Canada: Major Changes For Specialized Knowledge Workers

Last Updated: October 22 2014
Article by Sergio Karas

On June 9, 2014, the Federal Government published Operational Bulletin (OB) 575, which expands guidelines for immigration officers assessing Work Permit applications for Intra-Company Transferees with Specialized Knowledge. The OB provides direction to the officers as to how to evaluate the criteria under which those workers are granted Work Permits. The OB also makes it more difficult to use this exemption from the Labour Market Opinion (LMO) process as it now requires a higher threshold of advanced proprietary knowledge to qualify.

Intra-Company Transferees admitted under the Specialized Knowledge category are LMO exempt. Following the Federal government scrutiny of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, applicants and their counsel have increasingly looked at ways to bring to Canada temporary foreign workers avoiding the cumbersome LMO process. One of the ways in which this is often done is by using the Intra-Company Transferee category, which allows the transfer of Senior Managerial and Executive personnel, as well as Specialized Knowledge workers who comply with the prescribed criteria, and are performing services for an employer in Canada that is a related entity to their employer abroad. Effective immediately, immigration officers are directed to use the new criteria to determine if the applicant possesses a high standard of specialized knowledge and is receiving wages that are consistent with the Canadian prevailing wage for that occupation.

To have "Specialized Knowledge" and to meet the requirements of the new policy, an Intra-Company Transferee Specialized Knowledge applicant would be required to demonstrate, on a balance of probabilities, a high degree of both proprietary knowledge and advanced expertise. Proprietary knowledge alone, or advanced expertise alone, does not qualify the applicant under this exemption. The onus is on the applicant to provide evidence that he or she meets this standard. Documentary evidence to substantiate this expanded level of knowledge may include: a resume, reference letters, letter of support from the employer, job descriptions outlining the level of training acquired, years of experience in the field, degrees or certifications obtained that are related to the field of work, list of publications and awards received by the applicant, and a detailed description of the work to be performed in Canada.

The new definition articulates the elements of "Specialized Knowledge" as:

"Proprietary Knowledge" is company-specific expertise related to a company's product or services. It implies that the company has not divulged specifications that would allow other companies to duplicate the product or service.

"Advanced proprietary knowledge" would require an applicant to demonstrate uncommon knowledge of the firm's products or services and its application in international markets; or an advanced level of expertise or knowledge of the enterprise's processes and procedures such as its production, research, equipment, techniques or management.

"Advanced level of expertise" is also necessary, which would require specialized knowledge gained through significant and recent experience with the organization and used by the individual to contribute significantly to the employer's productivity. "Significant" is not defined and is not always a meaningful indicator but it relates to the length of experience possessed by the foreign worker. "Recent" is defined as experience obtained within the last five years.

In assessing the "Advanced level of expertise", officers must consider the following:

1. abilities that are unusual and different from those generally found in a particular industry and that cannot be easily transferred to another individual in the short-term;

2. the knowledge or expertise must be highly unusual both within the industry and within the host firm;

3. it must be of a nature such that the applicant's proprietary knowledge is critical to the business of the Canadian branch and a significant disruption of business would occur without the applicant's expertise;

4. the applicant's proprietary knowledge of a particular business process or methods of operation must be unusual, not widespread across the organization, and not likely to be available in the Canadian labour market.

It must be noted that skill in implementing an off-the-shelf product would not, by itself be considered to be specialized knowledge unless the product has suffered significant modifications to the point that it has become quite unique. So, for example, if an individual is very skilled at customizing a commonly available computer program that, by itself, would not be sufficient to qualify the person as a Specialized Knowledge worker. However, if the product is combined with other products to achieve a customized and unique solution that is proprietary to the employer, that may be considered as a qualifying degree of expertise.

The new criteria will require Specialized Knowledge to be "unique and uncommon", held by only a small number or small percentage of employees of a given enterprise. Under the new criteria, Specialized Knowledge workers must demonstrate that they are key personnel, not simply highly skilled.

In addition, Specialized Knowledge workers will have to demonstrate that:

  • they are employed by and under the direct and continuous supervision of the host company;
  • they will not normally require training at the host company related to the area of expertise; and
  • the specialized knowledge will not be readily available within the Canadian labour market, and cannot be readily transferred to another individual.

It must be noted that, where a treaty such as the NAFTA, or the Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA), or the Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement provides a different definition of Specialized Knowledge, that definition will still apply.

Introduction of Mandatory Wage Floor

A completely new element in the Specialized Knowledge category has been introduced. The policy now requires that the employee claiming to possess Specialized Knowledge be remunerated at a level commensurate with the position. In order to introduce some objectivity to the definition of a mandatory wage floor, the new criteria requires that the foreign worker should receive, as a minimum, the prevailing wage for the specific occupation and region of work as listed in the Employment and Skills Development Canada "Working in Canada" website tool to determine prevailing Canadian Wage (

While the authorities have been using wage levels as an indication of specialization for some time, this is the first attempt to codify its use.

Non-cash payments such as hotel, transportation, and other benefits cannot be taken into consideration when evaluating the prevailing wage. Only allowances compensated in monetary form and paid directly to the employee can be included.

The mandatory wage policy does not apply to Specialized Knowledge workers entering Canada pursuant to the NAFTA or to other international free trade agreements. Nevertheless, officers must still consider wages as an indicator of specialization in their overall assessment.

These important changes restrict the use of the Intra-Company Transferee Specialized Knowledge category and make it more difficult for employers to transfer technical personnel involved in Canadian projects. Changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program are ongoing and it is expected that further restrictions may be introduced in the future. Given the evolving nature of the program, employers are encouraged to discuss specific cases with legal counsel, to ensure that applications are made based on current and timely analysis of existing policies and programs.

Sergio R. Karas, principal of Karas Immigration Law Professional Corporation, is a Certified Specialist in Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Law by the Law Society of Upper Canada. He is Past Chair of the Ontario Bar Association Citizenship and Immigration Section, Past Chair of the International Bar Association Immigration and Nationality Committee, and Editor of the Global Business Immigration Handbook. His comments and opinions are personal and do not necessarily reflect the position of any organization.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions