How to hire foreign workers for Canadian conventions and trade shows

Shelby Thevenot
Published: February 12, 2022

Foreign nationals working on Canadian events need work permits in order to do their jobs legally in Canada.

The Canadian government considers events to be Canadian if they are hosted by organizations which are actively doing business in Canada. Host organizations could be associations, corporations, or government.

An event that is conducted by a Canadian branch or subsidiary of a foreign-based organization also falls under this definition. So, if an event is conducted by a Canadian subsidiary, then any employees of the foreign branch would require a work permit to work on the event.

These rules apply not only to conventions and trade shows, but association meetings, congresses, corporate meetings, incentive meetings, exhibitions, and other consumer shows.

Need Help with Work Permits? Contact Cohen Immigration Law for a Free Consultation

The type of work permit that your foreign talent needs depends on their role in the event.

There are two broad types of work permits in Canada: Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and the International Mobility Program (IMP). The main difference is the requirement for what is called a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

The LMIA basically signals to the Canadian government that there is no Canadian resident who is available or qualified to do the job. You could also say it is meant to demonstrate that there will be no negative consequences to the Canadian labour market if the foreign national comes to do their job. IMP work permits do not require an LMIA, because they have been determined to offer a "significant benefit" to Canada's economic, social, or cultural objectives.

Here we will try to help you figure out what your foreign employees need to work legally in Canada. The following roles are not considered to be Business Visitors, and therefore require work permits. Business visitors include conference delegates, attendees, and board members.


Foreign exhibitors selling Canadian-made goods require work permits that are supported by an LMIA. The LMIA is required here because, in the government's eyes, if a product is made and sold in Canada, there is no reason a Canadian should not be the one to sell the product.

If exhibitors are selling foreign-made goods to the general public and deliver them at the time of sale, they may apply for a significant benefit work permit, which is LMIA exempt. They are considered to be a benefit because these foreign workers hire Canadian services and purchase accommodations.

Setting up display

Foreign employees will require work permits to install and dismantle a booth or display if it is larger than a portable pop-up. Work permits for this purpose do not require an LMIA.

The same goes for contract service providers. Canadian event organizers need work permits for foreign contractors who install and dismantle shows and exhibits, and who do behind-the-scenes tech work like lighting, and decorating. Work permits for this purpose require an LMIA.

Exhibitors are expected to hire Canadians to do all the labour on the convention floor, the Canadian government website says. Otherwise, an LMIA-supported work permit will be required.

Need Help with Work Permits? Contact Cohen Immigration Law for a Free Consultation

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