US Workers Entering Canada for Film & Television Productions: Immigration Law

US Workers Entering Canada for Film & Television Productions

Author: Michael Duboff, Entertainment Lawyer

US Workers Entering Canada for Film & Television Productions – Introduction

When it comes to creating film and television programs, most producers have enough to think about without having to worry about immigration laws. However, understanding relevant immigration laws can be vital knowledge for Canadian producers seeking to engage U.S. residents to work in Canada. This blog will discuss what Canadian producers need to know when hiring U.S. workers.

Generally, foreign workers seeking employment in Canada require a work permit, which must be applied for via a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). However, thanks to an exemption found under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA)—affectionately dubbed the “C14 exemption”— some foreign workers employed in the film and television industry are exempt from this requirement.

The Film and Television Exemption (aka the C14 Exemption)

The C14 exemption applies to essential foreign workers in the production stage (filming) of live-action television or film projects that are filmed in Canada. Notably, the C14 exemption applies to both foreign and Canadian productions. Only part of the production must be filmed in Canada for the exemption to apply.


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Eligibility Requirements

There are three primary eligibility requirements, which are:

  1. The work must be essential to the live-action TV or film project in the production stage (filming). Essential positions are those where the physical presence of foreign workers on location in Canada is required.
  2. The work must be “high wage”. The requirement for high wage work means that Canada will reap a significant economic benefit from hiring a foreign worker (for example, from tax revenue) and protects the Canadian labour market from wage suppression. Generally, the benchmark of a high wage is a wage that is at or above the provincial or territorial median hourly wage where the job is located.
  3. The work must be unionized. Proof of unionized work demonstrates that the employment of the foreign worker is critical to the production occurring in Canada while protecting the direct employment of Canadians.


Examples of workers/roles that have been found to meet the eligibility criteria for the C14 exemption are directors, actors, stunt persons, choreographers and lighting specialists. On the other hand, most pre- and post-production, and longer-term administrative work, is generally found not to be eligible. These roles may include storyboarding, visual effects, sound editing and film editing.

Other Avenues for C14 Exemption

Television and film workers who do not qualify for the C14 exemption may still be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by an IRPA officer who may determine that the worker is eligible for a different LMIA exemption category. One example is the C10 exemption which applies to foreign workers who “create or maintain significant social, cultural or economic benefits or opportunities” for Canadians. Clearly this won’t apply to all film and television workers, but will apply to some. Workers may also apply for a standard work permit through the LMIA Temporary Foreign Worker Program. The LMIA application process can be onerous, broken down into various categories, each of which has its own documentary requirements, processing times and processing fees.

US Workers Entering Canada for Film & Television Productions – Conclusion

While immigration matters can often be a source of headache and frustration for foreign workers looking to cross the border for work, there are a number of important regulations and exemptions to make the process easier. Understanding the relevant laws is key for both U.S. workers looking to work on a production in Canada as well as for Canadian producers looking to hire workers from the U.S.

For more information, we recommend you look at the IRPA resources here or contact one of our lawyers at Edwards Creative Law.

Check out our related Blog Posts:

Neighbouring Rights in Canada – Being a Musician is a Business
Setting up a Music Publishing Company in Canada
Copyright Protection & Classical Music
Work Made for Hire Explained
10 Co-Production Considerations in Canada – Ask an Entertainment Lawyer
Film Profits & Points – Ask an Entertainment Lawyer
The “Just Trust Me” Legal Agreement

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Updated to October 29,2021

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* This blog is for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Please contact Edwards Creative Law or another lawyer, if you wish to apply these concepts to your specific circumstances.

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