What is a NOC code and what is its significance?

In many of my previous blogs you will notice that I often reference the National Occupation Code or NOC code.  It’s not a system that many Canadians are aware of let alone understand its importance in many Canadian government processes.

The NOC system is one in which all occupations are classified into four-digit codes in order to allow for tracking and publication of average wages, job descriptions and job prospects in specific industries.  Jobs are categorized into general buckets and although not all positions are listed (let’s face it there are new types of jobs created every day), every job will fit into one NOC grouping or another.

The structure of the NOC code will tell you about the particulars of the occupation to which it relates.  The first number in the code refers to the industry associated with the position, for example 1 is for financial and administrative positions, 2 is for positions in natural sciences, 3 is Health Occupations etc.

That is unless the code starts with a 0.  Zero indicates that the role is a managerial position.  In these cases, the second number then indicates the industry sector.  Does this make sense?  No.  But that’s how the processes works.

The second number in the NOC, with the exception of managerial positions as listed above, indicates the sophistication associated with the position.  You may have heard of O, A or B level positions mentioned in reference to occupations that are eligible for economic based permanent residence applications.  O Level is a manager level that is indicated in the NOC code as a zero.  A level is a professional occupation indicated as a one in the code.  Two is B level skilled worker positions usually requiring post secondary education.  Three and four are unskilled positions often referred to as C and D level positions.

So for example, the code for an accountant is 1111 but the code for a accounting manager is 0111.  Similarly the code for a software developer is 2173 but the code for a user support technician is 2282.

When preparing an immigration application the NOC codes are used to reference salary requirements for LMIA and Intra-company Transferee work permit applications.  They are used to establish occupation requirements for LMIA applications and professional based Free Trade Agreement (FTA) work permit applications.  They are used to estimate the job vacancies for a particular occupation which should corroborate with an employer’s inability to fill a position when they file for an LMIA.  The NOC is used to limit the scope of occupations listed on work permits, to help calculate cumulative experience across multiple positions in permanent residence applications, and in many other ways not listed here.

It is important to note that there are several versions of the NOC matrix as the government tries to update the matrix every five years or so.  There are versions from 2006, 20011 and 2016.  Governmental ministries adopt the updated NOC systems in their own time, so there have been times when the ESDC and IRCC have been using different versions of the matrix and two different NOCs will be relevant for the same occupation depending on which Ministry you are working with at the time.

The other thing to note is that wages associated with the NOCs are updated on a regular basis and should be checked with each new application made.

The NOC code is integral to the economic based temporary resident and permanent immigration systems, particularly in how applications are viewed and analysed.  Knowledge of how this system works can really help to understand how to approach the application process.

If you have been following my blogs you will know that I often like to bring all the information together in an illustration.  So here it goes….

Jack is being brought to Canada on a temporary work permit by WeatherWatch a company that monitors and reports on climate change in support of the green energy industry.  Jack holds a PhD in climatology and is a renown Research Scientist in climate change.  He will be working for the company’s research facility located outside of Edmonton.  His NOC code is 2114; the 2 indicates it’s a position in natural sciences, the 1 indicates that it is a professional level position, and the 14 leads to the specific occupational grouping for meteorologists and climatologists.

As Jack is a new hire, the company needs to apply for a LMIA in order to support his work permit application.  When WeatherWatch refers to the jobbank wage report for NOC 2114 for the city of Edmonton they learn that the prevailing wage is CAD$ 41.84 per hour and that they need to advertise this position at a minimum of CAD$87.027.20 per year based on a 40-hour work week.

When the ESDC officer reviews the LMIA application, the officer sees that the jobbank lists the job prospects for this NOC as undetermined given the few individuals who work in this classification in the area (and across the country), which logically supports the assumption that this skill set is hard to find in Canada.

If Jack were an America citizen, because his occupation falls under the NOC for meteorologist and climatologists he would be eligible for a NAFTA professional work permit as Meteorologist is listed as an eligible occupation.

When Jack’s work permit is finally issued it will restrict his occupation to being a meteorologist and climatologist which means that his role can change in anyway within the confines of the listed NOC description. If the change in role exceeds the boundaries of the NOC description for 2114 then the conditions on the work permit will be breached and he will need a new work permit before he can take on this role.  For example, if he is promoted to director of the research facility a new work permit under a new NOC may be required.

Lastly, when Jack realizes what that the Edmonton area is a fantastic place to live, he decides to apply for permanent residence through Express Entry under the Canadian Experience Class (CEC).  When completing this application, he will present his work experience with references to the associated NOC codes.  This will help IRCC categorize his work experience into O, A or B occupations so that he can prove he qualifies for CEC and also gain points for his Canadian and foreign work experience.

As you can see the use of the NOC codes are relevant to many stages of the immigration process in Canada.  Knowledge of how the NOC system works and knowledge of the information available within this system can empower an employer and an applicant in this process.  It can help a company focus its recruitment efforts, remain compliant with immigration obligations and gain clarity about the assessment process.

– Sarah Adler, Immigration Lawyer

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