International Mobility Programs

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Significant Benefit of Canada

Scenarios often arise where there is no specific LMIA exemption that applies, typically implying that the LMIA will need to be submitted and approved prior to applying for the work permit. This usually involves processing time as well as the need on the part of the Canadian employer to prove that they were unable to find a Canadian for the job.

Sometimes however, an exception can be made on the basis that the granting of temporary work authorization in a given situation would pose a particular benefit to the Canadian economy or culture. The principle behind this is that in such cases, the positive effects of the issuance of a work permit, would outweigh the potential deleterious consequences that could result from the standard procedure not being followed.

These are cases for which an LMIA is usually required but practical considerations prevent this from being a possibility if Canada is to benefit, usually due to the lengthy processing times associated with most LMIA’s. In such cases, aside from the lack of LMIA, the other factors that are typically considered when assessing a work permit application would mitigate in favor of the work permit being granted. Such factors include the potential impact on Canadian production, the disruption of the Canadian labor market, as well as the needs of the Canadian consumer.

Significant Benefit General Categories:
  1. Entrepreneurs and Self-Employed
  2. Intra-Company Transfers (ICT)
  3. Mobilité Francophone
  4. Television and Film Production Workers
  5. Emergency Repairs or Out of Warranty Personnel


International Agreement

In order to create the most favorable conditions for Canadian business to compete internationally, Canada has entered into bilateral and multilateral Foreign Trade Agreements (FTA). Most FTAs to which Canada is a signatory contain provisions to facilitate the mobility of temporary business persons to Canada.

Entry requirements vary significantly from one category to another. However, the same LMIA exemption applies.

  1. North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
  2. Canada-Chile FTA
  3. Canada-Peru FTA
  4. Canada-Colombia FTA
  5. Canada-Korea FTA
  6. Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)
  7. General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)
  8. Canada-Panama Free Trade Agreement
  9. Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)

Generally, foreign workers eligible under a FTA require a work permit to work in Canada, but are exempt from obtaining a Labor Market Impact assessment (LMIA), making the process of obtaining a work permit seamless, inexpensive, and quick.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is the largest FTA to which Canada is a party, and is similar to several Foreign Trade Agreements to which Canada is a party:

The Canada-European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), along with the Chile, Peru, Columbia and Korea FTAs are akin to NAFTA and all contain provisions that grant temporary entry to 4 categories of business persons: business visitors, professionals, intra-company transferees, and traders and investors.

Under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), professionals are authorized to enter under either as professionals or intra-company transferees.


International Reciprocal

Reciprocal employment allows a foreign national to work in Canada with a work permit, but is Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) exempt provided that there is evidence that a Canadian is provided a similar ‘reciprocal’ work opportunity abroad.

International Experience Canada (IEC) program

Citizens of countries with a bilateral Youth Mobility Arrangement with Canada who are between the ages of 18 and 35 may be eligible for IEC work permits.

Work permits issued under IEC are exempt from the requirement for a Labor Market impact Assessment and fall into one of three categories:

  1. Working Holiday
  2. Young Professionals
  3. International Co-op

Working Holiday

Participants in this program can receive an open work permit, valid for one to two years. Open work permits allow participants to work anywhere in Canada for almost any Canadian employer. This category is for individuals who:

  1. do not have a job offer;
  2. want to work for more than one employer in Canada;
  3. want to work in more than one location; and/or
  4. want to earn more so they can travel.

Young Professionals

Under this program, citizens of participating countries can gain valuable international experience by working for a Canadian company. Applicants to this category receive an employer-specific work permit if approved. This category is for individuals who:

  1. have a valid job offer in Canada for a paid position that contributes to their professional development; and
  2. plan on working for the same employer during their stay in Canada.

A signed job offer letter or contract of employment with a Canadian employer related to the applicant’s professional development is required before applying. The job offered must be classified as a National Occupation Code (NOC) Skill Type Level 0, A, or B.

International Co-op Internship

This program allows citizens of participating countries who are enrolled at a post-secondary institution in their country of citizenship to spend a period of time interning for Canadian companies. Applicants to this category would receive an employer-specific work permit. This category is for individuals who:

  1. are registered at a post-secondary institution outside of Canada;
  2. have a job offer for a work placement or internship in Canada that is required to complete their studies;
  3. plan on working for the same employer during their stay in Canada.

Participants must arrange co-op placements with Canadian employers before applying.

Eligibility requirements for the IEC program

  1. be a citizen (passport holder) of one of the 35 countries or be a resident of one of the territories that have a bilateral Youth Mobility Arrangement with Canada;
  2. have a valid passport for the duration of their stay in Canada (the work permit issued will not be longer than the validity of the passport),
  3. be between the ages of 18 and 30 or 35 at the time of application (the upper age limit depends on the applicant’s country of citizenship);
  4. have the equivalent of $2,500 CAN upon landing to help cover initial expenses;
  5. be able to take out health insurance for the duration of their stay (participants may have to present evidence of this insurance at the point of entry in Canada);
  6. be admissible to Canada;
  7. have, prior to departure, a round-trip ticket or the financial resources to purchase a departure ticket for the end of their authorized stay in Canada,
  8. not be accompanied by dependents; and
  9. pay the appropriate fees.

Athletes and staff

Athletes and staff joining a Canadian employer

Due to the nature of their work, there are specific requirements for athletes and staff looking to work in Canada, either temporarily or permanently. If a foreign national wants to join a Canada-based sports team or represent Canada as an individual athlete, a work permit must usually be obtained.

However, even in this scenario, much of the red tape usually associated with acquiring a work permit is removed from the process. This is because such athletes can be exempt from the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) requirement, which is usually the most onerous and problematic aspect of procuring a work permit.

Athletes and staff working for a non-Canadian employer

Due to the fact that many foreign athletes and coaches earn their livelihood through sport, when they come to Canada for sporting events they are effectively working in Canada, technically making them foreign workers. Despite this designation, in the majority of cases, the rules and regulation of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program do not apply in the context of visiting athletes and coaches. To subject these individuals to the rules and procedures usually associated with foreign workers would be overly burdensome and would impede Canada from participating in sporting events/leagues that are international in scope.

Therefore, as long these individuals are a member of a foreign-based team or an individual athlete representing a foreign country, a work permit is generally not required. The same goes for any of the foreign team or athlete’s essential personal and support staff.

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