Business visitors [R186(a)]: Authorization to work without a work permit (International Mobility Program [IMP])

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.

The business visitor category facilitates entry to Canada for people who intend to engage in international business activities in Canada without directly entering the Canadian labour market. Section 187 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) defines the criteria for entry.

Note: Work experience obtained as a business visitor cannot be calculated for the Canadian experience class (CEC). Business visitors must not have an intent to enter the Canadian labour market (that is, they must have no gainful employment in Canada).

Examples of activities in this category include

  • attendance at business meetings, trade conventions or exhibitions
  • procurement of Canadian goods and services
  • activities of people providing after-sales services
  • activities of foreign government officials not accredited to Canada
  • activities of certain foreign nationals in the commercial production industry, such as advertising, or in the film or recording industry, including those using studios (limited to small groups that are renting studios and not entering the labour market)

Officers may refer to the quick reference guide to occupations to ascertain if applicants are exempt from requiring a work permit.

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General criteria

  • There must be no intent to enter the Canadian labour market (that is, no gainful employment from an employer in Canada).
  • The activity of the foreign worker must be international in scope (that is, there is the presumption of an underlying cross-border business activity, such as after-sales service).
  • There is the presumption of a foreign employer, as the
    • primary source of the worker’s remuneration remains outside Canada
    • principal place of business of the worker’s employer is located outside Canada
    • accrual of profits of the worker’s employer is located outside Canada

Note: Business visitors should have all relevant documents on hand to present to the officer when seeking entry to Canada, including letters of support from the business visitor’s parent company and a letter of invitation from the Canadian host business. Alternative documentation, such as business cards, business papers, advertising pamphlets, and any other documentation an officer reasonably requests may also be used as part of the assessment.

Example: A United States (U.S.)-based company provides marine maps and computer software to commercial and private mariners, including sports fishers. The U.S. company has no subsidiaries or affiliates in Canada. The company wants to map the Lake of the Woods, most of which is in Canada, using sophisticated marine-mapping devices. The end products will be marine maps and computer software that will assist mariners in navigating the Lake of the Woods. These products will be commercially available to anyone who wants to purchase them. To do this, the company needs to send 2 of their employees, along with their equipment, to circumnavigate the Lake of the Woods, take depth and other readings, and return to the U.S. with their findings. Their findings will, in turn, be used to produce the marine maps and computer software. Since there is no Canadian employer contracting the U.S. company’s services, and since the U.S. company will be the direct beneficiary of the foreign workers’ efforts, business visitor criteria are satisfied.

Foreign workers who are not considered business visitors (other service providers)

Where a Canadian entity has directly contracted services from a foreign company, the employee of the foreign company performing the services for the Canadian company requires a work permit and may require a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

The service provider is not to be considered a business visitor simply because they are not receiving remuneration directly from a Canadian source. Since there is a contract between the Canadian company and the foreign worker’s employer, there is a labour market entry. As the foreign employer is receiving payment from the Canadian entity for the service that is being provided, it is deemed that the worker is receiving payment from a Canadian source. Consequently, the worker cannot receive consideration as a business visitor.

Example: A Canadian airport undergoing expansion engages the services of an American architectural firm located in the U.S. The American architectural firm sends one or more of their architects to Canada to work on the project on site. Since the architects are working in Canada, and since their American employer is receiving payment for their services, the architects do not meet business visitor criteria and cannot receive consideration as business visitors.

After-sales and lease services

With respect to after-sales and lease services, people seeking entry to repair, service, set up, test or supervise work on specialized commercial or industrial equipment purchased or leased outside Canada are considered eligible for exemption from the requirement for a work permit, as business visitors within the meaning of section R187, provided the service agreement is being performed as part of the original contract or extended sales agreement, lease or rental agreement, warranty, or service contract.

In general, set-up services do not include hands-on activities typically performed by construction or building tradespeople (for example, electricians, pipe fitters). However, there may be exceptions, such as in the case of prefabricated structures and equipment that requires proprietary or product-specific knowledge to install or assemble.

After-sales and lease services also include situations where the sales or lease agreement or purchase order is for a software upgrade to operate previously sold or leased equipment. A service person coming to Canada to install, configure or give training on the upgraded software should receive consideration as a business visitor, as long as the after-sales or lease services activity is clearly articulated in the new sales or lease agreement or purchase order. A sales or lease agreement or purchase order for upgraded software is a new contract for a new product.

Warranties and service agreements

For a person to qualify as a business visitor, the related service contracts must have been negotiated as part of the original sales, lease or rental agreement, or they must be an extension of the original agreement. Service contracts negotiated with third parties after the signing of the sales, lease or rental agreement are not covered by this exemption. If, however, the original sales agreement indicates that a third company has been or will be contracted to service the equipment, section R187 applies. If the work is not covered under a warranty or a related service agreement, a work permit and an LMIA are generally required.

Note: For instructions on the processing of work permit applications for service personnel coming to perform service work on equipment that is no longer under warranty or covered by an after-sales or lease agreement, and where there is no commercial presence by the company that manufactured the equipment being serviced, officers should consult Canadian interests – Significant benefit – Emergency repair personnel or repair personnel for out-of-warranty equipment.

Documentation

For stays longer than 6 months, border services officers should issue a visitor record and indicate in the “Remarks” section why the greater period of time is being granted.

The onus is on the applicant to provide any and all relevant documentation that would support a request for a work permit exemption under the business visitor category.

Supervisors

Business visitors also include people who enter Canada to supervise the installation of specialized machinery purchased or leased outside Canada or to supervise the dismantling of equipment or machinery purchased in Canada for relocation outside Canada. As a guide, one supervisor can normally be expected to supervise 5 to 10 installers or other workers.

Training and installation activities

Paragraph R187(2)(b) also covers people entering Canada to provide familiarization or training services to prospective users or to maintenance staff of the establishment after installation of specialized equipment purchased or leased outside Canada has been completed.

The foreign national should maintain their position in their home branch and not be paid above expenses by the Canadian branch. This provision may also apply to a trainer or specialized installer under an after-sales contract by the foreign branch (with the same conditions applying), as long as the service is provided company-wide and not just for the Canadian office.

Board of directors’ meetings

A person attending a meeting as a member of a board of directors may enter as a business visitor. Normally, these people attend quarterly meetings. They are legally charged with the responsibility to govern an organization or corporation, for example, by

  • selecting and appointing a chief executive officer
  • governing the organization by setting broad policies and objectives
  • accounting to shareholders for products, services and expenditures

While a board member may be well remunerated for their advice and expertise, they are considered to be a business visitor under section R187. There is a great deal of international mobility in this activity, and there is no real direct entry into the Canadian labour market. However, if a board member wishes to perform other business-related duties while in Canada, they may be required to obtain a work permit.

Employees of short-term temporary residents

People employed in a personal capacity, for example, as a domestic servant, personal assistant or nanny (caregiver), on a full-time basis by short-term temporary residents generally meet the business visitor criteria in paragraphs R187(3)(a) and (b) and may enter as business visitors.

If the visiting employer extends their stay in Canada, so their employee is no longer considered to be working predominantly outside Canada, or their employee’s primary source of remuneration can no longer be considered to be outside Canada, then that personal employee is no longer considered to be a business visitor and may be required to seek a work permit and an LMIA to continue working. A stay of longer than 6 months is normally found to exceed the threshold required by paragraph R187(3)(b).

Employees of foreign companies contracting Canadian companies

There are situations where foreign companies contract Canadian companies to provide services for them in foreign jurisdictions. It is not uncommon, where distances are great, for the foreign company to send one or more of their employees to Canada to ensure that the Canadian company is doing the job they are contracted to do in a manner that meets the approval of the foreign company. Sometimes, these foreign nationals may be in Canada for up to 2 years.

If a foreign company sends an employee to Canada to control or inspect the quality of a product that they have contracted, the foreign employee may receive consideration as a business visitor. Officers should consider if the

  • employee remains an employee of the foreign company
  • employee remains on the payroll of the foreign company
  • foreign company remains the beneficiary of the employee’s efforts
  • foreign company’s principal place of business remains outside Canada

Example: A foreign infrastructure company is building a new university in the foreign country. The foreign company contracts a Canadian architectural firm to do the architectural work. The foreign company wants to send one or more of their engineers to Canada to ensure that the work of the Canadian architectural company is being done according to the foreign company’s standards and desires. The foreign employees may be in Canada for up to 2 years.

The fact that the foreign employees will be in Canada for more than 6 months is irrelevant, since their principal place of business remains outside Canada. They would, however, need to be documented on a visitor record.

Commercial (advertising) shoots

The following foreign nationals may be considered under the business visitor category:

  • film producers employed by foreign companies for commercial shoots (for film co-producers, officers should refer to T11 non-trade agreements)
  • essential personnel (for example, actors, directors, technicians) entering Canada for short durations (typically no longer than 2 weeks) for a foreign-financed commercial (advertising) shoot for television, a magazine or other media

Officers may consult Artistic and performing arts occupations – Authorization to work without a work permit for more information on other eligible occupations in the arts sector that may not require a work permit.

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