Under the Tier 2 visa, people are ordinarily required to meet the minimum income requirement of £30,000 a year. The exemption means nurses only need meet the lower rate of £20,800.
The announcement comes after a report from NHS Improvement reveals there are 3,000 more nurse vacancies in the NHS compared with this time last year.
Acting RCN Chief Executive Dame Donna Kinnair said: “On the same day we learn that the number of unfilled nurse jobs has risen year on year, the importance of this decision cannot be underestimated.
“For as long as the UK fails to train enough of our own nurses, it is vital we remain open and welcoming to our international colleagues who are helping to keep our health and care services running at a time when staffing shortages are already extensive.
“But with no clear indicators the workforce crisis is abating, and over 40,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England alone, the Government must now recognise the value of nurses and the care they give patients.
“It must do this by developing a fully funded UK-wide workforce strategy, backed by legislation, to increase nursing numbers for safe and effective care.”