Two years after upgrading its nursing programme to university level, Israel experienced a massive wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union. Previous studies have shown that Russian immigrants in general, and in nursing in particular, have several unique characteristics that need to be taken into consideration in planning curricula and absorption programmes. The aim of the present work was to update these data, focusing on the reasons new immigrants choose nursing as a career, their image of the profession and their satisfaction with it. The study population consisted of 302 students attending five major academic schools of nursing in Israel. Students were divided into two groups: new immigrants (less than 4 years in Israel) and long-time Israelis (more than 4 years in Israel). All completed a 30-item questionnaire of proven validity and reliability. Findings were analysed by length of time in Israel and year of study. Using a series of statistical tests, we found that compared with the long-time Israelis, the new immigrants came from a higher socio-economic/professional stratum (in their mother country), had a less ‘technical’ perception of nursing, and were attracted to the profession primarily for extrinsic reasons (‘close to medicine’, economics). Both groups showed highest satisfaction in the clinical domain; however, the difference was significant only in the long-time Israeli group, even though the new immigrants had rated this domain highest in importance. The new immigrants showed least satisfaction in the academic domain. These results could be explained by several factors: the financial and housing problems that accompany immigration; the higher proportion of married students in the new immigrant group; and especially language difficulties, which are multiplied in Israel, where mastery in both Hebrew and English is necessary. Of particular interest was the fact that many of the immigrant students had already begun or completed medical school in their old country but were forced to compromise their dreams on immigration. This affected both their image of nursing and their reasons for choosing it as a career. We believe these findings will help nurse educators identify areas in which they can help ease the absorption process for maximal benefit to both the students and the profession.