International Mobility Program: Canadian interests – Significant benefit – Intra-company transferees – Qualifying job positions for specialized knowledge workers [R205(a)] (exemption code C12)

All in-Canada visitor record, study permit and work permit applications must be submitted electronically, with some exemptions. See the list of programs that are exempt from the mandatory electronic application requirement.

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada staff. It is posted on the Department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

Qualifying job positions for specialized knowledge workers

As of June 9th, 2014, a more rigorous assessment will be applied by officers processing work permit applications for Intra-company Transferees (ICTs) applying as Specialized Knowledge workers.

In order for the applicant to be eligible for the exemption (whether under R204 or R205), it must be determined that the applicant possesses a high standard of "specialized knowledge". For entries pursuant to R205, the applicant must be offered a wage given consistent with the Canadian prevailing wage.

Specialized knowledge

As set out in Canada’s commitment in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), an ICT Specialized Knowledge worker must possess “knowledge at an advanced level of expertise” and “proprietary knowledge of the company’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques or management”.

See Additional guidance below for further evaluation criteria.

To have specialized knowledge any ICT applicant would be required to demonstrate, on a balance of probabilities, a high degree of both proprietary knowledge and advanced expertise.

Proprietary knowledge alone, or advanced expertise alone, does not qualify the applicant under this exemption.

All ICT Specialized Knowledge applicants—including entries under the NAFTA—are subject to this refined definition of specialized knowledge, unless there is a specific definition that might be different in a specific FTA. For example, officers assessing applicants from Colombia or Peru, in particular, should consult the links provided for additional detail on the definitions of “specialized knowledge” captured in Canada’s FTAs with those countries.

Proprietary knowledge is company-specific expertise related to a company’s product or services. It implies that the company has not divulged specifications that would allow other companies to duplicate the product or service.

Advanced proprietary knowledge would require an applicant to demonstrate:

  • uncommon knowledge of the host firm’s products or services and its application in international markets; or
  • an advanced level of expertise or knowledge of the enterprise’s processes and procedures such as its production, research, equipment, techniques or management.

An advanced level of expertise is also required, which would require specialized knowledge gained through significant (i.e. the longer the experience, the more likely the knowledge is indeed “specialized”) and recent (i.e. within the last 5 years) experience with the organization and used by the individual to contribute significantly to the employer’s productivity.

In assessing such expertise or knowledge, officers consider:

  • abilities that are unusual and different from those generally found in a particular industry and that cannot be easily transferred to another individual in the short-term;
  • the knowledge or expertise must be highly unusual both within the industry and within the host firm;
  • it must be of a nature such that the applicant’s proprietary knowledge is critical to the business of the Canadian branch and a significant disruption of business would occur without the applicant’s expertise; and
  • the applicant’s proprietary knowledge of a particular business process or methods of operation must be unusual, not widespread across the organization, and not likely to be available in the Canadian labour market.

Example: Skill in implementing an off-the-shelf product would not, by itself, meet the standard of specialized knowledge; unless, for example, the product is new or being highly customized to the point of being a “new” product. In other words, an ICT applicant is more likely to have truly specialized knowledge if they directly contribute to the (re)development of a product, rather than to the implementation of a pre-existing product.

IRCC considers specialized knowledge to be knowledge that is unique and uncommon; it will by definition be held by only a small number or small percentage of employees of a given firm. Specialized Knowledge workers must therefore demonstrate that they are key personnel, not simply highly skilled.

The onus is on the applicants to provide evidence that they meet this standard. Documentary evidence may include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • a resume
  • reference letters
  • letter of support from the company
  • job descriptions that outlines the level of training acquired
  • years of experience in the field
  • degrees or certifications obtained in the field
  • list of publications and awards (where applicable)
  • a detailed description of the work to be performed in Canada.

ICT Specialized Knowledge workers must be clearly employed by, and under the direct and continuous supervision of, the host company;

Additional guidance

When determining if a foreign worker indeed holds specialized knowledge, officers can look at the following elements to better guide their opinion/decision:

Occupation

What level is the position’s National Occupational Classification (NOC)?

Officers are instructed to use the NOC system to evaluate the categorization of the job based on the main duties the foreign worker is expected to perform in Canada. The ICT position in Canada must be of an NOC level that is similar to the applicant’s home position or higher, unless the applicant is able to satisfy the visa officer that an exceptional situation exists. In conjunction with the foreign worker’s knowledge, education and experience, the NOC will also be used to determine if the salary offered reflects specialized knowledge as noted below under “Mandatory Wage Floor”.

Although ICT applicants are not required to meet specific NOC criteria, a good case for specialized knowledge could involve high-skill NOC codes (A, B and 0), with the appropriate degree and extensive experience in a company. For a person with a high-skill NOC code position, an appropriate degree and only 1 year in a company, a case has to be made by the client as to how the person possesses both proprietary knowledge and advanced expertise.

Example: An electrician applying for an ICT position to perform electrical work must demonstrate that

  • their knowledge is proprietary to the company
  • they have a thorough understanding of the enterprise’s products/services that cannot be obtained anywhere except from working for the enterprise
  • their expertise must not be solely industry-related, which any electrician would possess based on their duties

Applications for a position with a low-skill NOC code should be looked at in greater detail. The truly specialized knowledge in lower-skill NOC code positions should have been gained through many years of work in the domain, although 1 year of experience with the company may also be sufficient in some cases.

Education

Is a diploma or degree required for the position sought?

Experience

  • How many years of experience does the foreign worker have with the foreign company?
  • How many years of experience does the foreign worker have in the industry?
  • What duration of experience was necessary to actually acquire said knowledge?
Note: The longer the experience, the more likely the knowledge is indeed "specialized". Although the foreign worker may have only 1 year of experience with the foreign company, they may be considered to have proprietary knowledge beneficial to the Canadian company if they demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of a specific facet of the company (which may have been acquired within that year or had worked on extensively) accompanied by studies in the appropriate field and/or years of experience in an associated industry.

Training

Given the nature of specialized knowledge, the worker will not normally require training at the host company related to the area of expertise.

As the specialized knowledge will not be readily available within the Canadian labour market, and cannot readily be transferred to another individual, a Specialized Knowledge worker must not receive specialized training by other employees such that this would lead to the displacement of Canadian workers.

Note: If the specialized knowledge can be obtained by a short period of in-house or on-the-job training, it likely is not very "specialized". If the person must take a series of progressively more complex training, perhaps combined with hands-on experience over a somewhat extended period of time and perhaps under the direction of a more experienced person, it is more likely that the knowledge is "specialized".

Duration

The duration of the job offer is not a criterion that should influence the opinion. For example, a three month offer does not mean specialized knowledge is not required or may not be beneficial to Canadian employees in such a short period.

Mandatory Wage Floor

If a worker possesses the high standard of specialized knowledge that is uncommon in a particular industry, then the salary or wage should be consistent with such a specialist. Such a specialist would typically receive an above average salary; therefore, a wage floor set at prevailing wage levels will establish a baseline for the assessment of an application.

Note: Non-cash per diems (e.g., hotel, transportation paid for by the employer) are not to be included in the calculation of the overall salary or wage. Only allowances compensated in monetary form and paid directly to the employee are to be included.

Officers will determine the Canadian prevailing wage for the specific occupation and region of work by using Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) “Working in Canada” website’s tool to determine prevailing Canadian wage.

Note: This mandatory wage policy does not apply to Specialized Knowledge ICTs entering Canada under R204—i.e. the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or any future or current FTAs with coverage of Specialized Knowledge ICTs, once in force. Nevertheless, for these applicants, wage remains an important indicator of specialized knowledge and should be taken into account as an important factor in an officer's overall assessment.

Processing instructions

Officers will be required to assess all the information presented to them and then use their good judgment to come to a decision. The onus is always on the applicant to support their application with credible documentation and explain in full the purpose and scope of their work in Canada, either in writing or at an interview.

If the officer is not satisfied that the applicant is eligible for the “Specialized Knowledge” Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) exemption category, the application should be refused as per the regular refusal procedures. For those clients who require an LMIA, the officer should tick the following section in the GCMS work permit refusal letter:

  • You have not demonstrated that you come within the exceptions under section 186 of the regulations exempting you from the requirement to obtain a work permit or that your employment in Canada comes within the exceptions to section 203 of the regulations. As a result, your offer of employment must be the subject of an economic effect determination (i.e., LMIA) before a work permit can be issued to you. Your employer in Canada should contact the local office of ESDC to begin this process.
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