The Canadian Department of Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) has announced two new Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) exempt work permit categories for foreign nationals working in television and film or the performing arts.

Starting on February 17, 2016, the two new LMIA exemption categories will allow for certain foreign nationals to apply for a work permit without first having to apply to the Temporary Foreign Worker program for an LMIA. These work permit categories will now be governed under the International Mobility Program.

Television and Film (C14 Exemption – Significant Benefit)

Foreign nationals working in the TV and Film industry who hold positions that are essential to a TV or film production may be eligible to apply for a work permit directly at the port of entry (for TRV exempt nationals) or to a Canadian visa office abroad without first obtaining an LMIA. This new exemption will allow Canada to continue to attract high value TV and film productions to Canada, creating significant economic benefits and opportunities for Canadians. This exemption will apply to both Canadian productions and foreign productions.

To qualify, the positions must be considered to be “high wage” and are often unionized. In British Columbia a high wage position is considered to be an amount above $22.00 /hour and in Ontario, high wage is an amount over $21.15. See all provincial wage thresholds at: http://www.esdc.gc.ca/en/foreign_workers/hire/median_wage/index.page

Employers will be required to file an “Offer of Employment for LMIA Exempt Work Permits” with IRCC and pay a compliance fee of $230 before the work permit application is made. The Offer of Employment must be filed in advance and proof of filing will be required for the foreign national to make their work permit application.

To support the work permit application, the production must provide a support letter outlining some general information in relation to the production, a statement that the foreign worker and the position to be held by the foreign worker is essential to the production, and details on the economic benefit of the production to Canada (including the number of Canadians created by the production, the estimate budget to be spent in Canada and a statement confirming that the production satisfies the criteria for federal or provincial tax credits or is the recipient of federal or provincial funding). The production must also provide a letter of support from the applicable union.

For further details, please see: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/tools/temp/work/opinion/imp-c14.asp

Performing Arts (C23 – Reciprocal Employment)

Foreign nationals working as key creative personnel and talent associated with non-profit performing arts organizations involved in theater, opera, orchestras, and dance may be eligible for this LMIA exempt work permit. This new exemption will allow for foreign nationals to apply for work permits in the performing arts if they can demonstrate reciprocal opportunities for Canadians outside of Canada in the same discipline. A one to one ratio of reciprocity does not have to be proven, rather a general statement affirming that reciprocity has been known to exist with an explanation of how the organization plans to allow for opportunities for Canadians outside of Canada.

Employers will be required to file an “Offer of Employment for LMIA Exempt Work Permits” with IRCC and pay a compliance fee of $230 before the work permit application is made. The Offer of Employment must be filed in advance and proof of filing will be required for the foreign national to make their work permit application.

To support the work permit application, the performing arts organization will be required to provide a support letter outlining the reciprocity for Canadians abroad in the specific discipline, a copy of the job offer to the foreign national, and confirmation of the organization’s funding support from the Canadian government or applicable parliamentary council for the arts.

For further details on the performing arts LMIA exemption and reciprocity letters, please see: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/tools/temp/work/opinion/imp-c23.asp

Foreign Funded Commercials Filmed in Canada – Business Visitor

Another change that IRCC announced this week applies to essential personnel (including producers, directors, actors, technicians, etc.) entering Canada to shoot a foreign funded commercial or advertisement in Canada. This exemption falls under the Business Visitor category and therefore does not require an application for a work permit. The entry as a Business Visitor for filming commercials (or print advertising) is limited for entry to Canada for a very short duration (under 2 weeks).