International Mobility Program: Authorization to work without a work permit – Athletes and team members

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.

Paragraph 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 a Canadian amateur team. 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) (e.g., 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 (see also information on foreign freelance race jockeys working in western provinces);
  • 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 the team (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.

Note: If, upon entry and in anticipation of acceptance to a professional team, an athlete wishes to obtain a work permit for the season, officers may issue a work permit according to the guidelines below.

For professional and semi-professional coaches and athletes working for Canadian-based teams, see also: Reciprocal employment

Spouses

Professional athletes are classified under Skill Level B in the National Occupational Classification (NOC), and, as such, their spouse is eligible for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)-exempt work permit pursuant to R205(c)(ii), exemption code C41.

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).

Employment and Social 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 an LMIA 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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