Understanding the Intra-Company Transfer Program pathway to obtain a Canadian work permit

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: November 21, 2022

Canada provides foreign nationals looking to work in this country with different ways to obtain a work permit.

One of the programs that Canada has in place is called the Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) program.

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This program is for individuals who are, as the program name suggests, temporarily transferred to work for the Canadian branch, parent company, subsidiary, or affiliate of their foreign employer.

Basics of the ICT program

Some basic requirements that foreign nationals aiming to obtain a work permit through this program must keep in mind include:

  • Work permits in this program are exempt from needing a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)
  • The nature of the applicant’s work in Canada must be deemed “managerial, executive, or involving specialized knowledge” for the individual to be eligible under this category

Pertaining to the final bullet in the above list, Canada defines jobs that are “managerial, executive or involving specialized knowledge” as follows.

Managerial positions are divided into two sub-genres: Senior and Functional

  • Senior Managers: “Employees who manage all or part of the enterprise and supervise/control the work of other managers or professional employees”
  • Functional Managers: Employees who manage a particular function that is essential to achieving the company’s goals, but they do not necessarily manage employees

Executive positions are defined as those in which an employee’s responsibilities primarily involve directing the management of either an entire enterprise or a major part of it.

Employees who occupy a position that involves specialized knowledge have “knowledge at an advanced level of expertise and proprietary knowledge of the enterprise's products, services, processes and procedures”

ICT eligibility criteria

The following subheadings will now break down the different sets of eligibility criteria that exist within the ICT program.

ICT eligibility for employees

To come to Canada as an Intra-Company Transfer, employees must:

  • Be presently employed at a foreign multi-national company (MNC) looking to transfer foreign employees to Canada
  • Be transferred to a company that has a qualifying relationship with the company in which they are currently employed
  • Be undertaking employment at a legitimate and continuing establishment of the company in Canada
  • Comply with all of Canada's immigration requirements for temporary entry
  • Have continuously worked full-time for a minimum of one year (out of the last three) in a comparable position to the one they will be occupying in Canada

Some exceptions exist as it relates to the final bullet point in the list above. Those exceptions include:

  • If the employee worked part-time rather than full-time for the foreign MNC, IRCC may consider other factors like the number of years of work experience with the foreign company, the similarity of the position with the one in Canada, the extent of the part-time position, and whether there are signs the company is looking to abuse the purpose of the ICT work permit
  • If there is a recent corporate acquisition or merger related to the foreign MNC, it is not required for the employee to have worked for the company for a year provided the employee has worked for one of the affiliates for at least one year in the previous three years. The successor entity must demonstrate it has assumed the interests, obligations, assets, and liabilities of the original company and continues to operate the same type of business as the original company.

ICT eligibility for companies

The eligibility criteria for a standard company transferring employees to Canada as part of the ICT program are as follows.

  • The foreign MNC seeking a work permit through the ICT program must have a parent company, subsidiary, branch, or affiliate relationship with a Canadian organization
  • The company receiving the foreign national employee must be operational in Canada rather than simply having a physical location in Canada
  • The Canadian company and the foreign MNC must be presently doing business

Note: “Doing business” is defined as providing goods and services to one another on an ongoing basis

ICT eligibility for start-ups

Beyond the eligibility criteria for standard companies, the ICT program has different conditions for foreign companies aiming to bring critical employees to the country for the purpose of establishing a new business in Canada.

Successful ICT start-up applicants are provided with a one-year temporary work permit. These permits may be renewed if the company maintains a qualifying relationship with a Canadian entity and continues to actively do business inside the country. The new Canadian operations must also have been staffed.

ICT work permits for start-up companies are given out to companies that can demonstrate their capacity to establish themselves in Canada. Demonstrating this capacity involves:

  • Providing evidence that the company can financially support the start-up costs of the operation, including the ability to compensate employees
  • Preparing a business plan that outlines staffing plans for the new operation and doing business in Canada
  • Providing evidence that a physical location has been secured (or the company is in the process of securing a physical space for the organization)
  • Showcasing that the company will be large enough to support the functions of the executives and/or managers that it is transferring to Canada
  • Showcasing that the company expects to be doing business and proving that Canadian management will indeed be directing the work that is being conducted inside the country

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

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