Work Without a Work Permit
Canada welcomes hundreds of thousands of temporary foreign workers each year. A number of situations may occur when an individual can perform work in Canada without needing to secure a Temporary Work Permit.
This comprehensive CanadaVisa page provides you with an overview of how this can be achieved.
Please complete our contact form if you wish to schedule a free telephone consultation with a lawyer from the Cohen Immigration Law Firm.
Foreign workers tend to need Canadian work permits, but there are exceptions. Navigate the menu below to learn everything you need to know on working in Canada on a temporary basis.
An individual who is eligible to work without a work permit may still require a Temporary Resident Visa to enter Canada on a temporary basis.
The following scenarios have been identified as instances where foreign nationals may perform work in Canada without a work permit:
- Business Visitors
- Foreign Representatives and their Family Members
- Military Personnel
- Foreign Government Officers
- American Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Officers
- In-Flight Security Officers
- On-Campus Employment
- Performing Artists
- Athletes and Team Members
- News Reporters, Media Crews
- Public Speakers
- Convention Organizers
- Judges, Referees, and Similar Officials
- Examiners and Evaluators
- Expert Witnesses and Investigators
- Health Care Students
- Civil Aviation Inspectors
- Aviation or Accident Investigators
- Emergency Service Providers
- Maintained Status
This broad category facilitates entry for individuals who engage in business or trade activities in Canada but will not enter the Canadian labour market. There are a number of subdivisions under this category, but all business visitors must meet the following general criteria:
- There must be no intent to enter the Canadian labour market (there will be no gainful employment in the country);
- The worker’s activity in Canada must be international in scope (it is assumed that a business visitor will engage in cross-border activity of some sort);
- For business visitors in Canada working for a foreign employer, the following criteria are assumed:
- The primary source of the worker’s compensation is outside of Canada
- The principal place of employment is located outside of Canada
- The employer’s profits are accrued outside of Canada
When traveling to Canada, business visitors should be prepared to present immigration officials with documentation that attests to their desired status in Canada. This documentation will vary on a case-by-case basis. Often, items such as a letter of support from a parent company or letter of invitation from a Canadian company can help to bolster one’s likelihood of acceptance as a business visitor.
Business visitors may fall into the following sub-categories:
After Sales Service
After-sales service providers may come to Canada to repair, service, supervise installers, and set up and test commercial or industrial equipment. Such services must be detailed in the contract of sale for the equipment in Canada. Individuals coming to Canada to train prospective users or maintenance staff in the operation of specialized equipment may also fall under this category.
Board of Directors Meetings
Members of a board of directors who must enter Canada to attend a meeting are eligible to do so as business visitors. Though these individuals may be remunerated for their time in Canada, this does not constitute entry into the Canadian labour market.
Employees of Short-Term Temporary Residents
Individuals who are employed in a personal capacity, on a full-time basis, by temporary residents in Canada may be considered business visitors. An example of professions that may be eligible under this category include domestic servants, personal assistants or live-in caregivers. If the short-term temporary resident, and subsequently their employee(s), extends their stay past 6 months, a Labour Market Impact Assessment and Work Permit may need to be secured for the employee(s).
Employees of Foreign Companies Contracting Canadian Companies
Situations arise in which foreign companies contract Canadian companies to provide services in Canada. In such a situation, the foreign company may wish to send one or more employees to Canada to ensure that the work is being carried out in a way that pleases the foreign company.
If an employee of a foreign company is sent to Canada for this purpose, they may be considered a business visitor provided they fulfill the following criteria:
- They remain an employee of the foreign company;
- They remain on the payroll of the foreign company;
- The foreign company remains the beneficiary of the employee’s efforts; and
- The foreign company’s principal place of business remains outside of Canada.
A business visitor in this category may remain in Canada for up to two years.
Foreign Representatives and their Family Members
Foreign representatives, as well as their personal staff and family members, may work in Canada without a work permit. Foreign representatives should be accredited by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT). Diplomatic representatives to United Nations offices in Canada are also covered by this exception.
Family members of foreign representatives must receive a ‘no objection letter’ by the Protocol Department of DFAIT in order to work without a work permit.
In addition, military personnel are exempt from requirements for a passport, from a temporary resident visa, and from foreign national medical examinations. Civilians and family members are still required to obtain these documents, if necessary.
Foreign Government Officers
Canada is party to agreements with other countries that call for international exchange of government employees. Through such agreements, foreign workers may be brought to Canada to work for a department or agency in either the federal or provincial government(s). These individuals do not work for a foreign mission or organization, and are not accredited by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT).
Officers working in this capacity at an executive level require a contract from Canada’s Public Service Commission (PSC). Officers working below an executive capacity do not require a contract, though assignments lasting longer than three months should include a formal letter of agreement between the officer and their Canadian employer.
Family members of officers covered under this exemption will generally be issued an open work permit or be exempted from the requirement for a permit while in Canada.
American Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Officers
Some cross-border law enforcement vessels are staffed by joint Canadian and American crews. These individuals work on both sides of the US/Canada border. When in Canadian territory, American crew members may fulfill their job duties without the need to secure further work authorization.
In-Flight Security Officers (IFSOs)
Foreign IFSOs are designated by foreign governments to enforce safety on foreign aircrafts. Because they are designated by a foreign government, they may work in Canada without a work permit provided that their duties do not extend beyond providing security onboard a foreign aircraft.
IFSOs from countries that require a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) to enter Canada must secure this visa in order to perform their duties in Canadian airspace.
A student is eligible to work on-campus at their institution of study if they meet one of the following criteria:
- They hold a valid study permit; and
- They are a full-time student at one of the following types of schools:
- A public post-secondary institution (i.e. college or university) or a collège d’enseignement général et professionnel (CEGEP)
- A college-level private institution in Quebec
- A Canadian private institution authorized to confer degress
On-campus work authorization is valid for the duration of the study permit, provided the student remains in full-time studies. Employment may cover a range of standard jobs on campus. For institutions with multiple campuses, students may consider their work ‘on-campus’ if it takes place at a campus within the same municipality. An individual attending an institution with campuses in different cities is restricted to working on-campus in their city of residence.
Individuals working as research or teaching assistants off-campus as part of a research grant may be considered on-campus workers. The student must also fulfill the following additional criteria:
- Be recommended by their academic department;
- The work to be performed must be directed by a department head or faculty member; and
- The work must take place in a research institute or program in an affiliated hospital or other research location.
Many foreign performing artists may work in Canada without a work permit. However, some types of performers/performances require a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) and Work Permit.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC, formerly CIC) has outlined some common performers/performances and their immigration requirements:
|Entry Without a Work Permit||Work Permit and LMIA Required|
|Bands performing at bars, pubs, restaurants, etc||Actors, singers, crew, etc in Canadian theatrical productions, shows, circuses|
|Foreign-based musical and theatrical individuals and groups and their essential crew, working outside bars and restaurants||Individuals involved in making films, TV, internet or radio broadcasts|
|Street performers (buskers), DJs working outside a bar, restaurant or similar establishment||Individuals who will be in an employment relationship with the organization or business contracting for their services in Canada|
|A foreign or traveling circus||Performers in a Canadian-based production or show|
|Guest artists (not employed) within a Canadian performance group for a time-limited engagement||Rodeo performers or side show workers (e.g., rodeo clowns and announcers, horsemanship or trick riding displays, ‘half-time acts’ and other specialty act entertainers)|
|Persons performing at a private event, such as a wedding|
|Artists attending or working at a showcase/workshop; which may include competing, judging competitors, demonstrating their skill, holding a class related to the showcase/workshop|
|Wrestlers from the World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (WWE) (and similar groups)|
|Air show performers|
In addition to the above-mentioned scenarios, certain performers may work in Canada without a work permit under different sub-categories. They are:
- Film producers (business visitors)
- Film and recording studio users (business visitors)
- Persons doing guest spots on Canadian TV and radio broadcasts (Guest speakers)
Guest artists who have been invited to perform with a Canadian group are covered under this exception as long as their invitation is for a ‘time-limited engagement’. For the purposes of immigration, this time limit is usually no more than two weeks, though flexibility is permitted. A guest artist who is invited to rehearse and perform for a longer duration of time, such as a performance season, will require a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) and work permit.
In order to work without a work permit, a performing artist should not enter into an employment situation in Canada. That is, they should not be the long-term employee of a Canadian organization, individual, or establishment.
Athletes and Team Members
Professional or amateur athletes may travel to Canada to participate in sports activities or events in Canada either individually or as part of a team. Likewise, foreign coaches and trainers of foreign athletes, as well as other essential team members, may travel to Canada to participate in events.
Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) gives the following examples of individuals who may be eligible under this exemption:
- Amateur players on Canadian teams
- Foreign pet owners entering their own animals in a show
- Jockeys racing horses from foreign-based stables
- Race car drivers
- Individuals attending professional team tryouts
- Foreign team members participating in a competition in Canada
- Grooms or team support members
- Full or part-time coaches and trainers
The spouses of professional athletes are eligible for a Labour Market Impact Assessment-exempt work permit for their time in Canada.
News Reporters, Media Crews
News reporters and their crews who come to Canada in order to report on events in the country may do so without a work permit. These can include journalists, provided the company they work for is not Canadian. However, this does not include managerial or clerical personnel unless these individuals are covering special events that will last for six months or less.
Generally speaking, media crews who come to Canada to produce travelogues, documentaries, etc are required to secure work permits. However, such decisions are left to the discretion of the Canadian Visa Officer reviewing their application.
Guest speakers at events, commercial speakers and seminar leaders can present in Canada without needing a work permit. For the purposes of this exemption, ‘seminar’ is defined as a small class or intensive course of study no longer than five days.
Commercial speakers in this category will have a vested interest in the event in which they are speaking. Usually, this means that they will rent a commercial space, advertise for the event, charge admission, etc. Commercial speakers who are hired by a Canadian entity must secure a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) and work permit for their time in Canada.
This category covers individuals who come to Canada to organize a convention or conference, as well as the administrative support staff of the organizing committee. These events may be corporate meetings, trade shows, exhibitions, etc. Hands-on service providers, such as audio-visual specialists, are not included in this category.
Convention organizers who have been hired to perform work for a Canadian event are not eligible to work without a work permit. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) defines a ‘Canadian event’ as one that is held by an organization located and actively doing business in Canada.
Individuals attending conferences and meetings are considered business visitors and are exempt from the requirement for a work permit.
An individual who preaches, oversees religious services, or provides spiritual counselling as a profession may work in Canada without a work permit. Individuals may be ordained ministers, laypeople, or members of a religious order. It is not mandatory that the temporary worker be part of or share the beliefs of the particular religious community where they will work. The primary duties of the temporary worker should reflect a particular religious objective, such as providing religious instruction or promoting a particular faith.
Individuals seeking entry to Canada under this exemption should provide documentation attesting to the following:
- The genuineness of the offer of employment; and
- Their ability to minister to a congregation (credentials, past employment, etc)
Persons who will be conducting charitable or religious work in Canada require a work permit; however, that permit is exempt from the Labour Market impact Assessment (LMIA) process.
Judges, Referees, and Similar Officials
Judges, referees, etc may come to Canada to participate in international amateur sports, artistic, agricultural or cultural events and competitions.
Amateur sports competitions should be organized by an international amateur sport organization and should be hosted by a Canadian organization. In this case, amateur is defined as a competition in which athletes are not paid to compete. Judges, referees and similar officials who will participate in professional sports competitions must receive a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) and work permit.
Foreign professors and researchers may need to enter Canada in order to evaluate theses and projects conducted by their students. In this case, they may do so without obtaining a work permit.
Experts who must enter Canada in order to conduct surveys or analyses that will be used as evidence, or who will testify as expert witnesses before a regulatory body or court of law, may do so without requiring a work permit.
Health Care Students
Foreign health care students studying at foreign institutions may participate in clinical clerkships or short-term practicums in Canada without obtaining work permits. Students may be studying in fields such as medicine, nursing, medical technology and occupational and physical therapy. Such practicums should be unpaid and last no more than four months.
Foreign health care students who will be remunerated for their work, or who will spend more than four months in Canada, will require a work permit.
Civil Aviation Inspectors
Flight operations and cabin safety inspectors may inspect commercial international flights without needing a work permit. Inspectors should be employed by a recognized aeronautical authority and hold valid documentation attesting to this fact.
Aviation Accident or Incident Inspector
Accredited representatives and advisors who are assisting in the investigation of an aviation accident or incident may do so without securing a work permit. The investigation should be conducted under the authority of the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act.
Crew members do not need a work permit if they are working on a means of transportation that is foreign-owned, not registered in Canada, and engaged primarily in international transportation. They may work in an operation, maintenance, or passenger service capacity.
Laws governing work conducted by crews on different modes of transportation vary greatly. As such, it is important to make sure that one’s work will in fact be eligible for a work permit exemption before coming to Canada.
Emergency Service Providers
Workers who will enter Canada to provide services in times of emergency may do so without a work permit. The purpose of their work should be preserving life and property in the face of natural disasters or commercial accidents.
Canada has specifically entered into agreements with the United States to facilitate the movement of emergency aid workers across the border between the two countries. These workers may be doctors or medical teams as well as appraisers and foreign insurance adjusters.
Individuals may continue working under the conditions of an expired work permit (without an interim work permit), provided that they applied for a new work permit before the original expired. While waiting for a response on their application, they must remain in Canada to ensure maintained status. Once a decision has been made, the applicant may either continue working under the conditions of their new permit, or they must leave Canada.
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