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Work Permit Alternatives to the LMIA Process for the Entertainment Industry – Just How Valuable Is Your Employee?

Recent changes introduced to Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program on June 20, 2014 have impacted employers in multiple industry sectors, requiring them to alter their business models. Of considerable note is the affect that the increased processing fee, now CAD $1000, and potential increased processing time of Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) applications will have on the entertainment industry. The industry’s argument is that these new measures will have a devastating impact on the industry’s ability to attract the number of quality TV and film productions to Canada. For a lengthier description of the issues, read the following article Temporary Foreign Workers: Film, TV industry assured timely permits.

Hopefully, Employment and Social Development Canada will introduce some sort of measure to be able to fast track LMIA applications for the industry, or Citizenship and Immigration Canada will amend its regulations to provide for a work permit exemption for those foreign workers on TV and film productions in Canada, like it did for visiting musicians. In the meantime though, what can be done if someone is required in Canada immediately, and a work permit is required but there is no time to obtain an LMIA?

One option to consider might be the LMIA exempt work permit category referred to as a “C-10” work permit. This work permit is reserved for those situations where the social, cultural or economic benefits to Canada of issuing the work permit are so clear and compelling that the importance of the LMIA can be overcome. See Temporary Foreign Worker Program: Canadian interests – Significant benefit general guidelines R205(a), C10.

Understandably, these work permits are not issued easily, and the assessment made by an immigration officer is going to be highly subjective. That being said, if an employer is able to demonstrate objective evidence for significant social or cultural benefit, or objective evidence of significant economic benefit to Canada as a result of the work permit issuance, then this option should certainly be considered in addition to applying for the LMIA.

Since there are no enumerated criteria outlined in reference to factors contributing to “significant economic benefit”, exploring this possibility might offer a bit more flexibility in having a successful outcome. You can get creative when providing examples of significant benefit, but always keep your arguments measurable. For example, address what would happen in economic terms if the foreign national is not able to enter Canada when anticipated. How many jobs will be affected? How much will that cost? How will the production as a whole be affected, and how much will that cost? What about other industries being affected like hospitality, catering, and transportation? You can also address the positive effects of how the economy will be affected if the foreign worker is able to come to enter Canada when anticipated. How many jobs will be created? How much money will be saved? When structuring the argument, ensure that it relates to the specific foreign worker’s economic, cultural or social contribution, as opposed to the contribution of the production as a whole.

C-10 work permits should not be considered a fool proof way to sidestep the LMIA requirement. It will be difficult to demonstrate on a consistent basis that an individual will have the requisite economic or cultural influence on Canada as a whole. Even if there is a deserving argument presented, the subjective nature of the work permit category will always mean there is a high degree of uncertainly as to whether the application will be approved or not. However, in those instances where there is an urgent need for a particular individual, the argument should definitely be considered as an option.

Now, where to actually file the application (port of entry, Temporary Foreign Worker Unit or visa post outside of Canada) is a discussion for another day. Let’s just hope the foreign national doesn’t require a visa to enter Canada or a medical exam!