INDUSTRY
November 2, 2021

10 Highest Paying Countries for Nurses in the World

View of European city on a sunny day
Kathleen Gaines
By: Kathleen Gaines MSN, RN, BA, CBC

Travel nursing within the United States is one of the hottest trends because of the flexibility, high pay, excitement, and ability to travel the country. International nursing is a trend that is continuing to gain popularity. Unfortunately, COVID-19 made it more difficult for American-trained nurses to travel abroad but as restrictions continue to be lifted, the world of international travel nursing is starting to regain momentum. 

While the pay is much lower than in the United States, most nurses who travel internationally want to immerse themselves in another culture and get away from the current nursing issue plaguing bedside nurses in the U.S.

Unlike U.S. travel nursing, contracts are much longer, and the process can take months. Nurses who embark on this journey will not have the luxury to switch countries every few months but may be able to travel within a specific country depending on the rules of the country and visas.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), Registered Nurses in the United States in 2020 made an average salary of $75,330. The top five best-paying cities were all located in California.

  • San Francisco, Oakland, Hayward - $149,200
  • San Jose, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara - $146,870
  • Vallejo-Fairfield California - $142,140
  • Salinas - $132,160
  • Santa Rosa- $124,840

While the lowest paying states are not published, the bottom-paid 10 percent earned less than $53,410. When considering taking a job as an international travel nurse, take into consideration the money that could be made in your home state.

International travel nursing can be exciting, adventurous, and extremely rewarding but it is important to commit to it as the process can take months and is costly. Furthermore, in most countries, once a letter of job agreement has been signed it is very difficult to break the contract. Becoming an international travel nurse takes planning and dedication but experiencing another culture while working alongside locals is something only few will ever experience.

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Visa Requirements for Working Abroad

All countries listed below require work visas in order to legally be employed in the country. These visas cannot be obtained without the following, 

  • Credentialing from the countries board of nursing
  • A verifiable employment offer
  • Sponsorship from the hospital

Working with an International Nursing Travel Agency can help facilitate this and do most of the legwork. This is crucial to becoming successful, as most countries do deny non-EU applications the first time. By using an agency that is familiar with international nursing law, the chances of success are higher. Furthermore, they can facilitate conversations with the countries and discuss ways to obtain licensure in a quicker fashion.

Work visas are a separate fee and may require a trip to the country’s Embassy in the United States. 

Most Embassies are located in the following cities

  • Chicago 
  • Houston
  • Los Angeles 
  • New York City

If you currently live in a state where there is no local Embassy, be aware you might have to travel to a city where an Embassy is located. This is an additional fee you would be reasonable for.

Below are some of the top countries around the world for nurses to work. All average salaries listed are in USD

Top Paying Countries for Nurses In the World

1. Luxembourg -  $91,000 (USD)

Currently topping the list as the highest-paid country in the world for nurses, this tiny country in Western Europe pays its nurses very well. Because of the tiny size of the country and its tax haven laws, getting a job as a nurse is extremely difficult. While almost impossible, nurses can wait for years for an opening to occur. It is also important to note that international nurses interested in working in Luxembourg must have the necessary linguistic skills including proficiency in either French, German, and/or Luxembourgish. The nurse’s language proficiency in one of the three languages may be tested at the request of the Minister of Health.

In order to become a nurse in Luxembourg, you must first petition the Ministère de la Santé (Ministry of Health) for an application pack. Nurses are either licensed as adult nurses only or under a general system. This is important depending on the specialty of the nursing position. A visa is required to work in Luxembourg.

  • Villa Louvigny
  • Allée Marconi
  • L-2120 Luxembourg
  • +352 247 85500
  • [email protected]
  • https://guichet.public.lu/en/entreprises/sectoriel/sante/autres-professions-sante-reglementees0/infirmier.html

2. Denmark - $87,436 (USD)

The Danish Patient Safety Authority oversees all non-EU citizens’ applications for nursing licensure. There are three different pathways for application including pathways for individuals from Nordic countries, EU member states, and all others. Interestingly, if you are over the age of 75 you are not allowed to practice as a nurse in Denmark as this is a Danish law.

For those interested in applying for an application, the first step is submitting all need education documentation and qualifications. If approved, individuals are given three years to fulfill the remainder of the qualifications for permanent authority to practice in Denmark. The main component is the language exam.

The language examination is held twice a year in May/June and November/December in Denmark. This examination is equal to a native speaker exam. Individuals who speak the language fluently can appeal and submit to a different exam. Once the language portion is passed, individuals must pass the employment for adaptation and training purposes. This illustrates clinical skills and communication skills with patients, providers, and families. Once these are all passed to the satisfaction of the board a permanent license can be obtained.

  • For all non-EU members, a work visa must be secured prior to arrival in Denmark.
  • Danish Patient Safety Authority
  • Islands Brygge 67
  • 2300 Copenhagen S
  • Denmark
  • +45 72 28 66 00
  • [email protected]

3. Canada - $75,660 per year, $48.50 per hour (USD)

With universal healthcare and proximity to the United States, Canada is a prime location for nurses interested in trying International Nursing but do not want to stray too far from home. Furthermore, English as the primary language adds to the ease of transitioning to another country.

The College of Nurses of Ontario is the governing board for Registered Nurses in Canada. International applicants must secure a license from the board after a series of background checks, interview questions, and an examination. This examination costs a minimum of $340. The price can vary based on individual factors. According to the website, the registration process can take anywhere from 3-18 months. The application can be started online with the submission of documentation.

A visa is required to work in Canada despite being our neighbor to the north and can be secured from your place of employment after credentialing has occurred.

  • College of Nurses of Ontario
  • 101 Davenport Rd.
  • Toronto Ontario
  • M5R3P1 Canada
  • 1-800-387-5526
  • www.cno.org

4. Virgin Islands - $72,000 (USD)

Looking for that laid-back island vibe while still earning a top wage. The Virgin Islands are the perfect escape for those dreading the long winters and longing for sunshine, sand, and crystal blue water. Some islands have a higher average wage such as St. Croix. This wage is dependent on the financial stability of the individual island and the healthcare facilities available.

The Virgin Islands Board of Nurse Licensure oversees all applicants. An application packet must be submitted along with the verification of license form, copies of all nursing school transcripts and course syllabuses, a $125 fee, and letters of recommendation. Furthermore, nurses are required to pass the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools Exam. Application verification takes a minimum of 90 business days for processing.

  • Virgin Islands Board of Nurse Licensure
  • No. 5051 Kongens Gade
  • Suite #1
  • St. Thomas, VA 00802
  • 340-776-7397

5. Australia - $69,699 (USD)

Home of the late Steve Irwin, kangaroos, the Great Barrier Reef, and koala sanctuaries, Australia has become a key destination for those interested in traveling while working abroad. A large appeal is the national language of Australia is English and there is no language barrier. There are numerous international agencies that work with hospitals in Australia. The largest recruiting agency for international nurses in Australia is Healthcare Australia (HCA).

In order to work in Australia, foreigners are required to apply for a visa with full working rights as well as valid registration with AHPRA (Australia’s Health Practitioner Regulation Agency). On average this takes approximately 4 to 5 months to process and be assessed.

Most international nurses work with a nursing agency that is familiar with the laws of international travel. It is rare to apply for a job and take on the needed paperwork by oneself. Remember, obtaining a visa must go through the proper channels and can take weeks to months. Becoming an international nurse requires more planning than traveling within the United States.

  • Australia Nursing Council, Inc.
  • 683 Murray Street
  • West Perth, 6005
  • WA, Australia
  • +61 8 9481 2488
  • https://www.australia-migration.info/gsm-visas-overview/
  • [email protected]

6. Switzerland - $64,793 (USD)

The Swiss Red Cross oversees all credentials for foreign nurses.  While there is a considerable shortage of nurses in Switzerland, a requirement for all applicants is they must fluently speak one of the national languages (Italian, French and/or German). There is absolutely no exception to this. While some hospitals in Switzerland will state that English is acceptable for employment in the hospital, it is not acceptable to the governing board.

The cost for evaluation of credentials in hopes of gaining certification is roughly $800 USD (as of 2019) and can take several months to occur. Furthermore, all applicants must pass an examination in one of the three aforementioned languages depending on the part of Switzerland for employment.

Additionally, all nurses are required to take additional courses towards a six-month apprenticeship. This is a paid position but lower than the typical nurses’ salary.

7. Norway - $46,050 (USD)

Norway, a Scandinavian country known as the land of Fjords, has one of the highest standards of living in the world as well as job satisfaction for nurses. While the average salary is $46,050, nurses have the ability to earn upwards of $100,000 depending on experience and specialty.

According to Statistics Norway, the average life expectancy of individuals in Norway is steadily rising. Furthermore, there will be a need for 95,000 to 135,000 additional healthcare workers over the next decade in Norway. The report did not distinguish between nurses, doctors, midwives, and nursing assistants.

In order to apply for an application, you must apply through The Norwegian Registration Authority for Health Personnel (SAK) and submit the proper documentation. Applications for residents outside of the EU/EEA take a minimum of 6 months and cost upwards of $500. Furthermore, the SAK can require an individual to submit additional paperwork in person at the main office in Norway. More often than not, applicants are not approved to practice in the SAK and are given a letter stating exactly what must be done in order to re-apply at a later date.

Individuals also must pass a Norwegian language examination. Courses are taught online for foreigners. There is also a one-year training program, including enrollment fee, that most international nurses are required to take prior to obtaining licensure.

  • The Norwegian Registration Authority for Health Personnel (SAK)
  • Pb. 220 Skoyen, 0213 Oslo
  • [email protected]
  • +47 24 16 30 00
  • https://www.helsedirektoratet.no/english/authorisation-and-license-for-health-personnel#required-documentation:-education-from-outside-the-eu/eea

8. Ireland - $39,768 (USD)

Nurses who wish to practice in Ireland must be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI). The Board stresses to nurses to NOT move to Ireland until a decision regarding credentialing has been finalized. It is also important not to apply for a job position or inquire about a position before obtaining certification from the Board.

In order to qualify, interest applicants must complete an online information packet, background check, fingerprinting, and English proficiency examination. This is required whether or not you are a native English speaker. Some individuals are required to complete an examination but that is ultimately determined by the board. In order to work in Ireland, an employment visa is a requirement.

One of the other possible outcomes of the application is 'adaptation and assessment'. This means that you will need to successfully complete a supervised placement in an Irish healthcare facility.

  • Bord Altranais agus Cnáimhseachais na hÉireann (Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland)
  • 18/20 Carysfort Avenue
  • Blackrock
  • Co. Dublin
  • Ireland
  • Telephone: +353 1 639 8500
  • https://healthservice.hse.ie/about-us/onmsd/careers-in-nursing-and-midwifery/overseas-nurses-midwives.html

9. Italy – $30,179 (USD)

Italy, like the United States, currently has a nursing shortage. In order to work in a country where English is NOT the primary language, most nursing licensure boards require a language proficiency examination as part of the credentialing process.

In Italy, nurses are required to take the Italian Nursing boards, a language proficiency examination, and must be sponsored by an Italian hospital to gain the nursing license. Once this occurs, a visa must be obtained to work in Italy via the Italian Embassy.

While there are many English-speaking hospitals in Rome, Florence, and Milan, such as Rome American Hospital, Hospital of Innocents, and Milan Clinic, it is unclear if nurses working in those hospitals must pass the language portion of the exam.

Additional information can be found through the Collegio Infermieri La Spezia and Federazione Nazionale Ordini Professioni Infermieristich. The website has a very small amount of information in English but is otherwise entirely in Italian but can be translated and has a great deal of information about working as a nurse in Italy.

  • Collegio Infermieri La Spezia - Italy
  • Via XXIV Maggio 343
  • La Spezia
  • Italy 19125 
  • 0187/575177
  • [email protected]
  • https://www.fnopi.it/en/for-foreign-nurses/ 

10. Dubai - $23,316 (USD)

Currently one of the richest and most lavish places in the world, Dubai has an extremely low average pay for nurses. According to PayScale.com the average pay for a nurse working in a hospital or long-term care facility is much less than in other Middle Eastern countries. However, despite the low pay, nurses are flocking to this thriving country.

Some hospitals in Dubai will pay a compensation similar to pay in the United States but that must be negotiated prior to job acceptance. In general, Americans earn the highest wages for nurses in Dubai. Income is tax-free, and healthcare is provided to everyone, which means the entire paycheck is taken home. For this reason, individuals have the opportunity to make more than they would at home.

Nurses working in Dubai have stricter requirements in their contracts than in other countries. Nurses are required to live in hospital-provided accommodations and are offered a small living stipend. Most are also required to sign a minimum of a one-year contract. 

Furthermore, with neighboring Muslim countries, it is important to remember the “rules” of these countries. Women must be covered at all times and not seen in public with a male that is not a relative or husband. While Dubai has plenty of expats as well as looser society rules, there are still a large majority of practicing Muslims in the country.

While visitors to Dubai are not required to obtain a visa, nurses relocating must have an employment visa. It can take a minimum of three months for immigration clearance to occur in order to obtain this.

It’s also important to note that contracts in Dubai, as well as other Middle Eastern countries, are either single-status contracts or married-status contracts. A single-status contract means that if you are married and have a family, they cannot move to Dubai with you. They will be able to visit but will not have access to any of the benefits of employment. Furthermore, depending on the position some hospitals will only be looking for female or male employees. These are important to keep in mind if Dubai and the rest of the Middle East are of interest.

  • Dubai Health Authority
  • Al Maktoum Bridge Street
  • Bur Dubai Area 4545, UAE
  • [email protected]
  • +971 42198888

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