applicant.

Facilitating the process of obtaining nursing registration through a migrant nurse visa

Migrant nurses who enrolled in the CAP come to New Zealand on a limited visitor’s visa which is usually valid for only three months. The CAP takes an average of nine weeks to complete, after which, the nurses need to apply for a visa extension while waiting for a license to practise. After they have obtained their license to practise, they then would need to apply for a work visa.

This entails hundreds of dollars (3x visa application), a lot of time to prepare documents for the repetitive application and stress because of uncertainty. Thus, it is recommended that immigration NZ develop an IQN/CAP visa category to help ease this burden.

Monina Hernandez is the President of the Filipino Nurses Association of New Zealand, Inc, a lecturer at Massey University and a newly appointed member of the Nursing Council of New Zealand.


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