Taking part in a Canadian event this summer? Your role may require a work permit

Stephen Sherman
Published: June 28, 2018

With the arrival of summer in Canada, the extensive lineup of festivals, conferences and conventions is set to begin. These events are usually quite elaborate and often require the entry into Canada of one or more foreign nationals to be actively involved in the necessary preparations.

The responsibilities of such individuals can vary widely, ranging from organizing and overseeing the setting up of the event as a whole, to installing and managing a single booth at the event.

No matter the importance of the role the foreign national will play, this involves work and therefore issues relating to Canadian work permits might arise.

Nature of the work to be performed

The first factor that determines whether or not a Canadian work permit will be required is the role the foreign national plays in the preparation and organization of the event.

If the individual is doing work that requires him to be physically engaged, or “hands on work”, then a work permit will most likely be required.

Activities such as overseeing the event as Event Planners, Managers or Organizers generally do not require a work permit. This would avoid having the foreign national go through the application process and would eliminate the associated processing time which can pose problems in terms of timing and scheduling.

“Nationality” of the Event

The second factor that comes into play is whether the event can be classified as a Canadian or foreign event.

If the event is being organized and put on by a Canadian entity or a Canadian individual, then a work permit would most likely be required.

On the other hand, if a foreign organization is hosting the event, then a work permit would most likely not be required, provided of course the above condition is satisfied as it concerns the nature of the work to be performed.

Examples of individuals who are exempt from a work permit in this context include employees of foreign organizations that are either executive organizing committee members or administrative support staff. The same can be said of people working under contract for foreign organizations if they fall into one of the following occupation categories: Event planners, exhibit managers, professional conference organizers, destination marketing company personnel, event accommodation consultants.

Conference/Convention merchants

At most events, there are usually merchants who are selling foreign-made or Canadian goods. Attendees of such events are usually the target demographic of these merchants so these events are a prime opportunity to sell their products to the public.

Whether or not a work permit is required depends on the process through which the products are sold; if money is changing hands and the product is being provided to the consumer on the spot, then a work permit is required.

If, however, the foreign national is only taking orders and confirming the delivery of the product at a later point in time then a work permit may not be required and the process is greatly simplified.

The origin of the product is also important in determining whether a work permit is required. If the product being sold is Canadian-made, a work permit is needed, but this is not the case for a foreign-made product.

The “nationality” of the product depends on where it was manufactured: if it was made in Canada, it is a Canadian product; if it was made abroad, the product is not Canadian.


When a foreign national is coming to work or sell goods at an event in Canada, confusion can arise whether that person requires a work permit or not. A number of factors come into play and it is very possible that a Canadian immigration officer might not be intimately familiar with such factors or how they are to be considered.

It is therefore important to be prepared in order to avoid being delayed or at the very worst denied entry. Consultation with an experienced immigration attorney goes a long way in this respect and is therefore highly recommended before planning any travel to Canada.

To submit a work permit inquiry, please complete the form on this page.

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