Athletes and coaches [R186(h)] – Authorization to work without a work permit – International Mobility Program 

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

Paragraph R186(h) allows foreign nationals to participate in sports activities or events in Canada without a work permit as athletes, coaches or trainers, either as

  • individual participants
  • members of a professional or amateur foreign-based team
  • members of a Canadian amateur team

It also allows foreign nationals who are essential members of the foreign team to participate at sports activities or events held in Canada.

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

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 horse jockeys);
  • 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.

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


Professional athletes are classified under TEER 3 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.

Specific guidance: Polo grooms

Polo grooms are captured under NOC 84120 as specialized livestock workers. The main duties for groomers that work with thoroughbred horses and who are an essential member of a team, such as polo grooms, are quite different from pet groomers (NOC 65220). As essential members of a team, polo grooms may be authorized to work with a work permit under R186(h).

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. Similarly, physicians or chiropractors who specialize in horses are also essential to the team as they know the health history of the horse or pony of the foreign polo team.

The Canadian Polo Association confirms 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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