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Exempt Work Authorization for Film Industry Personnel

These days, many TV shows and films are being filmed in Canada. In general, foreign actors, and crew taking part in a production in Canada will need a work permit. The work permit is often exempted from LMIA (Labor Market Impact Assessment) requirement and issuing these work permits was part of my workload when I worked as a Canadian Immigration Officer.

But did you know that actors, producers and essential crew can, under specific conditions, be eligible to go work on a commercial shoot, TV or film production in Canada without a work permit?

Often though, people are unaware or misunderstand the exemptions to this rule, but it is important to understand the criteria to meet. These are precise, and technical and must be supported by credible and official documentary evidence. Otherwise, the actor or crew member could be refused entry at the land border or airport and miss the engagement which can be disruptive and costly.

The main advantages of using this exemption include: no immigration forms to fill; no work permit processing fees to pay; no mandatory documents to provide; and no need to wait for the issuance of the work permit document on entry into Canada. Basically, the exemption allows the person(s) to enter Canada quickly and efficiently in order to work in Canada on film and TV production.

This exception is classified under the Business visitors category in a program called: Authorization to work without a work permit – International Mobility Program.

It applies only to the following members of the production:

1. a film producer

2. an actor

3. a director

4. a technician, and other essential personnel.

There are other essential requirements to meet:

  • the film producers must be employed by foreign companies for commercial shoots;

  • the foreign national must be entering Canada for short durations (typically no longer than 2 weeks);

  • or it must be for a foreign-financed commercial (advertising) shoot for television, a magazine or other media.

The person entering must also show to the Canadian Immigration Officer or the Port of Entry Officer that the engagement is an international business activity in Canada and that there will be no direct entry into the Canadian labor market. In other words, another set of crucial requirements to be exempted from requiring a work permit are:

o the primary source of remuneration for the business activities is outside Canada; and

o the principal place of business and actual place of accrual of profits remains predominately outside Canada.

This business visitor - work permit exemption is meant to facilitate entry to Canada for foreign nationals who intend to engage in international business activities in Canada, but the person will still be responsible for satisfying the Canadian border officer that he or she meets all of the above requirements by providing documentary evidence. The documentary evidence is often referred to as the ‘POE Package’ or ‘Port of Entry Package’. The POE package consists of a legal letter and all the legal documents the actor must have in his or her possession when entering Canada. This will establish that you meet the requirement of this specific exemption and can be allowed entry to work in Canada without a work permit.

Often, if a person arrives unprepared and without the proper documentation, they risk being denied entry into Canada. This can be very stressful. It is also important to show that the foreign national has the credentials and the work experience to be considered for this exemption. Claiming that you are entering for tourism purposes when entering to work in Canada is never recommended and could be interpreted as a serious violation of the Immigration Act.

Also noteworthy, under Canadian Immigration Laws, the responsibility rests on the foreign national who wishes to enter Canada, to provide all relevant documentation that would support a request for a work permit exemption in the business visitor category. Consequently, the foreign national must arrive well-prepared with all relevant documents on hand to present to the Port of Entry officer when seeking entry to Canada for this purpose. This includes the employment contract(s) and confirmation of the contractual agreement, the details of the US financing entity for the production, and several documents to demonstrate the established credentials of the actor, director, etc.

The exemption also allows for the use of a Canadian company/facilitator, but this must be limited to small groups that are renting studios and equipment. The Canadian production company should not be the main financing body leading the production. Employment contracts and official production documents that clearly establish this should be in the possession of the individual entering Canada.

Since United States citizens are exempted from the requirements of the electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) and visa-exempt they are ideal candidates to be able to apply directly for this exemption on entry at the Port of Entry (Canadian land border or Canadian airport). In addition, there are no required application immigration forms to complete or visa processing fees for this entry if you are a US citizen or US Green Card holder.

Furthermore, the person must also ensure that they do not have any potential inadmissibility grounds to Canada, for example, a criminal conviction or any other indications of any inadmissibility to Canada. In Canada, a DUI (Driving under the influence) is considered a serious crime and can render you inadmissible to Canada. If this is the case, the person will most likely need to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit or Rehabilitation Approval preferably before entering Canada.

The International Mobility Program is a comprehensive initiative designed to facilitate the entry of foreign nationals into Canada for work purposes. It was intended to ensure that Canada remains competitive economically. Overall, this exemption is extremely practical for US actors and the production/ filming team going to shoot in Canada for short engagements.

Please note that there are additional exemptions available for Producers, News Reporters, and Media crew.

BIC specializes in the preparation of POE packages for all types of business visitors. Do not hesitate to contact us for further information.

Annie Beaudoin

Designated as Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants - RCIC: R533869 and owner of BIC Canadian Immigration Consulting

November 16, 2023

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