The “Specialized Knowledge” ICT work permit category has often been difficult for employers to interpret as different immigration officers and offices seem to assess specialized knowledge differently.

In order to try to ensure better consistency in specialized knowledge ICT applications, CIC has published a list of factors that officers should consider when assessing a specialized knowledge worker under the ICT category.

According to the Operational Bulletin, an officer cannot just consider whether a worker has knowledge of the proprietary tools used or developed by the company.

Rather, a specialized knowledge worker would normally possess knowledge that is uncommon (i.e. beyond that generally found in a particular industry and within the company) and that has been gained through extensive experience and is difficult to acquire in a short period of time. The knowledge must be complex in that it cannot be easily transferred. The foreign worker should also be in a position that is critical to the well-being or productivity of the Canadian entity.

In addition, officers are required to use the National Occupational Classification (NOC) system to evaluate the requirements for the position and to ensure that the offered wages are consistent with Canadian wages. The Bulletin states that “salaries of specialized knowledge workers in Canada should normally approximate the average wage for the stated occupation in the specified geographical location while working in Canada.”

This latter factor appears to bring in the prevailing wage concept that is used to evaluate LMO applications. With such an approach, CIC or CBSA officers may deny applications where they feel that the wage being paid to the foreign worker is below the wages a Canadian worker would expect to be paid in the occupation. This is a trend that has been observed at some visa office outside Canada, where denials of specialized knowledge ICTs have been made based on the proposed wages being too low.

Employers should be aware of the assessment factors set out in the Operational Bulletin. The overall impact is to raise the threshold required to prove that a foreign worker qualifies for a work permit under this category.

CIC Operational Bulletin on Assessing Specialized Knowledge ICT Category