What you need to know about coming to Canada as a performing artist

Michael Schwartz
Published: August 6, 2021

Typically, Canada requires foreign nationals who want to work in Canada to have work permits. However, Canada also has several exceptions to this rule.

The main ones are:

  • Business visitors. These are people who engage in international business in Canada, but who do not directly enter the Canadian labour market. A film producer working on a film whose funding is entirely foreign would be an example. An actor performing a cameo would also qualify. The essential participants in a commercial shoot that is foreign-financed and does not exceed two weeks, also fall into this category.
  • Certain performing artists and their crew. If they are coming for work that is limited in time and frequency. For example, a singer coming to the Montreal Jazz Festival for three days or a band giving four concerts in Canada over one week, would qualify. Other people who are generally exempt are people who work for foreign circuses that are visiting Canada. Guest orchestral conductors also fall into this category. The exemption would apply, as well, to the performing artists’ essential staff.
  • People working for foreign news outlets that are reporting on Canada.

Consult a work permit expert at the Law Firm of Campbell Cohen

The jobs in performing arts that generally require a work permit and Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) include:

  • Anything that is a long-term, regular role at a permanent organization.
  • A performing artist, musician, singer, or their crew, coming to Canada for more than two weeks.

There is also one category of entertainment workers that require work permits but not LMIAs:

  • Actors and crews for film, television, and radio, beyond guest appearances or cameos.

If a person needs a work permit, they must apply for one. A work permit will usually require what is known as an LMIA. This is a form that the employer fills out. It requires the employer to show that the net effect of the foreign hire will be positive or neutral on the Canadian labour market. This process usually involves showing that there is no Canadian able or willing to do the job.

The idea is to protect the Canadian labour market. The government's definition for foreign workers is a bit different from what we normally understand the "labour market" to be. Based on the government's definition, a foreigner has only entered the labour market if they are competing with Canadians for a job, and therefore require a work permit. If they are doing a job that no Canadian is going to do anyways, then the foreigner has not really entered the Canadian labour market, according to the government.

Consult a work permit expert at the Law Firm of Campbell Cohen

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