Working in Canada as a business visitor

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: January 29, 2023

Business visitors to Canada are afforded some special work privileges that are not given to all international persons coming to this country for work. One of those privileges is an exemption from requiring a Canadian work permit.

Why Canada allows business visitors to come to Canada without work permits

Canada’s economic prosperity benefits greatly from allowing businesspeople from around the world to conduct business in Canada. This is because Canada upholds an economy that thrives on cooperation and relationship-building with countries around the world. From trade agreements to economic partnerships, Canada has reciprocal relationships with many countries that allow Canadians to enter their countries for business. Accordingly, Canada operates much the same way, as reciprocity is key to Canada’s economic development.

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For instance, as a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and the G7, among other things such as the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA, formerly known as the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA), Canada places great emphasis on ensuring that international business can easily and smoothly be conducted in Canada.

Again, for that reason, some business visitors to Canada can arrive and perform their duties without requiring a work permit first.

Note: Business visitors to Canada may still need a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to conduct business in this country.

What are the criteria that foreign nationals must meet to qualify as business visitors to Canada?

For a foreign national to visit Canada and conduct business, there are certain things they must display to Canadian authorities. For example, prospective business visitors must:

  • Demonstrate that they intend to stay in Canada for less than six months
  • Prove that they have no intention of entering the Canadian labour market
  • Show that their main place of business, as well as their main source of income and profit, is outside of Canada
  • Present requested supporting documents for their application
  • Meet Canada’s basic entry requirements

Pertaining to the final bullet on the above list, Canada’s basic entry requirements include the following.

  • Having a valid travel document (ex. passport)
  • Possessing enough money to stay in Canada and return home
  • Having a plan to leave Canada at the end of their visit
  • Proving not to be a criminal, security, or health risk to Canadians

Now, the following two sections will provide some necessary clarity on the specific ways that Canada divides prospective business visitors coming to this country.

Who is not considered a business visitor in Canada?

It is important that we first clarify the circumstances under which a foreign national coming to conduct business in Canada is not considered a business visitor.

  1. Individuals coming to Canada to perform duties involving hands-on building and construction
  2. Individuals coming to this country to work under a service contract negotiated by a third party (not either the Canadian company or a foreign organization working together) after the signing of the initial sales or lease/renal agreement
  3. Foreign nationals performing work in Canada not covered by a warranty
  4. If the foreign employee entering Canada is working for an international company that was directly contracted for service by a Canadian organization. In this case, a contract between a Canadian company and a foreign organization signifies an entry into the Canadian labour market.

Ex. Should a Canadian company contract the services of a U.S. organization, and the U.S. company were to send a team to work on-site in Canada, that would mean that the U.S. team members are both working in Canada and the international firm is being compensated for their role in the work. In this situation, the American nationals would not qualify as business visitors.

Who is considered a business visitor in Canada?

Conversely, here are a few examples of situations in which foreign nationals coming to Canada are considered to fall into the country’s definition of a business visitor.

  1. Individuals repairing and servicing, supervising installers, and setting up (not including hands-on installation such as pipefitting) and testing commercial or industrial equipment (ex. computer software)
  2. Individuals looking to repair or service equipment purchased or leased outside Canada, so long as the services being performed are part of the original or extended sales/lease/rental agreement or warranty
  3. Individuals performing a software upgrade for previously sold or leased equipment
  4. Individuals installing, configuring, or training others on upgraded software
  5. Individuals coming to Canada to handle warranty and service agreements, in the case that contracts for this work have been negotiated as part of the original sale/lease/rental agreement or are an extension of the original agreement

What can eligible business visitors do while they are in Canada?

In line with the above-outlined information, here are some different activities that a business visitor to Canada can engage in during their time in the country. Business visitors can:

  • Attend business meetings, conferences, conventions, fairs
  • Buy Canadian goods or services on behalf of a foreign entity
  • Take orders for goods or services
  • Provide after-sales service (excluding hands-on work in the construction trades)
  • Receive training from a Canadian parent company for work outside of Canada
  • Provide training to employees of a Canadian subsidiary of a foreign company

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