International Mobility Program: Authorization to work without a work permit – Assessing farm work

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.

Assessing farm work

  • Is the volunteering incidental to the main reason for entering Canada?
    Note: The farm work cannot be the main reason for entering Canada; the foreign national must have other plans for the majority of their time in Canada. Volunteering is to be secondary (incidental) to the main reason (i.e. tourism, visiting family/friends, etc.).
  • Is this a commercial or a non-commercial (family) farm?
    • Commercial farm: A commercial venture undertaken with an expectation of profit. Thus if the farm owner realistically expects to make a profit from the farming activities, this is considered a commercial farm. Commercial farms generally hire outside (steady) employees.
    • Non-commercial farm: A non-commercial farm generally means a farm where the farm family provides much of the capital and labour for the farm and where the production of agricultural products is to provide for the basic needs of the family, with little extra to sell for the profit of the family. This form of farming is commonly known as ‘subsistence’, ‘hobby’ or ‘family’ farming.

Guidelines for assessing a commercial vs. a non-commercial (family) farm

To determine if a foreign national coming to volunteer on a farm for a limited period requires a work permit, an officer should assess the farm to determine if it is commercial or non-commercial. Officers may use the questions below to assist in determining if the host is a commercial enterprise which would require a work permit supported by a Labour Market Impact Assessment.

  • Is the destination a farm (produces an agricultural product – plant or animal) or is another form of business such as ecotourism centre, bed and breakfast (B & B), etc., which are considered ‘commercial enterprises.’
  • What is the production of the farm (i.e., dairy, grains or corn, beef or pork, chicken, vegetables/fruits)? For example, farms growing vegetables or fruits are likely to need extra labour during planting and harvest seasons therefore volunteers could be entering labour market.
  • What is the size of the property or yield of the crop? For example, a small 20-acre beef or pork farm may be just for the family’s use whereas, a 200-acre farm with a sheep operation and large number of turkeys is more likely to be a commercial farm.
  • What is the volume of sales? For example, selling in farmers markets generally entails less product and earns subsistence income whereas selling to Wholesalers or Grocery Chains would indicate a commercial enterprise due to the larger volumes.
  • Has the farm previously used outside help (either volunteer or paid)? Is the volunteer ‘competing’ for these positions?
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