Application for Work Permits in Film and Television Sector During COVID-19

In general, any Canadian employer who seeks to hire a foreign national,  must normally obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA“) from Service Canada justifying the hiring of a foreign national in preference to a Canadian or permanent residence.

Foreign nationals (that is persons, who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents), as of February 17, 2016, who are employed in the television and film industry, whose position is essential to a TV or film production may be eligible for an exemption from the LMIA process.  These individuals fall into the International Mobility Category under Immigration regulation 205 as a significant benefit to Canadian interests.

The employer must submit an offer of employment according to Immigration Regulation R.209.11 and paid an employer compliance fee per Regulation 303.1 before a work permit application is made.

When the application for the work permit is made, included in the application package is a letter of support from the production company, which will identify:

(a)  the name and contact information  of the production;

(b)  the working title of the production, the physical  location  of filming and the proposed dates of production;

(c)   the name of the work permit holder;

(d)   a Statement confirming that the individual and position  are essential to that specific TV or film production;

(e)   details of the significant economic benefits to Canada of the Production, which would include an outline of the employment positions created by the particular production and the level of investment;

(f)    a statement confirming that the TV/ film production satisfied criteria for federal provincial  or territorial tax relief or is the recipient of federal provincial or territorial funding for TV and film production; and

(g)   the guidelines also demand a letter from the union that in addition to identifying the working title and the work permit applicant, affirms that the work to be performed is subject to a collective agreement and there is no objection to the foreign national working in the specific position for the specified company.

Place of filing

In the normal course, prior to the implementation of COVID rules in the spring of 2020, a foreign national would apply at a visa office, or a CVAC, private agencies hired by the government of Canada to accept a visa  application,  if the foreign national  is a national of a country for which Canada demanded a visa prior to seeking entry.

If the foreign national was from a country whose nationals were exempt from the visa requirements, and did not require a medical exam, the application could be made at the Port of Entry.

COVID rules

In March 2020, the government of Canada brought in three Orders in Council relevant to temporary entry into Canada, and which continue to be renewed monthly.  There is an Order in Council which prohibits entry from the United States; an Order in Council that prohibits entry from any country other than the United States, and an Order in Council demanding compulsory quarantine upon entry to Canada.

The Order in Council which addresses entry from the United States prohibits entry by a foreign national from the United States for an optional or discretionary purpose.

The Order in Council which prohibits entry from any country other than the United States prohibits all foreign nationals entering Canada, period.

These  two Orders in Council do provide lists of exemptions from the ban on entry; that includes persons holding work permits and persons in possession of letters of authorization that allow them to seek a work permit upon entry to Canada.

With the advent of COVID, the rules on the place of filing an application for a work permit have been altered . It is true that – persons entering form the United States who meet the immigration requirements exempting them from visas and medicals may continue to apply at the Port of entry.

However, persons seeking to enter Canada from any country other than the United States, or who seek to enter from the United States but due to their nationality require a visa to enter Canada,  must apply online for a work permit (to be clear,  there is under Canadian Immigration law between a visa and a permit).  For such persons provided they work in the film and television industry, they will receive a priority of processing according to the Program Delivery Instructions entitled “Work permit: COVID 19 delivery program” last published January 6, 2021.

These instructions state that where Operationally possible, the work permits are to be prioritized for processing in 14 days.

More particularly, in this situation, the applicant applies online and either applies from outside of Canada and the United States, or from the United States and requires a TRV; and self identifies as a film and television industry worker.  After submitting their work permit application, the applicant must send a request via the IRCC WEB form. Persons in this particular category must write in the “Your enquiry section” of the web form request:

COVID 19 Film and TV Industry – Requesting priority processing for Film and TV Industry workers  due to COVID 19.

This process would apply, as an example, to foreign National traveling to Canada from outside the United States, selected for a role in a production which will film in Canada. Notwithstanding the priority of processing, do not leave the selection of the foreign actor to the last minute as “expedited ” processing of work permits can be delayed for any number of Persons.


In the event the foreign worker comes forward with an issued work permit or an authorizing letter permitting the person to apply at the Port of Entry for a work permit, there remains the issue of quarantine.

Order In Council 2021-0011 which was last issued January 20, 2021 will remain in effect until February 20, 2021 and will be renewed in some form, demands all persons, regardless of nationality, to quarantine for 14 days on entry to Canada. There are exemptions to mandatory quarantine set out in s. 6 of this Order in council.   In particular, the exemptions from mandatory quarantine include a list of activities considered essential published by the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on October 8, 2020 as follows:

  • Persons in the trade or transportation sector who are important for the movement of goods or people, including truck drivers and crew members on any aircraft, shipping vessel or train, and that cross the border while performing their duties or for the purpose of performing their duties;
  • Persons who must cross the border regularly to go to their normal place of employment, including critical infrastructure workers (Energy and Utilities, Information and Communication Technologies, Finance, Health, Food, Water, Transportation, Safety, Government and Manufacturing), provided they do not directly care for persons 65 years of age or older within the first 14 days after their entry to Canada*;
  • Technicians or specialists specified by a government, manufacturer, or company, who enter Canada as required for the purpose of maintaining, repairing, installing or inspecting equipment necessary to support critical infrastructure (Energy and Utilities, Information and Communication Technologies, Finance, Health, Food, Water, Transportation, Safety, Government and Manufacturing) and are required to provide their services within 14 days of their entry to Canada and have reasonable rationales for the immediacy of the work and the inability to plan for a 14 day quarantine;
  • Persons, including a captain, deckhand, observer, inspector, scientist, veterinarian and any other person supporting commercial or research open water aquaculture-related activities, who enter Canada for the purpose of carrying out aquaculture-related activities, including fishing, transporting fish to and from the aquaculture facility, treating fish for pests or pathogens, repairs, provisioning of aquaculture-related vessels or aquaculture facilities or exchange of crew and who proceed directly to an open water facility or vessel upon entry to Canada;
  • Emergency service providers, including firefighters, peace officers, and paramedics, who return from providing such services in another country and are required to provide their services within 14 days of their return to Canada; and
  • Commercial conveyance operators repatriating human remains into Canada;

There have been some modifications in terms of international air travel and quarantine.  In November 2020, Immigration authorities implemented a rule whereby air travellers for Canada must register on an App called ARRIVE Can before boarding a flight.

As of  January 7, 2021, international travellers must provide a negative COVID test taken no more than 72 hours before boarding a flight to Canada.

Further measures are now contemplated. These measures were announced on January  29 , 2021. The instructions state that persons who travel for non-essential reasons, such as vacation, will face new measures and expense when they return to Canada.  More particularly, travellers upon arrival at one of the 4 major international airports accepting international flights  (Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto- Pearson and Montreal – Trudeau) must take a COVID 19 molecular test upon arrival and reserve a room in a hotel  for 3 nights at their own costs.

The February 7th announcement on COVID 19 the mandatory 3 night hotel stays states, unless exempted, all travelers entering Canada will be required to take a COVID 19 molecular test on arrival and book a three night stay in a hotel to await test results.

Therefore, the question is whether temporary foreign workers holding a negative COVID test will be subjected to this latest set of restrictions or be exempted.