In certain cases, individuals seeking entry to Canada to work in the entertainment industry can qualify as business visitors.
This refers to a category of foreign nationals intending to work in Canada who, due to the nature and/or duration of the work to be performed in Canada, do not require a work permit. Because a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) is only necessary as a prerequisite for a work permit application — and because a work permit may not be needed — eligible individuals are therefore exempt also from the LMIA requirement, typically the most burdensome aspect of obtaining the right to work in Canada.
There are typically two categories of individuals working in the entertainment industry who can receive consideration as business visitors.
The first is film producers who are entering Canada to work on a movie, TV show, or documentary. In order for these individuals to qualify as business visitors, the project they are working on in Canada must be a foreign-financed production. Collaborations between foreign production companies and Canadian entities do not constitute such a production as the project must be entirely funded from abroad. The moment any Canadian money goes towards the production, work permits will most likely be required as Canadian investment in the project precludes the possibility of the producer receiving consideration as a business visitor. In order to avoid issues upon entry, it is therefore essential for foreign film crews entering Canada to be intimately familiar with the bankrolling of the project and who is providing financial support.
The other most widely encountered category of individuals in the entertainment industry entering Canada as business visitors is performing artists. These artists can be performing at a show, concert or festival, or they might be doing a guest spot on a television series or a film that is being filmed in Canada. Whatever the venue, as long as their reason for entering Canada constitutes a time-limited engagement, they can most likely receive consideration as business visitors. It is only in cases of recurring, regular performances that the need to procure work authorization arises.
The problem with this, and any sort of facilitated working option with respect to Canada, rests with the discretion of the individual deciding whether or not to grant entry. Very often Immigration officers are not intimately familiar with exceptional working situations and the criteria to qualify as a business visitor. As a result, when assessing such individuals, it is not unlikely for an immigration officer to erroneously believe that they are not eligible to enter without the work permit and deny them entry. For this reason, in order to avoid a refusal, it is prudent to check with an experienced immigration attorney before attempting to enter Canada as a business visitor.