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Understanding Canada’s NOC System

Once you start looking into immigrating to Canada, it won’t be long before you find yourself confronted with issues related to the NOC. In order to find your place within Canada’s immigration system, you have to first understand your place within the NOC.

What is the NOC?

The National Occupation Classification (NOC) system is the method by which the government of Canada organizes and defines all work that is performed in Canada. Almost every conceivable occupation in Canada has been organized according to the main duties performed, the level of education and experience required for the position, whether or not licensing is required, and the various titles that all fall within the same occupation bracket.

For immigration purposes, there are five categories of skill level that are important to understand.

NOC Skill Levels

Skill LevelNature of Education or Training required for occupation
Management Occupations
Examples: Restaurant manager, Senior Vice President Operations
Occupations usually require university education

University degree at the bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate level

Examples: Doctor, dentist, engineer
Occupations usually require college or vocational education or apprenticeship training
College education or apprenticeship training or secondary education plus significant on-the job training, specialized courses or specific work experience.

Occupations with supervisory responsibilities are assigned this skill level.

Examples: chef, plumber, retail supervisor
Occupations usually require secondary school and/or occupation-specific training
Some secondary education or on-the-job training or specific work experience may be required

Examples: waitress, truck drivers, meat cutter
On-the-job training is usually provided for occupation
Training is usually accomplished at the workplace; no formal education requirements

Examples: cleaners, cashier, labourers

How do I figure out what NOC code relates to my employment?

The best way to get started in understanding how your employment relates to the NOC system is to search for your job title within the NOC matrix. Once you have located your job title, then read through the lead statement of the NOC to ensure that it describes what you do and the type of organization that you work for. Then review the main duties to ensure that you regularly perform a majority of the duties listed. Finally, review the employment requirements to ensure that you have the qualifications needed to work in this particular occupation.

The most important aspect of determining your proper NOC code is to ensure that the lead statement and the main duties match what you actually do on a regular basis. The proper NOC code is one that most closely matches your regular activities, not your job title.

How does the NOC system relate to Canadian immigration?

The NOC system is an important tool for Canadian immigration programs because eligibility for many of the Permanent Residence programs is dependent on employment history. Different program requirements are in place depending on whether you have employment experience in a skilled occupation (NOC 0, A or B) or a lower skilled occupation (NOC C and D). It’s important to understand how your work history is classified in order to understand your options to apply for Permanent Residence in Canada.
To be eligible for Express Entry, you must have a minimum of one year of skilled work experience at some point within the 10 years prior to making an application. Some Provincial Nominee programs and the Atlantic Immigration Pilot program have opportunities available for those who have work experience in both skilled and lower-skilled occupations.

When making an application to the Canadian immigration authorities that takes into account your work experience, it’s important that the documentation provided with your application clearly indicates how you meet the requirements of the NOC code you have chosen, including that you regularly performed the duties listed in the lead statement and in the list of main duties.

There are several different versions of the NOC code, including NOC 2006, NOC 2011 and NOC 2016. As of February 2019, both Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada (responsible to issue LMIAs) use the 2011 version of the NOC.

Choosing the proper NOC code can be a confusing exercise, yet the correct classification is essential for a successful immigration application to Canada. Our office would be please to assist you in navigating the NOC to ensure that your work history is properly represented in your immigration application.



Fran Wipf is an expert in Canadian immigration matters. She was licensed as an immigration consultant in 2008, and since that time, she has assisted thousands of individuals, families and businesses to find Canadian immigration success. You can learn more about Fran, and the services she offers, at


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