ARCHIVED – Operational Bulletin 399 - April 10, 2012

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada staff. It is posted on the Department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

This document has expired. Please refer to the appropriate Program Delivery Instructions for current information.

Guidance for officers assessing the temporary entry to Canada of foreign athletes, coaches and other essential members of foreign-based teams – R186(h)


The purpose of this Operational Bulletin is to inform officers of forthcoming revisions to the Foreign Worker Manual (FW 1), Section 5.9 ‘Athletes and Coaches’ – R186(h). Guidance will be extended to include the assessment of other essential members of foreign-based teams, in addition to athletes, coaches and trainers.


Current guidance in the FW 1 manual suggests that R186(h) pertains only to athletes, coaches and trainers. The manual will be revised to include members of a team who play an integral part in the overall performance of the team.


While the manual does not limit those who would be considered a ‘member of a team’, it provides a non-exhaustive list of examples that include athletes, coaches and trainers.

In fact, members of foreign-based teams or Canadian amateur teams are not limited to the athletes and coaches, but also include other supportive team members who are relevant to the particular sport and/or event, such as the team manager, assistant manager, event scheduling coordinator, equipment person and, for polo teams, the polo grooms, physicians, physiotherapists and chiropractors accompanying the horse during competitions. If it can be established that a foreign national’s role is integral to the functioning of a team whose principal member or members have been permitted a work permit exemption under R186(h), then he or she would be eligible for the work permit exemption under R186(h).

Current policy/procedures

R186(h) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act Regulations (IRPR) reads:

A foreign national may work in Canada without a work permit as a participant in sports activities or events, in Canada, either as an individual participant or as a member of a foreign-based team or Canadian amateur team.

Section 5.9 of the Foreign Worker Manual (FW 1) provides guidance for authorizing this exemption for foreign athletes, coaches and trainers of foreign-based teams, but does not currently extend the provision to include other essential members of these teams.

FW 1 revision to Section 5.9 – Athletes and Coaches R186(h)

Section 5.9 of the FW 1 manual will be revised to include the following changes:

5.9 Work without a work permit R186(h)—Athletes and team members

R186(h) allows foreign professional or amateur athletes to participate in sports activities or events in Canada either as an individual participant or as members of a foreign-based team or Canadian amateur teams. It also allows foreign coaches and trainers of foreign amateur or professional athletes, and other essential members of the team, to participate at sports activities or events held in Canada.

Examples of individual participants in sports activities or events in Canada:

  • amateur players on Canadian teams (includes major junior A level and lower teams) (Athletes authorized to enter Canada under this category for a whole season should be documented on a Visitor Record);
  • foreign pet owners entering their own animals in a show (e.g., dog handlers);
  • jockeys racing horses from foreign-based stables;
  • racing car drivers;
  • persons attending professional team tryouts.

Examples of persons who would qualify as members of a team:

  • individuals that have the necessary combination of team role, skills and qualifications that make them essential members of a team whose member or members have been permitted a work permit exemption under R186(h) – (see Note);
  • full or part-time coaches or trainers of foreign athletes;
  • polo grooms;

Note: Occupations essential to the team’s participation are those that provide a service benefiting only the foreign-based team or team members, or the Canadian amateur team (on a seasonal basis), and do not compete directly with, or enter, the Canadian labour market.

Additional guidance – polo grooms

Job duties for groomers that work with thoroughbred horses and who are an essential member of a team, i.e. polo grooms, are quite different from groomers working on a farm, even though the NOC may be the same, and thus are eligible for the work permit exemption under R186(h).

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada considers that polo groomers and other team members associated with taking care of the horses participating on a recognized team should be considered as being an essential part of the team and should not require a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) as they are not entering the Canadian labour market. Similarly, a physician or chiropractor from Canada who specializes in horses would not know the health history of the horse or pony of the foreign polo team, and it would make no sense for a Canadian chiropractor or physician to follow that particular horse to all the competitions.

The Canadian Polo Association can confirm that there is a shortage of experienced polo groomers in Canada as this is not a common sport in Canada and very few Canadians would be interested in learning a trade with such time-limited employment period given the seasonal nature of the sport.

“There are approximately 16 Polo Clubs in Canada (not all are registered with Polo Canada). Each team varies in ability and typically consists of a mixture of amateurs and professionals playing together.

Grooms are absolutely an integral part of the team. Their expertise is very specific to the players and horses they manage.” (POLO Canada:

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