As with most things, there are many exemptions to the requirement to holding a work permit for Canada. For the purposes of Canadian immigration, work is generally defined as a business activity that competes with the Canadian labour market or could be determined as direct benefit to a Canadian based company.
Section 186 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) outlines the majority of these exemptions. These exemptions include activities which may technically require a work permit but are exempt due to practical or social policy reasons. Exceptions under section 186 include activities such as business visitors under IRPR 187 (see my previous post for more details), journalists who work for a foreign based news provider, Airplane crash investigators, public speakers and seminar leaders (5 day maximum), clergy, some study permit holders, and individuals whose work permit has expired but have a work permit extension application pending which was filed prior to their expiry date. Of course, there are also exceptions to the exceptions, and any of the above scenarios should be reviewed with your professional immigration provider before relying on them.
The other thing to keep in mind is that situations change, and just because an individual qualifies for a work permit exemption a change in circumstances may also change the need for a work permit. For example, if a journalist working for the Huffington Post, quits and takes up a job with the Globe and Mail, even though they are still based out of Canada, the change in employer would trigger the requirement for a work permit.
Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) introduced a new work permit exemption in 2017 under its Global Skills Strategy (GSS). This program allows individuals who enter Canada to work for short periods to time to enter Canada without the need to apply for a work permit. Under this program the individual can enter Canada for up to 30 consecutive days once during a one-year period or for up to 15 consecutive days within a six-month period. This exemption requires planning to use effectively given the time restrictions. It has been particularly useful for individuals who are providing training and seminars and do not qualify under the IRPR 186 exemption. These individuals would otherwise have required a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), a process that takes significantly longer than the individual would have been in Canada in the first place.
If an individual needs to return to Canada after using this exemption, but within the one year or six month period during which they are restricted from reusing the program, they can re-enter Canada by applying for a work permit.
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