You are the Human Resources Director for a Canadian-based company that has affiliates and subsidiaries in numerous countries. One of your responsibilities is to manage the logistics of facilitating the flow of foreign nationals coming to your company for business-related purposes. All individuals are subject to Canadian immigration laws that apply to temporary foreign workers, unless they are either a Canadian citizen or a Canadian permanent resident. Undertaking strategic advanced planning for such business trips is critical to ensuring the seamless entry of your employees, business partners or service providers into Canada.

Travelling to Canada for Business

If a work permit is necessary for an individual to participate in business activities in Canada, the next step is to determine what category he or she may be eligible under, and where the person is eligible to apply for the permit. If the person is eligible to apply for a work permit at the border, he or she should travel with supporting documentation that explicitly states the legal basis for the issuance of a work permit. This documentation comprises a positive labour market opinion (LMO) from Service Canada, or, in the case of a work permit application being made in one of the many LMO-exempt categories, support letters from the employer that explain how the person meets all the legal criteria for inclusion in the particular category.

In some cases, it is important to provide evidence of work experience and educational achievements. For example, under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) there is an LMO-exempt category called NAFTA Professional, which has some 60 different occupational subcategories — each with a different set of criteria for qualification based on work experience and educational level. Failure to provide evidence of such achievements may lead to problems at the port of entry, such as excessive delays — and, in some cases, denial of entry to the country.

Carrying supporting materials is also very helpful if a person is trying to gain entry to Canada in a work-permit-exempt category.

Temporary Resident Visas

If a person is a national of a prescribed country such as South Africa, that person requires a special entry document called a temporary resident visa (TRV). This visa must be obtained through a Canadian Consulate — in advance — and cannot be applied for at the border. It is required regardless of the purpose of the trip or the duration of the stay, and without it, the employee may be refused entry to Canada. If a person requires a TRV, that person is precluded from applying either for a work permit or for entry in a work-permit-exempt category at the port of entry. He or she must do so through a Canadian Consulate.


If the person has a previous criminal record, he or she may be denied entry to the country. Determining whether the criminality will result in a person being classified as criminally inadmissible is critical. In some instances, a special temporary immigration pardon — called a temporary resident permit — may be applied for at the port of entry in order to overcome the inadmissibility, and it should be accompanied by supporting materials.


An individual may be required under certain circumstances to take an “immigration medical examination” prior to travelling to Canada. If a medical is necessary, then the person is prohibited from applying for a work permit at the port of entry, and he or she must do so through a Canadian Consulate.

Lessons for Employers

What does this mean for you? There are certain things to take care of ahead of time, for instance:  

  • Check in advance to see if the foreign national can enter Canada without a temporary resident visa or medical exam.  
  • Do not make the assumption that the person does not require a work permit without consulting an immigration expert first.  
  • If a work permit is necessary, determine whether one may be obtained at the port of entry, or must be applied for in advance through a consulate.
  • Determine whether a work permit may only be secured after Service Canada has issued a Positive Labour Market Opinion.
  • If the person does require a work permit and is eligible to apply at the port of entry, ensure that he or she is properly equipped with the correct supporting materials.
  • Remember that even if the person does not require a work permit, he or she still may require supporting materials to secure entry in a specific work-permit-exempt category.
  • Make the person aware of admissibility issues such as prior criminal convictions.

Above all, you need to remember that advanced planning and analysis are critical!