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Changes to job classifications and immigration impacts

By Brittany Trafford and Michiko Gartshore

On November 16th, 2022 the Federal Government switched to the 2021 National Occupational Classification (NOC) structure from the prior 2016 version. The NOC is Canada’s national system used to classify occupations based on job duties and skill levels. This classification structure supports skills development, occupational forecasting, labour supply and demand analysis, employment equity, and numerous other programs and services.

Under the revised 2021 NOC, the skill levels that were previously categorized as 0, A, B, C and D changed to a 6-category system based on the training, education, experience and responsibilities (TEER) necessary to work in a given occupation. The TEER system aims to better distinguish occupations and related skills and training required for the various roles. The transition comparison of the prior “Skill Level” and new TEER can be summarized as follows:

TEER Skill type or level Occupation Type/Training/Education/Experience
TEER 0        Previously  Skill Level 0 Management occupations
TEER 1        Previously Skill Level A Usually require a university degree
TEER 2 Previously Skill Level B

Usually require:

  • a college diploma
    or
  • apprenticeship training of 2 or more years or
  • supervisory responsibilities
TEER 3 Previously Skill level B and Skill Level C

Usually require:

  • a college diploma
    or
  • apprenticeship training of less than 2 years or
  • more than 6 months of on-the-job training
TEER 4 Previously Skill level C

Usually require:

  • a high school diploma
    or
  • several weeks of on-the-job training
TEER 5 Previously Skill level D Usually need short-term work demonstration and no formal education

 

New unit groups have also been created to reflect emerging occupations or occupations that have been deemed statistically sufficient to warrant a new grouping. A notable change is the transition from a 4-digit format to a 5-digit format. This change in digits was made to add flexibility and to allow the incorporation of new unit groups in the future.

Redistribution of Skill Levels

With the change to the new TEER system, some occupations have been redefined to keep in line with the evolving labour market. The reclassification of occupations has resulted in some jobs being categorized as a higher or lower skill type than was previously the case based on training, education, experience, and responsibilities requirements for the occupation. Some notable differences are outlined below:

  • NOC 2016 Skill Level B positions may now be either TEER 2 or TEER 3. This is a result of distinguishing technical occupations and specialized trades (generally requiring 2 years or more of formal education) from other occupations that usually require the completion of shorter college or vocational training.
  • NOC 2016 Skill Level C positions may now be either TEER 3, TEER 4 or TEER 5. As a result, some positions that were previously categorized as lower skilled positions may now be bumped up to recognize the training/skills required for the role compared to other positions categorized in the same grouping.
  • Examples of occupations that have been bumped up to a TEER 3 from a Skill Level C include, but are not limited, to: payroll administrators, nurses aides, truck drivers, heavy equipment operators, dental assistants, bus drivers, and estheticians.
  • Conversely, some occupations are now recognized as lower skilled than under the prior regime. For example, Material Handlers were a Skill Level C, but they are now considered a TEER 5 occupation. Another surprising adjustment is that Actors who were previously a Skill Level A (considered the “professional” skill level) are now listed as TEER 3.

Changes to Program Eligibility

Because immigration programs in Canada rely heavily on the NOC system, the changes are important to those looking to apply for permanent and temporary residence alike. The TEER system will impact the Express Entry Program, Atlantic Immigration Program, Provincial Nominee Programs, Caregivers programs, Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, Agri-Food Pilot, out-of-status construction workers, International Mobility Program, and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Each of these programs uses the NOC system to classify the work experience required as well as the required skill level of the job offer when assigning points to the applicant. The NOC and TEER impact program eligibility and therefore applicants and employers, should carefully consider the updated NOC to ensure continued eligibility or whether a program may newly be an option when the skill level has been reassessed. For example:

  • Under the new TEER system, certain occupations that were previously eligible for the Atlantic Immigration Program such as Material Handlers, Animal Care Workers, Nursery and Greenhouse Labourers, and Food and Beverage Serves will no longer qualify for the program as a result of being bumped down to a TEER 4.
  • Meanwhile, certain occupations have moved up to TEER 3, so applicants may now find that they are newly eligible for Express Entry programs. This would include Truck Drivers and other occupations that are now considered TEER 3 and above.
  • Finally, the changes in classification may also impact an individual’s ability to use temporary resident programs such as the Global Skill Strategy Work Permit Exemption or the Open Work Permit for spouses/common law partners accompanying skilled workers.
  • The Global Skills Strategy Work Permit exemption applies only to those in TEER 0 or 1 and therefore certain occupations, such as Actors, who have been moved downward in classification will no longer be able to use this short duration work permit exemption.
  • Conversely, some spouses/common-law partners of temporary foreign workers may now be eligible for an open permit where this was not previously an option based on the lower skill ranking of their partner’s job.

Individuals and employers alike must reassess their immigration strategies to ensure continued eligibility under programs they intended to use. In some instances, such as with Express Entry profiles, details of the application must be updated to the new TEER category. While some will certainly benefit greatly from the changes in the new TEER system, others may be disappointed.


This update is intended for general information only. If you have further questions about these programs or are an employer seeking to support your workers, please contact a member of our Immigration Group.

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