How film and TV production companies can get Canadian work permits

Shelby Thevenot
Published: March 18, 2022

Movie and TV shoots generate jobs, revenue, and infrastructure development. As such, the Canadian government offers facilitated work permit processing for foreign film industry workers to shoot on location in Canada.

Canada has already lifted much of its COVID-19 restrictions. Fully vaccinated foreign travellers are able to come to Canada with an approved antigen test, and many provinces are rolling back public health measures such as mask requirements.

As such, 2022 is poised to be yet another busy year for Canada's film and TV industry. Canadians are making huge investments in TV and film across the country. The premier of Nova Scotia is flying to Los Angeles from March 12 to 16 to meet with decision makers at Disney, Netflix, NBC and other studios. Also, Burnaby, British Columbia is building a 300,000 square-foot film studio.

All this to say, Canada recognizes the significant social, cultural, and economic benefits of the film industry. As a result, foreign film crews and producers may be eligible to get facilitated work permits and expedited processing times.

In this article, we summarize work permit options for TV and Film crews, and explain the business visitors work permit exemption.

Schedule a Free Work Permit Consultation with the Cohen Immigration Law Firm

Facilitated work permits for film crews

Foreign TV and film crews coming to work on a production in Canada may be able to skip the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process.

Canadian work permits are divided into those that require LMIAs and those that are LMIA-exempt. The purpose of the LMIA is to prove to the Canadian government that a foreign worker will not cause any negative effect to the Canadian labour market. It is meant to demonstrate that a foreign worker is not taking away an opportunity for a Canadian worker.

Work permits may be LMIA exempt if the work being done will provide a cultural, social, or economic benefit to Canada. Film and TV crew members, actors, and other workers may be able to benefit from the Significant Benefit Work Permit. This work permit does not require an LMIA.

Those who are exempt from the LMIA requirement are typically workers whose occupation are deemed essential to the production, and are eligible through the Television and Film Production Workers category.

Eligibility for the LMIA exemption hinges on whether an individual's role is essential to the production. Since there is no exhaustive list of “essential personnel," its definition is open to interpretation. Given that "essential" can vary from one situation to another, its determination is made on a case-by-case basis. It depends on what evidence is provided in support of the worker being essential to the production. The person's occupation is just one factor taken into account.

For those who do need an LMIA, many workers in the TV and film industry may be granted a facilitated process where the position does not need to be advertised.

Business visitor visas for producers and essential personnel

Producers, performing artists (in certain cases), and other essential personnel may not need a work permit, if they qualify as Business Visitors.

There are typically three categories of entertainment industry professionals who can receive consideration as business visitors:

  • Film producers who are travelling to Canada to work on a foreign-financed movie, TV show, or documentary. The project must be entirely funded from abroad, and therefore collaborations between foreign production companies and Canadian entities do not qualify.
  • Essential personnel who are coming to Canada to work on a foreign-financed commercial shoot. These workers must be entering Canada for short durations, usually no longer than two weeks. Consideration as to what constitutes “essential personnel” is made on a case-by-case basis and depends largely upon what evidence is provided by the production company.
  • Performing artists who are performing at a show, concert, festival, or appearing in a guest spot on a TV series or film that is being shot in Canada. As long as their reason for entering Canada constitutes a limited-time engagement, they may be considered business visitors. It is only in cases of recurring, regular performances that performing artists may need a work permit.

Priority processing for film and TV workers

Film and TV workers who submit their work permit application online may be eligible for three-week processing.

According to the Canadian government's website, after applying for a work permit, film and TV workers can fill out the web form and enter the following message into the "Your enquiry" field:

FILMTV2020: Requesting priority processing for Film & TV Industry workers due to COVID-19.”

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) says a decision on the application will be made within three weeks where possible. It takes five days to identify the application and 14 days to process it. It is important for applicants to include the code "FILMTV2020" in the enquiry field, otherwise it may take longer to identify the application.

Schedule a Free Work Permit Consultation with the Cohen Immigration Law Firm

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