A Special Work Permit for Performing Artists – Reciprocity Code C23

Oliver is a professional dancer. He is a British citizen who currently works for a Welsh dance company. Oliver recently received a job offer from a well-known opera company in Vancouver. They intend to hire him for a period of one year. Oliver has seen Canadian performers on the UK stages before. He wonders if he could move to Canada and work there as a dancer for the Vancouver-based company.

Performing arts is an integral element of culture. Canada takes performing arts seriously. Here is a list of some variations of performing arts:

  • Theatrical performances in the form of “plays, musicals, opera, ballet, illusion, mime, classical Indian dance, kabuki, mummers’ plays, improvisational theatre, stand-up comedy, pantomime, and non-conventional or contemporary forms like postmodern theatre, post-dramatic theatre, or performance art1.”
  • Dance such as Latin or rhythm (e.g. Rumba, Salsa), swing dance (e.g. Balboa, Blues, Jive),  Kumega Dance or traditional African and African-American dance (e.g. Traditional Jazz, Afro-beat, Boogie-woogie), ballroom dance (e.g. Tango, Waltz, Quickstep), classical Indian dance (e.g. Garba, Bharatanatyam, Yakshagana), traditional Iranian Dance (e.g. Persian dance, Turkish dance), Azerbaijani dances (e.g. Anzali, Gaval, Youz bir), experimental or freestyle dances (e.g. Jump up), street dance (e.g. Floating, Flexing), disco or electronic dance (e.g. Hustle, Vogue), Pogo dance (e.g. Hard Rock Pogo), historical dance (e.g. Masque, Vintage dance), ethnic dance, folk dance, and so on (e.g. Hip Hop)2.
  • Music such as classical, pop, progressive, religious, rock, soul, jazz, blues, etc.

Work Permit for Performing Artists

If a Canadian company that is active in performing arts hires a professional performing artist from abroad under the following conditions, the foreign national could receive a work permit to Canada without the need for an LMIA.

  • “The employer is a current recipient of core or composite funding from the Canada Council for the Arts or of financial support via parliamentary appropriation, such as the National Arts Centre”3
  • The job offer is limited to performing arts (note to practitioners; focus on NOC codes 5131, 5132, 5133, 5134, 5135, and 5232), preferable in the “dance, opera, orchestra or live theatre discipline of the arts”3
  • The employee is a professional performing artists or a key element of the production (e.g. the director, the playwright, the librettist, the choreographer, or the set designer)
  • There is a enough evidence to prove reciprocity

Reciprocity is the Key

Immigration authorities will issue the Work Permit without an LMIA only if they are convinced there is similar opportunities available to Canadian performers. For example, if the foreign performer is a German citizen in the field of opera, the immigration authorities want to see if similar opportunities exist for Canadian opera singers and performers in Germany. It is the employer’s responsibility to offer evidence to the immigration authorities in this regard. Sometimes you may refer to certain organizations for support letters. IRCC suggests the following3:

  • Dance: Canadian Dance Assembly, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), Canadian Actors’ Equity Association, Regroupement québécois de la danse
  • Orchestral music: Orchestras Canada, Canadian Federation of Musicians
  • Theatre: IATSE, Canadian Actors’ Equity Association, The Professional Association of Canadian Theatres
  • Opera: Opera.ca, Canadian Actors’ Equity Association

This list is neither inclusive nor exclusive. You may refer to other trustworthy resources for support letters or statistics. If the job offer meets all necessary requirements, it will be exempt from an LMIA under the exemption code C23 (note to practitioners see R205(b)).

The Process

In order to receive a work permit under this program you need to go through these steps:

  1. The employer needs to create an account on the IRCC Employer Portal
  2. The employer needs to register the job offer on the Employer Portal and pay the compliance fee of $230 CAD (fee subject to change)
  3. The employer needs to prepare the work permit package for the employee
  4. Depending on the nationality of the employee, they may apply at a port of entry or they need to submit their application before or after entering Canada. Consult with a professional for more information. Most performing artists need to give biometrics as well. The current processing fee for a work permit is $155 and an additional $85 for the biometrics (some exceptions exist, fees subject to change)

Other Options

This method of work permit highly depends on the nature of the job, the credentials of the employer, and the existence of reciprocity. If you do not fall under this program, one of the following could be your option:

  • Immigrating to Canada as a self-employed artist
  • Working in Canada without a work permit as part of a group of performing artists who are present in Canada for a short period of time
  • Getting a work permit without an LMIA under other exemption codes such as C16 or C11
  • Getting a work permit supported by an LMIA

If you wish to visit or move to Canada or if you have encountered any issues with the immigration authorities, you may fill out our free assessment form or book a consultation session to assess your potential opportunities or offer you immigration, visa, or citizenship advice.

Al Parsai, MA, DTM, RCIC
Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant
Ashton College Instructor – Immigration Consulting

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This article provides information of a general nature only. It may no longer be current. It does not provide legal advice nor should it be relied upon. If you have specific legal questions you should consult a lawyer. If you are looking for official immigration advice book an appointment. All the characters in the articles are fictional, unless otherwise clearly stated. Any resemblance in names, dates, and places (whether individuals or organizations) is coincidental.



  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Performing_arts#Theatre
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dance_style_categories
  3. https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/publications-manuals/operational-bulletins-manuals/temporary-residents/foreign-workers/exemption-codes/canadian-interests-reciprocal-employment-performing-arts-r205-b-exemption-code-c23.html

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Al Parsai

This article has been expertly crafted by Al Parsai, a distinguished Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (L3 RCIC-IRB – Unrestricted Practice) hailing from vibrant Toronto, Canada. Al's academic achievements include an esteemed role as an adjunct professor at prestigious Queen's University Law School and Ashton College, as well as a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from York University. A respected member of CICC and CAPIC organizations, Al's insights are further enriched by his experience as the dynamic CEO of Parsai Immigration Services. Guiding thousands of applicants from over 55 countries through the immigration process since 2011, Al's articles offer a wealth of invaluable knowledge for readers.