With several major cities and film and television production hubs in Vancouver, Toronto and other pockets of the country, Canada is a major destination for entertainment performers in a variety of professions. Whether moving to Canada temporarily to work on a television production or playing a two-night concert in Toronto or Winnipeg, all performers arriving to work in Canada must obtain either a temporary work permit or authorization to enter and work without a permit.

Typically, employers looking to bring foreign employees into Canada on a work permit must also obtain what is known as a Labour Market Impact Assessment, which is further explained below. This assessment can add significant time and cost to the process of obtaining a permit, however, some employers and employees in the entertainment field are exempt through the International Mobility Program (IMP). Below, we look at the basics that performers and employers should know about both work-permit exempt entry as well as how the IMP can save employers time and money when hiring foreign workers for longer-term positions in the entertainment industry.

Two Streams of Entry for Foreign Performers and Associates

When it comes to performers entering Canada for work, there are two ways to go about it. The path to be taken will be dependent on the type of work the person will be engaging in and the length of time they will be in the country. In some cases, those entering Canada for a limited engagement will not require a work permit and will be considered a business visitor instead. For those looking to work in Canada for an extended period of time, they will be classified as a temporary foreign worker and will require a work permit. The time required for each stream is quite different and anyone looking to enter Canada as a performer (or hire a foreign worker in Canada) should be aware of the timing in advance to be sure they start the process early enough to avoid production delays.

No Work Permit Required

For those entering Canada for work that is not deemed part of Canada’s labour force, a work permit or visa is not required. However, it is still important to declare the purpose for the trip and obtain the necessary authorization to enter for work purposes. Examples of entertainment-related work that will generally exempt performers, crew and other associated employees from the need to obtain a work permit requirement are:

  • Limited engagement concert tours
  • Touring theatre productions
  • Musicians and buskers performing in music festivals
  • Competition judges

Work Permit Required

Those who are entering Canada for an extended working arrangement are generally considered to be entering the Canadian workforce and will therefore be required to go through the necessary process of obtaining a work permit. Typically, anyone entering Canada to work on a television or film production in Canada will be considered a temporary foreign worker rather than a business visitor. Similarly, anyone said to be entering into an employment relationship with a Canadian employer will also require a permit. An employment relationship is an arrangement that requires a performer to perform on a regular basis over a period of time in the same venue. To illustrate this concept, consider a musician playing a three-night gig at a bar (business visitor) vs. a musician hired to perform two nights per week for a period of six months (temporary foreign worker).

Ordinarily when a Canadian employer is looking to bring a foreign worker into the country under a work permit, they will also be required to go through the process of obtaining a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). This requires the employer to advertise the position in Canada and demonstrate that the role could not otherwise be filled by a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. However, under Canada’s International Mobility Program, certain roles are exempted from the LMIA process, saving significant time and cost for all involved.

For example, film and television productions in Canada are not required to obtain an LMIA for performers and crew brought in from outside of Canada. The reason for this is that attracting high value film and television productions to Canada creates a significant economic benefit for Canadians in general. Commonly, when a television show or film is produced in Canada, a portion of the cast and some of the crew may be brought in from outside of the country, but the production also often hires locally for supporting roles and a large portion of the crew. These roles are often well-paying and unionized, therefore providing a significant benefit to the local area.

Anyone who is unsure of which stream will be appropriate for their needs, or who requires guidance in navigating the complex immigration requirements should reach out to an experienced immigration lawyer to discuss their options well in advance to ensure they avoid potential delays.

Effects of COVID-19 on Entry into Canada for Performers

Due to the current global pandemic, large gatherings of people are currently not permitted in the country, which means that concerts, theatrical productions, and even television sets have been temporarily cancelled or shut down. Further, the Canada/U.S. border is currently closed to anything other than essential travel. As a result, it’s likely that any performer seeking entry into Canada at the present time would be turned away as being non-essential. It is unknown when things will begin to return to some version of “normal”, allowing bars and restaurants to reopen, theatres to begin staging shows or movie and television production to resume.

The immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law will continue to monitor all developments surrounding immigration in relation to COVID-19 and will provide updates as we receive them. If you have questions about the International Mobility Program, entering Canada as a performer, or how COVID-19 might impact your business’s immediate and long-range immigration needs, please reach out to Garson Immigration Law online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.

Contact Us

For all questions and inquiries, call or email us via our form below<

4950 Yonge St., # 302
Toronto, ON M2N 6K1

Fax: (416) 512-6107