Work with and without a work permit

We have successfully assisted musicians, athletes, and other performing artists apply for and obtain TRVs (temporary resident visa), if applicable, and work permits. If you think you may qualify for a TRV and/or a work permit or would like to know if you may qualify please contact us for a free consultation.

Work permits are useful for artists, musicians, entertainers, lecturers, and other performers and persons of special talent who wish to come to Canada to perform. A temporary work permit is a non-immigrant status which may be granted for a period of time up to three years.

In order to qualify for the work permit as a performing artist, the applicant must establish that he or she is an “alien of extraordinary ability.” Thus, the applicant must be able to establish that he or she is recognized in the field in which he or she claims to have a special talent or extraordinary ability.

The performing artist category also allows aliens who will accompany or assist the alien artist in his or her performance. Such aliens may enter Canada with a work permit also. In order to obtain temporary worker status, it must be established that the alien is an “integral part” of the actual performance and has “critical skills and experience” with the alien performing artist which cannot be filled by a Canadian worker.

The petition for a TRV and/or work permit must be filed by an agent or employer in Canada. The petition for the work permit may not be filed by the alien performer personally. In many cases, the applicant will be required a letter of recommendation LMO (labour market opinion) from Human Resource and Skills Development of Canada.

The list below outlines which types of activities according to CIC/HRSDC meet the requirements of IRPA (Immigration and Refugee Protection Act) and which types of activities will require an LMO and work permits.

Entry without a work permit

  • Foreign-based musical and theatrical individuals and groups and their essential crew, working outside bars and restaurants;
  • Street performers (buskers), DJs working outside a bar, restaurant or similar establishment;
  • A foreign or travelling circus;
  • Guest artists (not employed) within a Canadian performance group for a time-limited engagement;
  • World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) wrestlers (& similar groups);
  • Persons performing at a private event, such as a wedding;
  • Sir show performers;
  • Artists attending or working at a showcase; including visual artists creating or displaying their own work. rodeo contestants, e.g. bronc-riders, steer-ropers, barrel racers
  • Visual artists coming to create or display their own work’

Note: The following persons will be granted entry as visitors

• Business visitors:
• Film producers;
• Film and recording studio users (limited to small groups renting studios not entering the labour market);
• Guest speakers:
• Persons doing guest spots on Canadian TV and radio broadcasts.

Work permit and LMO required

• Bands performing at bars, pubs, restaurants, etc.;
• Exotic/erotic (new NOC title) dancers performing in a bar or club;
• Actors, singers, crew, etc. in Canadian theatrical productions, shows, circuses;
• Any individual involved in making films, TV, internet and radio broadcasts
• Any individual who will be in an employment relationship with the organization or business contracting for their services in Canada;
• A performer in a Canadian-based production or show.
• Rodeo performers or side show workers, e.g. rodeo clowns and announcers, horsemanship or trick riding displays, half-time acts’ and other speciality act entertainers.

“Time-limited engagement”

For a guest artist performing with a Canadian group, a “time-limited engagement” allows for flexibility, but as a general guideline, an unlimited number of rehearsals and performances over a two-week period are reasonable. A longer duration is also possible, as long as the expectation of a ―time-limited engagement‖ is apparent. However, a foreign national who rehearses and performs with a Canadian orchestra for an entire season, for example, would need a work permit and an LMO.

“Employment relationship”

A foreign performing artist would not be in an employment relationship if they were merely hired to perform a single concert or short series of concerts. For example, if a couple hired a band to perform at their wedding, or a festival hired a singer to perform twice in a weekend, there is no employment relationship created even where contracts are signed. Alternatively, if a dinner theatre hired a foreign singer/dancer to perform five nights a week on a weekly basis (four weeks or longer), an employer-employee relationship would be created and a work permit and an LMO would be required. Or, if a city contracted a foreign puppeteer to do three shows a day in a park for a whole summer, this would also be considered an employment relationship. Essentially, contracts for short-term ‘gigs’ would not create an ’employment relationship’ between an artist and the organization contracting for their services and the requirements would be met. A longer-term contract, where the performer is expected to perform on a regular basis and usually in the same venue, would be considered an employment relationship, and a work permit and LMO would be required.