Both NAFTA and IRPA have a work permit category which assists in the transfer of foreign workers to Canada from a foreign related entity. This category covers managerial personnel as well as “specialized knowledge” workers.

The Foreign Worker Manual has been modified to provide more clarification around what constitutes eligibility as a “specialized knowledge” worker. This has been an ongoing issue in intra-company transferee applications as there have been inconsistencies between different officers and ports of entry in interpreting who is eligible under the specialized knowledge category.

In general, to qualify, the foreign worker must demonstrate “specialized knowledge” of a company’s products or services and their application in international markets, or an “advanced level” of knowledge or expertise in the organization’s processes and/or procedures.

The Manual has added a number of tips to officers, including the following:

  • Specialized knowledge workers would usually be in a position that is critical to the company.
  • “Advanced knowledge” does not necessarily have to be proprietary in the sense that the company owns the knowledge. However, if it is not proprietary knowledge, the foreign worker’s company must apply it in a unique way that makes it knowledge beyond what is common in the industry.
  • The longer the work experience with the foreign-related company, the more likely the person has the requisite level of specialized knowledge. Therefore, personnel who have only just obtained the required one-year of experience with the foreign company to be eligible to apply for an ICT work permit may not be viewed as having enough experience to have gained the required level of specialized knowledge. In addition, it will be more difficult for low-skill NOC positions and for persons without post-secondary degrees to show that they have specialized knowledge.
  • If the specialized knowledge may be obtained by a short period of in-house or on-the-job training, it is probably not very specialized.

In short, the additions to the Manual reflect a trend over the last number of years that foreign workers applying under the specialized knowledge intra-company transferee category will be closely scrutinized to see if the worker and the position are truly at a high enough level to be eligible under the specialized knowledge category. It is therefore important for work permit applications in this category to address these various points in detail.