Posted on - Jun 02, 2015

By Catherine Sas, QC

Catherine Sas Q.C.

One of the greyest areas of immigration law is the concept of the business visitor. The business visitor is not coming for tourism nor are they necessarily a worker performing services in Canada. A business visitor is simply a visitor who is temporarily coming to Canada for a business purpose. A business visitor is granted entry to Canada or the same basis as any other visitor other than they have a business reason for their entry. Let’s examine the business visitor criteria more closely.

Business visitors are generally people coming temporarily in to Canada to engage in business or trade. They may be the following individuals:

  1. Persons who sell commercial goods not to the general public
  2. Persons who perform repairs or after sales service
  3. Supervisors who oversee the construction or installation of equipment
  4. Trainers or trainees
  5. Employees of foreign companies who have been hired by Canadian companies to perform work
  6. Foreign government officials
  7. Board Members of a Board of Directors

The general criteria for a business visitor are as follows:

  • There is no intent to enter the Canadian labour market – no actual work performed or value added service in Canada
  • The activity of the foreign worker must be international in scope – you need to demonstrate a cross-border business activity
  • There must be a foreign employer who must demonstrate:
  1. the primary source of the worker’s remuneration remains outside of Canada
  2. the principal place of the worker’s employer is located outside of Canada, and
  3. the accrual of profits of the worker’s employer is located outside of Canada

When you enter Canada, be prepared to demonstrate that you satisfy these criteria! Be sure to have relevant documents on hand such as a letter of support from your parent company or a letter of invitation from the Canadian company that explains the purpose of your trip to Canada and what you will be doing. Have a copy of the contract or purchase agreement for which you are providing assistance. Bring some proof of your business relationship such as business cards or advertising brochures. Travel into Canada during regular business hours so that border officials can verify the nature of your visit with your foreign employer or Canadian contact.

Business purposes can change over time. What may be a true business visitor purpose at one point can change to a circumstance that requires a work permit. For example, a movie crew may send personnel up to Canada as business visitors to scout for a location. However, once the film production actually commences in Canada, those personnel will likely require work permits to perform services on the actual production. If your company has people coming back and forth to Canada on a regular basis, you may wish to have a formal business visitor assessment from an immigration professional which sets out what activities fall under the business visitor provisions and which activities require work permits.   This can assist both workers and employers in focussing their attention on what documents are necessary for entry to Canada as a business visitor.

The concept of a business visitor is often a complex question that requires close examination of what an individual will actually be doing in Canada. You are well advised to give some careful consideration of what your activities will be, how they meet the business visitor criteria and what evidence you will need to support your business purpose in Canada. Thinking ahead can make your entry to Canada as a business visitor a smooth experience.


Catherine Sas, Q.C. is a Vancouver immigration lawyer at Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre in Vancouver, BC Canada. Catherine has been practicing law for over 25 years, and has been voted Vancouver’s Best Immigration Lawyer by the Georgia Straight newspaper for 5 consecutive years.

To learn more about immigrating to Canada, becoming a permanent Canadian resident or bringing your family to Canada, email Catherine Sas or call her at 1-604-689-5444.

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