International Mobility Program: Commercial airline reciprocal employment agreements

This section contains policy, procedures and guidance used by IRCC staff. It is posted on the department’s website as a courtesy to stakeholders.

Approved “wet lease” arrangements between two airlines should not to be confused with “reciprocal employment” agreements. 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.

Overview-Reciprocal employment  

  • Allows foreign workers to take up employment in Canada when Canadians have similar reciprocal opportunities abroad.
  • Entry under reciprocal provisions should result in a neutral labour market impact.
  • Canadians who go abroad to work under a reciprocal agreement are typically working under the employment of the foreign company. Likewise, a foreign national in the exchange to Canada under that reciprocal agreement, will be working for the Canadian company.
  • A crew entering Canada under R205(b) reciprocity provisions may work anywhere in Canada (whereas crew under a wet lease arrangement are restricted to international travel on the wet lease only).

Assessing Reciprocity and the LMIA Exemption

Employer should be the Canadian company.

The onus is on the applicant (and employer) to prove that reciprocity exists. Depending on the number of exchanges involved, the processing officer may need to see the reciprocity agreement.

  • A reciprocity agreement should be valid (i.e., signed and dated) and must clearly indicate the number of expected exchanges between the two companies per year or season.

Note: If an agreement is presented that indicates that the foreign nationals remain employees of the foreign company during their engagement in Canada then this is likely an arrangement associated with a wet lease and, as mentioned above, exchanges via wet leases cannot be included in the assessment of reciprocal employment.

  • It is not necessary that there be exact reciprocity, but the general order of magnitude should be reasonably similar. For example, for exchanges exceeding over 25 individuals (as a guideline), Citizenship and Immigration Canada should require a minimum proportion of 75% in terms of Canadians employed abroad via reciprocity to foreign nationals employed in Canada via reciprocity.

Exchanges via wet lease arrangements cannot be included in the assessment of reciprocal employment (they fall under two separate provisions under IRPR)

Example: Canadian airline ‘ABC’ has a reciprocal agreement with European airline ‘XYZ’ to employ each other’s airline pilots during each other’s busy seasons. In the summer of 2012, XYZ employed 10 of ABC’s pilots via the reciprocal agreement; in addition, XYZ wet leased 2 of ABC’s aircraft and crew, and ABC sent 20 Canadian pilots to work in Europe on wet leased planes. For the busy winter season in Canada, under the reciprocal employment provisions, ABC is entitled to the LMIA exemption for no more than 17 or 18 of XYZ’s pilots.

It would be helpful for monitoring and reporting purposes if the following information can be captured in the system:

  • Number of Canadians listed as having worked for the foreign company the past season abroad;
  • Number of foreign nationals that the Canadian company is employing this year/season; and
  • The proof that was presented to support the existence of reciprocity.

Note: If reasonable reciprocity cannot be proven, then LMIAs must be sought.

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