Assessing travel and visa obligations in Canada

When traveling to Canada, your nationality and the types of activities you will conduct during your trip will determine whether you may travel lawfully as a business visitor or if you require work authorization. Please seek advice from your immigration counsel if you are uncertain about the specific types of activities that constitute business or work.

Traveling for business

What types of activities may I engage in as a business visitor?

As a business visitor to Canada, you may engage in the activities below. While this list is not exhaustive and other activities could qualify as business, you may:

  • Attend business meetings
  • Buy goods for sale outside the country
  • Attend trade conventions or exhibitions


If I qualify as a business visitor, do I need a visa for Canada?

Many nationals are visa-exempt and are not required to obtain a visa to enter and conduct business activities in Canada. However, these nationals are required to obtain Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) prior to travel.

Foreign nationals who are not eligible to enter Canada on visa-exempt status must obtain a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) from a Canadian visa office prior to travel. Please obtain an individual assessment before traveling to determine your eligibility for a visa waiver, an ETA or a TRV.

Working in Canada

What types of activities require work authorization?

The activities below, whether paid or unpaid, generally constitute work under Canadian law. This list is not exhaustive, and many other professional activities are considered work in Canada, even if conducted for a short duration.

  • Hands-on technical work
  • Repairs and maintenance
  • Consulting

In limited circumstances, business visitors and eligible professionals qualifying under the Global Skills Strategy program may engage in certain short-term professional and technical activities without obtaining work authorization, although strict preconditions must be met. An individual assessment is recommended to determine whether an assignment exemption is applicable.


If I am traveling to Canada for work, what type of work authorization do I need?

The requirements for work authorization depend on your qualifications, on the nature and duration of your work and on whether your employer has an entity in Canada. Work authorization is granted through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), the International Mobility Program (IMP) or the Tech Talent Strategy. The most common Canadian work permits granted under these programs are:

Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) Work Permits – Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) Required:

  • High-Wage Stream (work permit for skilled workers in positions at or above median wage)
  • Global Talent Stream (work permit with simplified LMIA process for specialized talent or job shortage roles)

International Mobility Program (IMP) Work Permits – LMIA Exempt:

  • Intra-Company Transferees (ICT) (work permit for intra-company transferees)
  • Free Trade Agreements
  • Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) (work permit for limited highly skilled professional/technical occupations)
  • Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) (work permit for EU citizen ICTs, professionals, and investors employed by an EU-based entity)
  • General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) (short-term work permit for ICTs and professionals from World Trade Organization member nations)

Is it possible to be exempted from work authorization requirements?

Canada does not offer long-term work authorization exemptions.

What else should I know?

Inevitably, the legal and strategic considerations impacting visa selection, as well as visa waiver and work authorization eligibility, entail the careful consideration of many factors. We recommend that you consult with your immigration counsel before taking any course of action.


Copyright ©2024 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. Government immigration agencies often change their policies and practices without notice; please consult an immigration professional for up-to-date information. This document does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. BAL maintains comprehensive immigration information and processing specifics for our clients.