International Mobility Program: Military personnel and family members

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

Visiting Forces Act (VFA)

Examination procedures

Military personnel are exempt from work permits and are only to be documented on Visitor records (case type code 12, special program field 047) when seeking entry to Canada to perform official duties under the VFA for a duration of six months or more. Conditions of entry should not be imposed upon a member of the visiting force, nor should a definite period of authorized stay be noted on the form.

The member and family members should be authorized to remain in Canada “for duration of status”. On documents generated in the Field Operations Support System (FOSS), the “valid until date” cannot be left blank. A date of three years validity should be entered; however the following statement should be noted in the Remarks section: “Additional condition: This document valid for duration of status under the Visiting Forces Act”.

While exempt from the passport and visa requirements (unless a civilian), military personnel under the VFA must be able to produce an identity document and movement orders (e.g., NATO travel order).

Notwithstanding A18(1), officers may choose not to personally examine every individual in a group. The commanding officer may be relied on to identify any individuals who may be inadmissible to Canada. Port managers are encouraged to obtain group lists in advance and take appropriate action concerning any inadmissible individuals prior to the arrival of the group. Those with a military base in their area should meet the base commander to ensure that they are aware of the inadmissibility requirements.

NATO personnel

NATO nations are covered by the Status of Forces Agreement (taken from the VFA). Military personnel coming to Canada under NATO, including the civilian component, are exempt from work permits pursuant to R186(d).

Long-term personnel

Visitors entering Canada to take employment at certain facilities may be in Canada for many years. Consequently, long-term work permits may be issued. These visitors are exempt from the work permit requirement, but work permits may be issued pursuant to R204, T11.

Military Training Assistance Program (MTAP)

New member states of the MTAP which have not been designated under the VFA are approved on the basis of bilateral Memorandums of Understanding between the Department of National Defence and its counterpart in the MTAP state. The list of MTAP member states is included below.

MTAP participants (both service and civilian) who are not covered by the VFA may be authorized to enter Canada as visitors to follow seminars or short courses, but require a study permit to follow a training program longer than six months. They are subject to normal passport, visa, medical and visa referral requirements, as applicable. Applicants must show evidence of their participation in MTAP at the time of application.

Other Canadian military training offered to non-VFA countries

The Department of National Defence (DND) offers a variety of International Training Programs (ITP) to foreign militaries outside the MTAP through various elements of the Canadian Forces (CF). ITP may consist of visiting military personnel making use of CF training facilities or attending CF-run training courses ranging in length from a few days to a year or more. In most cases, these training services are sold to the foreign government or provided in exchange for reciprocal training benefits. The provision of ITP is based upon a formal agreement for the provision of services between the CF and the appropriate military authority of the requesting country. Such an agreement details the terms, conditions, duration of the training etc., and identifies any applicable existing bilateral agreements. All such international training relationships are subject to Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) review through CF international policy offices.

Criteria: Training participants coming from VFA countries are exempt from the requirement for immigration documentation. Participants coming from non-VFA countries will require a study permit for studies longer than six months and may require a temporary resident visa.

Military personnel family members

This group includes family members of foreign military personnel stationed in Canada who themselves are exempt from work permits pursuant to R186(d).

Under the terms of reciprocal agreements

A work permit is required but LMIA-exempt under R205(b) - C20. The work permit is fee-exempt.

Reciprocal agreements covering family members of military personnel are in place with Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Norway and the United States. Negotiations are in process with other countries that have exchange military personnel in Canada and personnel from those countries may be included in this procedure at a later date.

Family members of military personnel covered by reciprocal arrangements will submit a request for approval to the Director Protocol and Foreign Liaison (DPFL) at National Defence Headquarters (NDHQ), 101 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa (ON) K1A 0K2, fax 613-995-1288. The request should clearly state under which defence program the spouse or parent is employed in Canada. Current programs are as follows:

  • Exchange and Liaison Program;
  • British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS);
  • British Army Training Support Unit Wainwright (BATSU Wainwright);
  • Foreign Forces in Goose Bay;
  • NATO Flying Training in Canada (NFTC) in Moose Jaw and Cold Lake.

The DPFL will forward the request to the appropriate NDHQ directorate which administers the program. The latter will review the request and issue a letter granting approval in principle if the family member is eligible and a reciprocal arrangement exists.

If such approval is given, the family member may approach Citizenship and Immigration Canada directly and request a work permit (R199). If the principal applicant is under the VFA, the work permit is fee-exempt. Case type code 22, “official status”.

The family member should be in possession of a ‘letter of approval of employment’ from the applicable DND official, acceptable proof of identity and relationship to the head of family and proof of the duration of the official assignment in Canada.

An open work permit may be issued for a duration coinciding with the expiry of the military principal applicant’s tour of duty. Prior to the issuance of an open or unrestricted work permit, an applicant must meet immigration medical requirements. Conditions as well as a definite period of stay may be imposed on work permits issued to family members, but when needed, an extension of status should not be withheld unnecessarily.

Where no reciprocal agreements exist

Family members of military personnel not covered by a reciprocal arrangement may apply for a work permit in Canada under R199, but an LMIA is required.

Spouses of Military personnel may be more easily processed if they qualify under the Spousal Employment Provision for spouses of high skilled workers R205(c), C41.

Countries designated for the purposes of the VFA

These MTAP countries are not designated under the VFA (as of May 2005)

  • Argentina
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • Brazil
  • Burkina Faso
  • Chile
  • Croatia
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Jordan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Mali
  • Mexico
  • Mongolia
  • Montenegro
  • Namibia
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Rwanda (suspended)
  • Russia
  • Senegal
  • Serbia
  • South Africa
  • South Korea (Tier-Two)
  • Tajikistan
  • Uruguay
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