Is your work experience eligible for Express Entry?

Posted October 7, 2021 9:00 a.m. EDT



Work experience only counts for Express Entry if it is considered “qualified” under Canada’s Occupational Classification System.

When Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) assesses your work experience, it looks at the level of education required to do your job. Generally speaking, the more education and experience required to work in your position, the higher your level of professional skill will be. Canada is currently analyzing the skill level of a job using the National Occupational Classification (NOC).

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For economic class immigration, IRCC generally uses the NOC to assess how a given immigrant applicant’s work experience will support the mandate of the immigration program for which they are applying. Economic Class immigration programs are specifically designed to fill job vacancies with foreign talent to support Canada’s labor market and long-term prosperity.

When it comes to Express Entry, the specific occupation doesn’t matter as much as the skill level. When assessing your application, IRCC will match your duties with the NOC description to determine your occupation and whether it is qualified or not. There are five NOC skill levels described on the Canadian government website:

  • Skill type 0 (zero): management jobs, such as: restaurant managers, mine managers and shore captains (fishing).
  • Skill Level A: professional jobs that typically require a college degree, such as doctors, dentists, and architects.
  • Skill Level B: technical jobs and skilled trades that usually require a college diploma or apprenticeship training, such as: chefs, plumbers and electricians.
  • Skill Level C: mid-level jobs that usually require high school education and/or job-specific training, such as: industrial butchers, long-haul truck drivers, food and beverage servers.
  • Skill Level D: labor jobs that typically give on-the-job training, such as: fruit pickers, cleaners, and oilfield workers.

For Express Entry purposes, only jobs that fall under skill types 0, A and B are considered “skilled”. You need qualified work experience to qualify for one of the three immigration programs run by Express Entry. The amount of work experience you need depends on the program you are applying to.

IRCC considers “full time” to be 30 hours per week. Over one year, this represents 1,560 hours. You can achieve this in different ways, working full-time for a year or part-time. For part-time work, you can work more or less than 15 hours per week as long as it totals 1,560 hours. IRCC does not count the hours you worked beyond 30 hours per week. Thus, you may not qualify any faster to work more hours.

In addition, any work experience for the purposes of a program administered by Express Entry must be paid for. Volunteering and unpaid internships do not count.

Work Experience Requirements for the Federal Skilled Worker Program

To meet the basic eligibility criteria for the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), you must meet the requirements for work experience, language skills and education.

At a minimum, you need at least one year of qualified work experience within the last 10 years. The work experience you use to qualify for the program, your previous work experience must match your main occupation in your immigration application.

Once you have met the minimum eligibility requirements, IRCC assesses your application according to a program-specific points system. You must score at least 67 points out of 100 to pass. At least 15 of these points come from work experience.

To get points for your work experience, you must have been employed full-time in a skilled occupation for at least one year. Again, add up to 1,560 hours in total. Part-time work counts as long as it meets the minimum number of hours in the 10 years prior to your application.

Your work experience will be taken into account if it took place in Canada or abroad, completed during your studies or as a self-employed person outside Canada. Self-employment in Canada does not count.

To earn the full 15 points, you need at least six years of qualifying work experience. Having only one year of work experience will net you nine points. Two to three years is enough for 11 points, and four to five years equals 13 points.

Live Maximum 15 points
1 year 9
2-3 years 11
4-5 years 13
6 years or more 15

You can also get 10 extra points for “adaptability” if you have at least one year of full-time skilled work experience in Canada.

Work experience requirements for the Canadian Experience Class

The Canadian Experience Class (CEC) is for people who have work experience in Canada.

In order to meet the work experience requirement, you must have worked full-time for at least one year in Canada in a skilled occupation. This work experience may have been completed at any time during the three years prior to your application for permanent residence through the CEC. Independent work and the work you did while studying in Canada does not count.

For the CEC, you must also demonstrate a minimum proficiency in the language, among other eligibility criteria.

Work experience for the Federal Skilled Trades Program

The Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) is for skilled workers.

To meet the work experience requirement, you must have at least two years of full-time work experience in a skilled trade in the five years preceding your application. The equal amount of part-time work experience is also eligible, as long as it is paid.

You must also meet the job requirements for the skilled trade on your application, as listed in the NOC, except for needing a Certificate of Qualification. In addition, you need a valid job offer of full-time employment for at least one year or a certificate of qualification in your skilled trade issued by a Canadian provincial, territorial or federal authority.

Beyond work experience, FSTP candidates must also meet a minimum of language skills, among other requirements.

NOC will become TEER next year

About every 10 years, Canada’s occupational classification system is overhauled. The following big change is expected to come into force at the end of 2022 when the NOC will be replaced by the Training, education, experience and responsibilities (TEER). The Canadian government website offers a list of new NOC codes that will come into effect next year.

In the new system, there will be six skill levels instead of five, and instead of being alphabetical, they will be numerical. So instead of skill levels 0, A, B, C, and D, there will be 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

Additionally, each occupation code will have five digits instead of four, but the majority will only change in name and not description. There will be 516 occupations in the new classification system, compared to 500 in the current edition. New professions have been created to reflect emerging fields in data science, cybersecurity and others.

The NOC is overseen by Employment and Social Development Canada and Statistics Canada. The new system will be the most comprehensive overhaul of the NOC since 2011.

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Maria D. Ervin