Work permit options for TV and film productions in Canada

Julia Hornstein
Published: August 8, 2023

The Canadian government has recognized the importance of allowing TV and film personnel to enter Canada quickly and efficiently, since their entry is vital in creating jobs in the country and attracting significant investments.

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TV and film productions can bring essential personnel to Canada through the TV and Film Production Work Permit Category. Foreign and Canadian productions companies that are filming in Canada can use this category to bring in foreign workers if they can demonstrate that the work to be performed by the foreign worker is essential to the production.

Work permits in this category are exempt from the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) requirement. The purpose of the LMIA is to ensure that the hiring of the foreign worker will have a positive or neutral effect on the Canadian labour market. Being exempt from the LMIA allows for a facilitated work permit process and expedited processing times.

Although exempt from the LMIA, the foreign worker must still comply with all the requirements for temporary work in Canada, including getting a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV).

Applicants in this category must provide documentation that shows they meet the requirements under the category. This includes a letter of support from the production, which would generally contain the following:

  • the name and contact information for the production,
  • the title of the production, the provinces, or territories in Canada in which the production will take place and the proposed dates of production,
  • the name of the work permit applicant for the production,
  • a statement confirming that the individual and position are essential to that specific TV or film production,
  • details of the significant economic benefit to Canada of the TV or film production, which may include:
  • the signature of a senior representative of the production,
  • the date of signature; and
  • the estimated number of jobs for Canadians created by the production,
  • the estimated budgetary spend in Canada at the federal, provincial, or territorial level, and
  • a statement confirming that the TV or film production satisfies the criteria for federal, provincial, or territorial tax credit for TV or film production, or is the recipient of federal, provincial or territorial funding for TV or film production

If the foreign worker’s position is unionized, a letter from the union of guild is required, which would generally contain the following:

  • the description of the union or guild,
  • the working title and the relevant locations of the TV or film production,
  • the name of the work permit applicant,
  • a statement for the officer’s consideration indicating that the union or guild is of the view that the work to be performed is subject to a collective agreement and that it has no objection to the foreign national working in the specified position for the specified company,
  • the signature of a senior representative of the organization, and
  • the date of signature.

Business visitor options for the entertainment industry

In some cases, foreign workers seeking entry to Canada to work in the entertainment industry can qualify as a business visitor. If an individual meets the requirements, they do not require a work permit.

There are three main categories for individuals working in the entertainment industry who can be considered a business visitor:

  • Film producers: individuals entering Canada to work on a movie, TV show or documentary which must be an entirely foreign financed production.
  • Essential personnel: individuals entering Canada to work on a foreign financed shoot. These individuals must be entering Canada for a short amount of time, usually no more than two weeks.
  • Performing artists: individuals who are performing at a show, concert or festival. The individual must be entering Canada for a time-limited engagement.

It is up to the discretion of the immigration officer to decide whether or not to grant entry to an individual as a business visitor. For film producers, in order to avoid issues at entry, the individual should be very familiar with the details of the financing for the production. For essential personnel, consideration of what constitutes “essential” is made on a case-by-case basis and is dependent on what evidence is provided by the production company.

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