The National Occupational Classification System

Much of Canada’s immigration system is based on Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (“Service Canada’s“) National Occupational Classification (“NOC“) system.  Economic class applicants generally need to understand the NOC system because the success of their applications will depend on them demonstrating that they have qualifying experience or pre-arranged employment in certain NOCs.  Employers submitting Labour Market Impact Assessment applications to the Ministry of Economic and Social Development Canada (“ESDC“) need to know which NOCs their vacant positions fall under because this will determine the respective prevailing wage and recruitment requirements.  Indeed, it is arguable that international graduates should pay attention to the NOC of their first jobs out of post-secondary school because only experience in certain NOCs will count towards immigration.

What is the National Occupational Classification?

According to the Service Canada website, the National Occupational Classification (NOC) 2011 (“2011 NOC“) is the authoritative resource on occupational information in Canada.  The 2011 NOC is the nationally accepted taxonomy and organizational framework of occupations in the Canadian labour market.  Under the NOC system, almost all occupations in Canada are identified and grouped primarily in terms of the work usually performed, this being determined by the tasks, duties, and responsibilities of an occupation.  Every occupation in Canada is given a 4 digit NOC code. The starting place to determine a position’s NOC code is to go to the Service Canada website, type in the job title (or similar titles), and see which NOC code is most applicable.

For example, a search of “Cook” on Service Canada’s 2011 NOC website reveals the following possible NOC codes containing the word “Cook”:

NOC search

 

NOC results

The NOC Matrix

For most immigration programs, the most important aspect of the NOC system to understand is the distinction between “High-Skilled” and “Low-Skilled” positions.  The distinction between the two skill levels is important for most economic immigration programs and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

Under the NOC system, occupations are divided into numerous Skill Levels as follows:

NOC Skill Level

Description

0

Management

A

Occupation usually requires university education

B

Occupation usually requires college education or apprenticeship training

C

Occupation usually requires secondary school and/or occupational specific training

D

On-the-job training is usually provided for occupations.

 

Service Canada has produced a useful matrix showing which Skill Level each NOC falls under, which can be found here:

Occupations which fall under NOC Skill Level O, A, or B are considered “High-Skilled.”  Occupations which fall under NOC Skill Level C or D are considered Low-Skilled.

The distinction can often be very minor, and unforgiving. For example, NOC 6221 – Technical Sales Specialist (Wholesale Trade) includes occupations such as “electronic sales representative” and “farm machinery salesperson.”  These are considered High-Skilled. NOC 6411 – Sales and Account Representatives (Wholesale Trade) – Non-Technical, meanwhile, includes occupations such as “advertising agency broker” and “freight-forwarder.”  These are classified as Low Skilled.  Employment experience in NOC 6221 counts towards the Federal Skilled Worker Program (“FSWP“) and the Canadian Experience Class (“CEC“), while employment experience in NOC 6411 does not.

Often, the duties of two NOCs are very similar.

The Main Duties of NOC 1241 – Administrative Assistants, which is High-Skilled, for example, are:

Admin AssistantsThe Main Duties of NOC 1241 – General Office Support Workers, which is Low-Skilled, meanwhile, are:

General Assistants

The similarities between numerous NOCs can best be thought of by visualizing a Venn Diagram.  Depending on which duties an individual does, it is possible that their position can be classified under numerous NOCs.  For example, it is not uncommon for applicants to state that they have experience in NOC 1241, only to have Citizenship and Immigration Canada determine that NOC 1411 is more appropriate.  The result is that the applicant is now classified as having Low-Skilled experience, and is ineligible to immigrate.

Venn Diagram

Specific Programs

The importance of understanding how to read the NOC website cannot be overstated.  For example, r. 75(2)(a)-(c) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (“IRPR”) provides:

A foreign national is a skilled worker if

(a) within the 10 years before the date on which their application for a permanent resident visa is made, they have accumulated, over a continuous period, at least one year of full-time work experience, or the equivalent in part-time work, in the occupation identified by the foreign national in their application as their primary occupation, other than a restricted occupation, that is listed in Skill Type 0 Management Occupations or Skill Level A or B of the National Occupational Classification matrix;

(b) during that period of employment they performed the actions described in the lead statement for the occupation as set out in the occupational descriptions of the National Occupational Classification;

(c) during that period of employment they performed a substantial number of the main duties of the occupation as set out in the occupational descriptions of theNational Occupational Classification, including all of the essential duties;

IRPR r. 87.1 meanwhile states that:

A foreign national is a member of the Canadian experience class if

(a) they have acquired in Canada, within the three years before the date on which their application for permanent residence is made, at least one year of full-time work experience, or the equivalent in part-time work experience, in one or more occupations that are listed in Skill Type 0 Management Occupations or Skill Level A or B of the National Occupational Classification matrix, exclusive of restricted occupations; and

(b) during that period of employment they performed the actions described in the lead statement for the occupation as set out in the occupational descriptions of the National Occupational Classification;

(c) during that period of employment they performed a substantial number of the main duties of the occupation as set out in the occupational descriptions of the National Occupational Classification, including all of the essential duties;

Indeed, the term “National Occupational Classification” appears 24 times in IRPR, and can be found throughout the Citizenship and Immigration Canada, ESDC, and numerous provincial nomination program websites. As can be seen above, most programs generally require applicants to demonstrate that their position matches a NOC’s lead statement, and that they perform a “substantial number” of the main duties of that NOC.

NOC Website

Which NOC?

Finally, it behooves individuals to note the distinction between the 2011 NOC and the National Occupational Classification 2006 (“2006 NOC”).  The 2011 NOC is really just an update to the 2006 NOC.  Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the various provincial nomination programs all rely exclusively on the 2011 NOC when processing applications.  However, ESDC continues to use the out dated 2006 NOC. (Because of this, notwithstanding government policy, some CIC officers will use the 2006 NOC when issuing work permits.)

The distinction between the 2006 NOC and the 2011 NOC is important, and the onus is on applicants to know whether to use the 2006 NOC or the 2011 NOC in their applications.  For example, an individual who receives a LMIA-based work permit to be a Baker will receive a work permit which states that he is working in NOC 6252, which is the NOC code for Baker in the 2006 NOC.  When the individual submits a CEC application to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, he must state which NOC code he wants his experience to be considered under.  If he puts NOC 6252 instead of NOC 6332 (which is the number in the 2011 NOC) then CIC will refuse to process the CEC application.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *