The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act of Canada and its accompanying regulations primarily govern the way in which foreign nationals are lawfully admitted to Canada for work related purposes.

The following are the most common scenarios where retailers may seek to bring foreigners into Canada:

Whether you are an established Canadian retailer with stores primarily or solely in Canada, or a global company that is contemplating stores in Canada, Canadian immigration law and its effects on your company’s ability to effectively operate are significant in the retail sphere. From obtaining work permits for key personnel to facilitate their entry into the country, to establishing a store, planning for a grand opening and the facilitation of a large set of guests as visitors to Canada, a strong understanding of immigration law is important.

  1. Retailers may seek to bring in senior executives, managers and other skilled personnel to occupy key positions for the first few years of their business in Canada to ensure the fundamentals of the overall company are established. In many instances employees can obtain work permits if eligible at the border upon entry with the right paperwork, which includes legal submissions which correctly assert eligibility in one of the many available work permit categories. Examples include the NAFTA Professional or NAFTA Intra-Company categories. Legal submissions are usually accompanied by secondary evidence such as proof of education and documents which confirm the legal relationships between companies (articles of incorporation, media releases etc).
  2. If a person is not eligible for a border application, visas and work permits may be secured through a Canadian Consulate or embassy outside Canada. Ineligibility for a border application is usually caused by the need for a visa based on a person’s nationality or the need for an immigration medical which is based on the person’s country of residence within the past year.
  3. Where retailers send foreign based employees into Canada to inspect the possible purchase of an existing retailer in Canada, these employees can usually come into the country as business visitors who are work permit exempt. A person trying to assert that they are a business visitor does not need to complete any special forms to submit at the border, but it is generally a good idea to come prepared with supporting materials which corroborate the facts that would support being eligible for a specific work permit exempt category (support letters from employers, copies of contracts).
  4. Similarly, where retailers bring foreign based employees into Canada to conduct job interviews or to train Canadian workers, employees can also typically enter Canada under work permit exempt status.
  5. Retailers should also be aware of the new pre-filing form called an “Offer to a Foreign national exempt from the Labour Market Impact Assessment Process” that must be submitted in advance of travel to Canada for all work permit applicants. This application is filed online in advance of travel by the employer for their designated legal representative. Those foreign nationals who arrive in Canada without evidence that the pre-filing forms have been submitted, will be denied work permits despite the efficacy of their legal claim to a permit.
  6. Finally, the hiring/firing/retention of temporary foreign workers involves a myriad of issues such as employment contracts, work permit renewals, and transitioning workers from temporary to permanent residents

Getting a good handle on Canadian immigration law helps to ensure that key personnel can enter Canada, stay in Canada, and establish all the necessary elements to make your retail business a success.