Business visitors [R186(a)]: 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.

The business visitor work permit exemption under paragraph 186(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) facilitates entry to Canada for foreign nationals who intend to engage in international business activities in Canada. These activities are considered to be work as per the definition in section R2, as the foreign national may receive wages or commission even though they are not directly entering the Canadian labour market.

Section R187 defines the criteria for entry of business visitors.

Note: Work experience obtained as a business visitor cannot be included in the calculation for the Canadian Experience Class. See Canadian Experience Class selection criteria - Qualifying work experience.

Examples of activities in this category include

  • attendance at
    • business meetings
    • trade conventions
    • exhibitions (not selling to the public)
  • procurement of Canadian goods and services
  • activities of
    • people providing after-sales services as part of a warranty or sales agreement
    • foreign government officials not accredited to Canada
    • 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

  • The foreign national is not entering the Canadian labour market (for example, they are not engaging in a business activity that is competitive in the marketplace).

    The foreign national is not directly entering the Canadian labour market if

    • the primary source of the remuneration for the business activity remains outside Canada
    • the principal place of business of the foreign national is located outside Canada
    • the accrual of profits remains outside Canada
  • The business activity of the foreign national is international in scope.

    For example, they are not engaging with the general public and are either

    • purchasing for a foreign company
    • receiving training from a Canadian parent or subsidiary of a foreign company
Example

A United States (U.S.)-based company, with no Canadian affiliates or subsidiaries, provides marine maps and computer software for sale. The company wants to map the Lake of the Woods, most of which is in Canada, with the end product being marine maps and computer software that will assist mariners in navigating the Lake of the Woods. 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, which will be used to produce the marine maps and computer software. Since there is no Canadian employer contracting the U.S. company’s services, and the U.S. company will be the direct beneficiary of the business activities, the business visitor criteria in section R187 are satisfied.

Documentation

Provided by the client

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 employer and a letter of invitation from the Canadian host business. Alternative documentation may also be used as part of the assessment, such as

  • business cards
  • business papers
  • advertising pamphlets
  • any other documentation an officer reasonably requests

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

Provided by the officer

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

See Visitor record for additional guidance.

Contracting of service providers

A contract for service is where a Canadian entity has directly contracted services from a foreign company, and the foreign company provides an employee to perform those services. The foreign employee requires a work permit and must either get a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) or meet the requirements of a LMIA-exempt work permit category.

Although the foreign employee is not receiving remuneration directly from a Canadian source, they are not considered to be a business visitor because through the contract there is entry into the Canadian labour market.

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 the Canadian labour market, and Canadians and permanent residents may be available to perform the same work, the architects do not meet business visitor criteria and cannot receive consideration as business visitors.

After-sales service as part of a warranty or sales agreement

Foreign nationals may be considered business visitors if they are seeking entry related to service contracts. This applies only when the service contract is for specialized commercial or industrial equipment purchased or leased outside Canada. They must be seeking entry, related to the contracts, to

  • repair
  • service
  • set up
  • test
  • supervise work

The service contracts must have been either

  • an extension of the original agreement
  • negotiated as part of the original
    • sales agreement
    • lease agreement
    • rental agreement

Service contracts negotiated with third parties after the signing of the sales, lease or rental agreement are not covered by this work permit 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.

Note: 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 services also include situations where the original agreement is for a software upgrade to previously purchased or leased equipment. A service person coming to Canada to install, configure or give training on the upgraded software may be 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.

If the work is not covered under a warranty or a related service agreement within the original sale or lease agreement, a work permit is 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, officers should consult Canadian interests – Significant benefit – Emergency repair personnel or repair personnel for out-of-warranty equipment.

Supervisors

Business visitors include foreign nationals who enter Canada to supervise the

  • installation of specialized machinery purchased or leased outside Canada
  • dismantling of equipment or machinery purchased in Canada for relocation outside Canada

Supervision does not normally include hands-on work unless the equipment or machinery requires proprietary or product-specific knowledge to install or assemble.

Training and installation activities

Business visitors include foreign nationals who enter Canada to train prospective users or maintenance staff of the Canadian purchaser or leaser of specialized equipment obtained outside of Canada. This training or familiarization service should take place after installation has been completed.

The foreign national must maintain their position in their home branch and not be paid any compensation other than 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 foreign national attending a board of directors’ meeting may enter as a business visitor. Normally, these foreign nationals 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 if 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

Foreign nationals 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). They may enter as business visitors if accompanying or joining their employers.

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 for quality assurance or product inspection purposes. Sometimes, these foreign nationals may be in Canada for up to 2 years.

To determine whether the employee is 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 a foreign country and 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 company is being done according to the foreign company’s standards and specifications. 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 examined to ensure they meet business visitor criteria and 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.

Cooperative Waterfowl Survey and Banding Program

The program is conducted jointly by Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Canadian Wildlife Service and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Program participants include biologists, research personnel and airline pilots who are invited by the department to participate in ecological surveys, often in isolated areas, and to attend meetings.

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