Business Visitors to Canada
A Colombian company hires Jose in Medellin, Colombia. They use certain equipment they have purchased from a Canadian company in their production line. Jose is not quite familiar with those equipment. The Colombian company deploys Jose to Canada for two weeks. He learns about the tools they use at the Canadian location. The training is hands-on. Jose will be present at the production line and he may even manufacture some products while being trained. He will be paid by the Colombian company for his trip. While he is in Canada, he will receive his salary from his Colombian employer. Jose will then go back to Medellin and continue working for the Colombian company upon completion of the training. Does Jose need a work permit for his trip to Canada?
Canada, one of the power houses in technology and science, hosts thousands of successful businesses. Many of these businesses export their products and services to other regions in the world. The employees of their foreign customers may need to understand how to use the tools and goods they purchase from their Canadian suppliers. Consequently, they may visit Canada to receive training from their Canadian service providers. These people are among a large group of people who visit our country as business visitors.
Who is a Business Visitor?
Millions of people visit Canada every year. Some of those people are business visitors, but who is a business visitor?
Probably the main group of business visitors are those who enter Canada for international business without directly entering the Canadian labour market (subsection 187(1) of IRPR). An example is the CEO of a French company who visits Canada to meet with Canadian companies. Her intention is to meet with the decision-makers of those companies and discuss potential business opportunities such as selling the French company products or services to them or purchasing the Canadian companies products or services. While she is visiting Canada, the Canadian companies won’t pay her salary. They may, however, pay for her travel expenses.
Subsection 187(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IPRR) divides business visitors into three major groups:
- Group A – Purchasing/Training Activities
- Group B – Training at the Canadian Branch
- Group C – Business to Business (B2B) Sales
Group A – Purchasing/Training Activities
This group includes “foreign nationals purchasing Canadian goods or services for a foreign business or government, or receiving training or familiarization in respect of such goods or services” (paragraph R187(1)(a)). It is important to make sure the training is for learning how to use the Canadian products or services. I persist on this issue, because if a person attends an extended training program, they may need to receive a Study Permit. However, short-term training that are under six months and are not part of a certificate, diploma, or degree program do not call for a Study Permit.
Let’s say a Canadian company manufactures a popular CNC machine. A Japanese company deploys three of their employees to Canada. They stay in Canada for two months. They receive special training on the CNC machine for six consecutive weeks. They eventually decide to purchase one of the machines. When the deal is signed they return to Japan. The host company offers them accommodation, transportation, and meals while they are in Canada, but the Japanese company covers their salary. This group of three are business visitors.
Group B – Training at the Canadian Branch
If a Canadian company holds branches in other parts of the world they may invite their foreign employees to the parent company from time to time. If the purpose of such visits is to either receive or give training, then the visitors are business visitors. Paragraph 187(1)(b) of IRPR describes this group as “foreign nationals receiving or giving training within a Canadian parent or subsidiary of the corporation that employs them outside Canada, if any production of goods or services that results from the training is incidental.”
As an example, a hypothetical Canadian company produces women’s garments in Winnipeg and Johannesburg. They have recently started a new production line in Winnipeg. A similar production line will be installed in Johannesburg next year. The company invites fifty of their Johannesburg employees to Canada for a period of one month. While in Canada, they learn hands-on experience on how to operate the new line. Although they are in Canada, they receive their salaries from the Johannesburg branch. This group are another example of business visitors.
Group C – B2B Sales
Some people sell goods or services to other companies or to the governments. We call this activity B2B sales or rather Business to Business sales. A foreign national who visits Canada for B2B sales could be a business visitor.
According to paragraph 187(2)(c) of IRPR a business visitor could be “foreign nationals representing a foreign business or government for the purpose of selling goods for that business or government, if the foreign national is not engaged in making sales to the general public in Canada.”
Adam represents an Italian company that produces a new technology useful for firefighters. Adam visits Canada for a period of four months. While he is in Canada he visits many cities in Ontario and Nova Scotia. He meets with fire departments of those cities and tries to convince them purchase the technology. He succeeds to some extent. His Italian employer covers all his expenses and salary while he is in Canada. Adam is a business visitor.
Business Visitors and International Treaties
Canada has signed many international treaties such as USMCA (formerly NAFTA), CETA, GATS, and bilateral FTAs. The definition of business visitors in those agreements could be different from section 187 of IRPR. For example, read the following article:
Visa Requirements for Business Visitors
Business visitors are exempt from obtaining a work permit. If the business visitor is a US citizen they may enter Canada without a TRV or eTA. They, however, need to hold documents that show they fall under the definition of a business visitor. For most business visitors, holding an invitation letter from one or more Canadian corporations is a must.
If the business visitor is not a US citizen, they most likely need an eTA or a TRV, depending on their nationality or their country of residence. Sometimes the business visitor is inadmissible to Canada. In such situations, they could still visit Canada by applying for rehabilitation or TRP.
Relevant article: Invitation Letter for Business Visitors to Canada
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.
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