Work Permit and Immigration Options for Artists

Sasha is a Russian ballerina. Although she is only 28, she has been professionally active for more than 12 years. She has appeared on many national and world stages. Sasha has traveled to several countries in the past to perform as an acclaimed dancer. A Canadian ballet company has offered Sasha a permanent position. She wonders if she may work for the Canadian company and eventually become a permanent resident of Canada.

Canadian government offers many work permit and immigration options to foreign applicants. Some of these options are open to majority of the applicants, but some are limited to a specific group. Luckily, there are many opportunities for artists (especially performing artists) to either work or immigrate to Canada.

Working in Canada without a Permit

Sometimes performing artists or some other people who are involved with cultural activities may work in Canada without a work permit. Here is a brief list of those options. Of course, you need to consult with a professional to make sure you fall under any of these categories.

  • Artists who work in Canada in the capacity of a business visitor [note to practitioners – see R186(a)]
  • A performing artist appearing alone or in a group in an artistic performance or a member of the staff integral to the artistic performance,
    • In a foreign productions or guests of a Canadian production, and
    • If no employment relationship with the Canadian company exists [note to practitioners – see R186(g)]
  • Speakers [note to practitioners – see R186(j)]
  • Judges of artistic events [note to practitioners – see R186(m)]

The following article offers more information about working in Canada without a permit:

If a person qualifies for working without a permit, they still need to make one of the following applications before entering Canada.

  • Temporary Resident Visa (TRV), for those who are not exempt from a visa to enter Canada
  • Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), for those who are exempt from a TRV
  • Application for Rehabilitation, for those who have been convicted of criminal offences outside Canada long time ago (usually more than five years ago), and they need to clear their names before entering Canada
  • Application for Record Suspension (pardon), for those who have been convicted of criminal offences inside Canada long time ago, and they need to clear their names before entering Canada
  • Temporary Resident Permit (TRP), for those who are inadmissible to Canada and do not qualify for Record Suspension or Rehabilitation

US citizens and some other people are exempt from both eTA or TRV, but if they have inadmissibility issues they may need to apply for Rehabilitation, Record Suspension (pardon), or TRP, depending on their circumstances. Regardless, they need to make sure to present enough documentation at the port of entry to show why they are visiting Canada and why they are exempt from a Work Permit (e.g. business visitors may need to present a business invitation letter among other documents).

Working in Canada with an LMIA

If you intend to work in Canada you often need to get a certificate called LMIA from an ESDC officer (an officer who works for the Labour office). The LMIA process is complex, time-consuming, and expensive. However, some artistic jobs require LMIA.  For example, if a music school hires a foreign music teacher they normally need to apply for an LMIA first. If they receive a positive LMIA they may apply for a work permit. Of course, under certain circumstances, working without an LMIA is possible. The following section lists some of those situations.

Working in Canada without an LMIA

The International Mobility Program (IMP) makes working without an LMIA possible. This program is based on the international agreements Canada signs with other countries, the Canadian interests, or humanitarian reasons. The following list shows some LMIA exemption codes and options available to artists and people who are involved in cultural activities.

The exemption codes are not limited to the preceding list. The applicant may be exempt under many other codes (e.g. under USMCA, bridging work permits, accompanying a family member who is an international student or foreign worker, etc.).

LMIA exemption does not exempt a person from a work permit. If you are exempt from an LMIA you still need to apply for a work permit.

Immigration to Canada

If you immigrate to Canada, you will become a permanent resident of Canada and eventually a naturalized citizen. While there are many options available to artists, the following options pop up most of the time:

Some artists could apply under other streams of immigration (e.g. start-up visa or PNP).

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

This article provides information of a general nature only. It may no longer be current. It does not give legal advice nor should you rely on it as legal advice. If you have specific legal questions, you should consult a lawyer. If you are looking for 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, organizations, regions, or countries) is coincidental.

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Al Parsai

Al Parsai is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC) in Toronto, Canada. He also teaches the official immigration consulting courses at Ashton College in Vancouver, Canada. Al who holds a Masters degree from Yorkville University is a member of ICCRC and CAPIC organizations. Al, the CEO of Parsai Immigration Services, has represented hundreds of applicants from more than 30 countries to the immigration authorities since January 2011.

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