New LMIA Exemptions for TV, Film and Performing Artists – IRCC gives a boost to the Arts in Canada by offering less onerous work permit processing options.

As of February 17, 2016, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC” formerly known as “CIC” or “Citizenship & Immigration Canada”) have introduced two (2) new categories of foreign workers eligible for exemptions from Labour Market Impact Assessments (“LMIA”). These exemptions apply to TV and film personnel working on productions in Canada, as well as key creative personnel or talent in the disciplines of dance, opera, orchestra or live theatre.

In their past LMO/LMIA applications, Canadian arts institutions had consistently highlighted the reciprocal nature of these positions and the significant cultural benefits of hiring international talent. Finally, after significant dialogue with the IRCC, the government has agreed to offer an LMIA exemption for certain key permanent positions that undergo the international audition and recruitment process. This exemption was a long time coming.

To qualify for the LMIA exemption, foreign nationals working in TV and film must prove that their position or occupation is essential to a TV or film production. There is much latitude as to the type of position that would be considered “essential” to the production. Generally, these positions are high wage and unionized.

Work permits are available to those participating in making a motion picture or documentary, no matter who will be financing the project. It is essential that employers and applicants be able demonstrate the particulars of the significant economic benefit to Canada that will result from the TV or film production in Canada, which may include the estimated number of jobs being created for Canadians and the estimated budget being spent in Canada. An interesting aspect of this exemption is that it applies to TV and film productions in Canada, regardless of whether the production is foreign or Canadian and whether it is filmed entirely or only in part in Canada. It should be noted that a letter from the relevant union or guild is necessary to demonstrate the significant economic and cultural benefits.

This exemption is meant to advance Canada’s economic interests by attracting TV and film production to Canada that will bring significant economic benefits to Canada, including money invested in local economies and job creation for Canadians and permanent residents.

The second new LMIA exemption serves to boost support for the arts in Canada by facilitating the entry of highly creative personnel and talent. Foreign nationals who have been offered permanent employment with Canadian non-profit arts and cultural organizations that showcase dance, opera, orchestra or live-theatre may be eligible for an LMIA exempt work permit.

To qualify for this very targeted exemption, the organization hiring the artists must either be an employer that is a current recipient of annual or multi-year operational funding support from the Canada Council for the Arts or of financial support via parliamentary appropriation. Moreover, the employer must be able to demonstrate reciprocity and offer evidence that reciprocal international opportunities exist for Canadians in that particular discipline (e.g., contemporary dancers, ballet choreographers, opera singers, actors in theatrical productions, orchestral musicians). IRCC will want to see that there is an established pattern of reciprocity for at least one year. Generally, reciprocity will need to be demonstrated by way of a letter of support from a Canadian organization that represents the artistic disciple in Canada, i.e., actor’s guild, union or artistic sector representative or organization.

To support a foreign worker’s work permit application in one of the aforementioned LMIA exempt categories, employers must submit an offer of employment to CIC through their new electronic employer portal and pay a $230 employer compliance fee. Proof of the Offer of Employment submitted through the portal as well as payment of the compliance fee must be included with the work permit application. Additional information on the new CIC Employer Portal can be found in our blog on the subject here.

Foreign workers from visa exempt countries can apply for a work permit at the port of entry at the time they enter Canada, provided they have all of the required supporting documentation to make the application. Visa exempt foreign workers should also be aware of the new Electronic Travel Authorization (“ETA”) required for travel by air to Canada as of March 15, 2016. Read more about ETAs on our blog here. Foreign workers from visa requiring countries must apply for their LMIA exempt work permits online.

Work permits approved using these LMIA exemptions will be valid for the duration of the anticipated period of employment (usually to a maximum of 2 years), or until the expiry of the foreign worker’s passport, whichever is earlier. These workers can later be extended based on the same LMIA exemption.

These new LMIA exemptions will reduce processing times for work permits in these exempt categories and allow the Canadian film and television industry to continue attracting high-value film and television productions. For Canadian cultural organizations, the expedited work permit process will facilitate the entry of international talent to strengthen the performing arts scene in Canada.

Capelle Kane has years of experience working with arts organizations across Canada and assisting them in securing world-renowned talent for the benefit of Canadian cultural institutions. In fact, Capelle Kane was instrumental recommending that Canadian cultural institutions pursue this LMIA/LMO exemption under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (R205), as opposed to seeking a variation to the advertising requirements that some sectors have secured through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program operated by Service Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).

Our congratulations go out to those organizations in the Arts and Film and Television sectors that lobbied hard for these important changes to Canada’s work permit program. Capelle Kane welcomes the opportunity to assist in facilitating the entry of the essential film and television crew into Canada. We look forward to continuing to support cultural organizations in attracting talent to Canada both for long and short-term engagements and for permanent residence.