Work without a Permit | Working in Canada

Work without a Permit

There are several occupations and situations where a foreigner is allowed to work without a work permit.

 

An individual who is eligible to work without a work permit may still require a Temporary Resident Visa or an eTA (Electronic Travel Authorization) to enter Canada on a temporary basis.

In addition, one 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 into Canada. 

The occupations that do not require a work permit are:

Athletes and team members

Aviation accident or incident inspector

Business visitor

Civil aviation inspector

Clergy

Convention organizers

Crew

Emergency service providers

Examiners and evaluators

Expert witnesses or investigators

Foreign government officers

Foreign representatives and Family members of foreign representatives

Health care students

Implied status

Judges, referees and similar officials

Military personnel

News reporters, media crews

On-campus employment and some Off-campus work

Performing artists

Public speakers

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 LMIA exempt work permit for their time in Canada.

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.

Business Visitors

​There are a number of reasons why an individual may come to Canada as a business visitor, including:

  • Attending business meetings, conferences, conventions, fairs, etc

  • Buying Canadian goods or services on behalf of a foreign entity

  • Taking orders for goods or services

  • Providing after-sales service, excluding hands-on work in the construction trades

  • Being trained by a Canadian parent company for work outside of Canada

  • Training employees of a Canadian subsidiary of a foreign company

 

The Business Visitor category facilitates entry for individuals (without a work permit) who engage in business or trade activities in Canada but will not enter the Canadian labour market. ​Individuals who plan to enter the Canadian labour market may require a Temporary Work Permit. In addition, a Business Visitor may still require a Temporary Resident Visa or an eTA (electronic Travel Authorization) to enter Canada on a temporary basis.

 

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 travelling to Canada, a 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 Opinion 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.

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.

Clergy

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.

Convention Organizers

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.

Crew

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.

Examiners and Evaluators

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.

Expert Witnesses or Investigators

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 LMIA and work permit.

Military Personnel

Military and civilian personnel in Canada under the auspices of the Visiting Forces Act may work and study without permits. The families of these individuals are also covered by these exemptions.

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.

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.

Performing Artists

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:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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In addition to the aforementioned 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 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.

Public Speakers

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 LMIA and work permit for their time in Canada.

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