Understanding the National Occupational Classification (NOC) for Immigration to Canada: A Guide by MBLAW

Immigration Law
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Understanding the National Occupational Classification (NOC) for Immigration to Canada: A Guide by MBLAW

For many people wanting to immigrate to Canada, the term “National Occupational Classification” or “NOC” might be unfamiliar. Yet, understanding the NOC system is crucial for the immigration process. MBLAW, as a immigration law firm, believes that every aspiring immigrant should have a clear grasp of how the NOC system works.

National Occupational Classification (NOC)

The National Occupational Classification, often called the NOC, is Canada’s official system to categorize and describe occupations. It is not just a list of job titles. Instead, it is a detailed system that helps in understanding the nature of work performed by Canadians. For instance, if you are a teacher, the NOC will not just classify you as a “teacher”. It will further categorize based on the specific kind of teaching you do.

NOC codes are broken down as follows

  • The first digit represents the broad occupational category;
  • The second digit represents the TEER category;
  • The first two digits together represent the major group;
  • The first three digits represent the sub-major group;
  • The first four digits represent the minor group; and finally
  • The full five digits represent the unit group or the occupation itself.

If you are planning to move to Canada, knowing your NOC code is vital. The Canadian immigration process often uses the NOC to determine if your job is in demand in Canada. Moreover, various Canadian immigration programs, including the Express Entry system, often refer to NOC codes to assess eligibility and points. Without knowing your correct NOC code, you might miss out on crucial points or even make mistakes in your application.

NOC: Broad Occupational Category

One of the most distinguishing features of the NOC is the five-digit code, commonly known as the unit group. This code is essentially a unique identifier for each occupation. With 516 unit groups listed in the NOC 2021, each code gives a specific insight into a particular job role.

The first digit in the five-digit NOC code plays a key role. It signifies the broad occupational category, shedding light on the type of work performed or the sector the occupation belongs to. Not only does it reflect the work type, but it also gives an idea about the required field of training or experience necessary to enter that occupation. This could encompass the academic area of study or even specific industry experience, especially in scenarios where progression within a particular job hierarchy is essential.

For example, if your NOC category begins with the number 5, it indicates that your profession falls under the “Occupations in art, culture, recreation, and sport” category. This can encompass a variety of roles such as musicians, artists, athletes, and more. For individuals with experience and expertise in these areas, Canada offers an immigration pathway tailored for them. The Federal Self-Employed Person program is designed for those who have relevant experience in cultural activities or athletics and are willing to be self-employed in Canada. This program recognizes the unique skills and contributions of individuals in the arts and sports sectors, providing them an opportunity to make Canada their new home. So, if you’re a professional in the fields of culture and sports with an entrepreneurial spirit, this program might be the perfect fit for you.

To give readers a clearer picture, let’s explore the 10 broad occupational categories that the first digit of the NOC code represents:

  • 0 – Legislative and senior management occupations
  • 1 – Business, finance and administration occupations
  • 2 – Natural and applied sciences and related occupations
  • 3 – Health occupations
  • 4 – Occupations in education, law and social, community and government services
  • 5 – Occupations in art, culture, recreation and sport
  • 6 – Sales and service occupations
  • 7 – Trades, transport and equipment operators and related occupations
  • 8 – Natural resources, agriculture and related production occupations
  • 9 – Occupations in manufacturing and utilities

As we progress further into the intricacies of the NOC, the role of each subsequent digit will unravel more details about specific occupations.

Understanding the TEER System

A significant feature of the National Occupational Classification (NOC) is how it categorizes occupations using TEER.

TEER stands for Training, Education, Experience, and Responsibilities. This categorization offers a comprehensive understanding of the qualifications and responsibilities associated with a particular occupation.

These categories, labeled from 0 to 5, represent the second digit of the NOC code.

The criteria for TEER categories focus predominantly on level of education and training one would need for a particular occupation. It also provides insights into the necessary work experience and the complexity level of responsibilities. Notably, while you can often advance from a TEER category 5 to 4 through hands-on training and experience, transitioning from category 2 to 1 typically demands further formal education.

Breaking Down the TEER Categories

In the context of Canadian immigration, the NOC utilizes the TEER system to classify occupations. With six unique categories ranging from TEER 0 to TEER 5, the second digit of your chosen NOC code signifies its corresponding TEER category. This system provides a structured approach, ensuring that applicants understand the qualifications and responsibilities tied to their chosen occupation.

Below is a detailed table explaining each TEER category:

TEER category Nature of education, training and experience required and complexity of responsibilities
  • Management responsibilities
  • Completion of a university degree (bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate); or
  • Previous experience and expertise in subject matter knowledge from a related occupation found in TEER category 2 (when applicable).
  • Completion of a post-secondary education program of two to three years at community college, institute of technology, or CÉGEP; or
  • Completion of an apprenticeship training program of two to five years; or
  • Occupations with supervisory or significant safety (e.g. police officers and firefighters) responsibilities; or
  • Several years of experience in a related occupation from TEER category 3 (when applicable).
  • Completion of a post-secondary education program of less than two years at community college, institute of technology or CÉGEP; or
  • Completion of an apprenticeship training program of less than two years; or
  • More than six months of on-the-job training, training courses or specific work experience with some secondary school education; or
  • Several years of experience in a related occupation from TEER category 4 (when applicable).
  • Completion of secondary school; or
  • Several weeks of on-the-job training with some secondary school education; or
  • Experience in a related occupation from TEER category 5 (when applicable).
  • Short work demonstration and no formal educational requirements

The Importance of Accurate NOC Code Selection

For immigration purposes, the distinction between high-skilled and low-skilled work is primarily made using the TEER system within the National Occupational Classification. Specifically, any occupation classified under TEER levels 0, 1, 2, or 3 is considered to be high-skilled work. These categories cater to professions that typically demand more specialized training and higher levels of education. Given this, occupations within TEER levels 0, 1, 2, and 3 are eligible for the majority of federal and provincial immigration programs, including the Federal Skilled Worker Program and several Provincial Nominee Programs.

On the other hand, occupations in TEER levels 4 and 5 might not always demand formal education, and the training duration might be shorter. While immigration opportunities for these categories might seem limited compared to high-skilled roles, there are still pathways available. Specific federal and provincial programs have been designed to cater to TEER level 4 and 5. For example, the OINP Employer Job Offer: In-Demand Skills stream and the Ontario’s Express Entry Skilled Trades stream.

Choosing the appropriate NOC code plays an important role in your immigration application. While your official job title might not align perfectly with a NOC code, it is your duties and responsibilities that should match under a NOC code. Thus, your work experience may even align with different NOC codes.

Therefore, it is essential to identify the correct TEER level and understand the corresponding immigration pathways to make informed decisions that could lead to the success of one’s application.

How to Find and Apply Your NOC: A Step-by-Step Guide

Below is a systematic guide to help you identify and apply the correct NOC to your occupation.

Start with the Official NOC Website

Visit the official NOC website at https://noc.esdc.gc.ca/. Make sure you are accessing the latest version by confirming that the list is updated to 2021.

Searching for Your NOC Code

You can pinpoint your NOC code by browsing through the NOC matrix either by industry or by specific keywords linked to your job title. An important point to remember is that the job title alone is not enough. You must ensure that the lead statement of the NOC code you are considering mirrors your job description, and that you carry out the majority of the responsibilities and duties associated with that NOC code.

You have the option to search either by the NOC code, if you already know it, or by the profession’s name or a specific keyword. To begin, type in your profession or keyword into the search bar and initiate the search. A list of available results will be presented to you.

Deep Dive into the Results

Click on each code to view the detailed job description and responsibilities. It is essential to note that the alignment of the description and duties is more critical than just the job title matching. This ensures that the code you choose closely reflects your actual job responsibilities.

Further, observe the education and licensing requirements. Some jobs might mandate certain educational credentials, while for others, it might be an option. This aspect is significant for your immigration application.

While licensing requirements might not always be critical during the immigration phase, some immigration programs might have licensing prerequisites that need fulfillment even during the immigration process. Thus, always cross-reference with the requirements of your chosen immigration program.

Beware of NOC Exclusions

Examine the NOC exclusions thoroughly. If your occupation appears to align with a certain NOC code but is also similar to a NOC code listed as an exclusion, that occupation cannot be claimed. And remember, for any NOC code you decide upon, it will be imperative to substantiate its’ accuracy through reference letters from past employers. If your experience seems to coincide with multiple NOC codes, select the one that best represents your experience. Visa officers, equipped with a profound understanding of the NOC matrix, will evaluate your application. If they assess that your experience best aligns with another NOC code, there is a possibility of your application being declined.

A Simple Example: NOC Code 11100

Let us understand the NOC code using an example. Consider the NOC code for ‘Financial auditors and accountants’: 11100.

  • The first digit (1) indicates the broad occupational category.
  • The next two digits (11) represent the major group.
  • The second digits also represent the TEER. In this case, TEER is 1.
  • The fourth digit (0) signifies the minor group.
  • The last digit (0) designates the unit group.

‘Financial auditors’ scrutinize and assess accounting and financial records of individuals and establishments, ensuring accuracy and adherence to set accounting standards and practices. On the other hand, ‘accountants’ plan, set up, and administer accounting systems, preparing financial data for individuals and establishments.

Some example titles under this NOC code include ‘Chief accountant’, ‘Financial auditor’, and ‘Internal auditor’.

Main duties might range from examining and analyzing financial records to preparing detailed audit reports and ensuring compliance with tax provisions.

To work in this field, certain educational and licensing requirements are in place. For instance, a Chartered Accountant might need a university degree and completion of a professional training program. Additionally, recognition by specific institutes or bodies might be necessary for certain roles.

Also, note the exclusions, such as ‘Accounting technicians and bookkeepers’ (12200) or ‘Financial managers’ (10010). These are roles that, while similar, have their distinct NOC codes.

By following this guide and using the provided example, you can navigate the NOC system with ease and accuracy. Identifying the correct NOC code is not just about finding a match but understanding and aligning your profession’s depth with the requirements set forth by the Canadian immigration system.


Navigating the immigration process to Canada is a detailed and intricate endeavor. Central to this journey is understanding and correctly applying the National Occupational Classification or NOC. As we examined this system thoroughly in our article, the main take-away four our readers should be that choosing the right NOC code is not merely a step in the immigration process but a pivotal point that can influence the outcome of your application.

While the process may seem overwhelming, remember that you are not alone. MBLAW, with its team of dedicated professionals, is here to guide and assist you every step of the way. With expertise in the intricacies of the Canadian immigration process and a deep understanding of the NOC system, we at MBLAW can provide you with the clarity and direction needed to navigate this important phase of your immigration journey.

Immigrate to Canada, Immigration Lawyer, Immigration Process, National Occupational Classification, NOC

The Content is current as of its original date of publication, but should not be relied upon as accurate, timely or fit for any particular purpose. Content is provided solely for informational purposes. It is not intended to be legal or other professional advice or an opinion of any kind. You are advised to seek specific legal advice by contacting members of MBLAW (or your own legal counsel) in relation to your specific legal issues.

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