International Mobility Program and LMIA-Exempt Pathways


A founding partner of Abramovich & Tchern, Ksenia started her legal career at one of Canada’s top immigration firms, where she operated her own immigration law practice, with a focus on corporate and individual immigration applications.

In comparison to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, the International Mobility Program is comprised of pathways in which the presence of foreign nationals will enhance Canada’s broad economic interests, rather than fill specific labour shortages. The International Mobility Program is administered directly by IRCC which means that the prospective worker will be applying directly for a Canadian work permit without the employer having to go through the LMIA process.

While we generally try to utilize the International Mobility Program when possible, in some cases, obtaining an LMIA is preferable due to the worker being able to receive points with respect to his permanent residence application immediately upon an LMIA application being approved.

What Pathways Are Available Under The International Mobility Program?

Some of the more common pathways under the International Mobility Program are discussed below.

Business Visitors

The business visitor category facilitates entry to Canada for individuals who intend to engage in business activities without directly entering the Canadian labour market. Business visitors do not require work authorization.

Examples of activities that can qualify under this category include:

  • Attending business meetings, trade conventions or exhibitions
  • procurement of Canadian goods and services
  • activities of people providing after-sales services

The activities must be international in scope and the source of the foreign national’s remuneration must remain outside Canada, i.e., if a technician is entering to provide after-sales service, they must be paid by the foreign entity they are employed by.

C11 Significant Benefit

Broadly, under this category, immigration officers are required to consider the impact that the foreign worker would have on Canada’s labour market and economy. IRCC officers have to consider whether the foreign national’s employment “would create or maintain significant social, cultural or economic benefits or opportunities for Canadian citizens or permanent residents”.

According to IRCC policy, the term “significant” means important or notable. This category is therefore quite discretionary and as such, applicants must submit credible and objective evidence to support their claim that their employment will create a significant benefit for Canada. Officers may refer to the following factors when assessing whether a foreign worker’s presence in Canada will result in a significant social, economic, or cultural benefit:

  • whether the worker has significant (i.e., ten or more years) full-time experience in the occupation sought;
  • awards and accolades conferred on the worker;
  • the worker’s membership in organizations requiring excellence of their members;
  • whether the worker has judged or critiqued others’ work in the field of specialty;
  • the worker’s scientific or scholarly contributions in the field;
  • publications authored by the worker in academic or industry publications;
  • whether the worker has been a leader in an organization with a distinguished reputation; and
  • whether the worker is a francophone foreign worker who is entering an occupation under NOC skill type 0 (managerial occupations) or skill level A (professional occupations) or B (technical occupations or skilled trades), destined to work outside Quebec, and who was recruited through Destination Canada or other employment events coordinated with the federal government and francophone minority communities.

This category is popular with self-employed individuals, entrepreneurs, as well as those working in arts, culture, and sports. It is important to note that those self-employed in athletics or arts / cultural fields may also submit a permanent residence application under the self-employed Self-Employed Artists and Athletes stream.

CUSMA (Previously NAFTA)

The Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) entered into force on July 1, 2020, replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Amongst other things, it contains numerous provisions for the movement and relocation of skilled workers between the signatory countries.

CUSMA maintains the four immigration categories of applications under NAFTA:

  1. business visitors (no work permit issued);
  2. professionals;
  3. intra-company transferees; and
  4. traders and investors.

The CUSMA professional category is by far the most popular stream we work with. Under this stream, professionals are business persons who enter to provide pre-arranged professional services – either as a salaried employee of a Canadian enterprise, through a contract between the business person and a Canadian employer, or a contract between the American or Mexican employer of the business person and a Canadian enterprise. Appendix 2 to CUSMA lists more than 60 occupations covered by the Agreement. Professionals enter to provide services in the field for which they are qualified.

We have assisted with applications under the CUSMA Traders and Investors category, to qualify, the employer must carry substantial trade in goods or services between the U.S. or Mexico and Canada or have committed, or are in the process of committing, a substantial amount of capital in Canada. Traders and investors must be employed in a supervisory or executive capacity or one that involves essential skills.

It should be noted that there are differences between the business visitor category in CUSMA and the business visitor category in section 186(a) of the Regulations as under the CUSMA the visitor must be entering to attend to specific activities of commercial nature that are listed in an index to the treaty.

There are also some differences between the CUSMA ICT and the general ICT stream described above. The CUSMA ICT allows for a “recapture” of time spent outside of Canada. It is, therefore, important to keep track of all entries and exits if one wishes to utilize this provision.

Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)

The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) presents Canadian businesses with preferential access to and excellent growth opportunities.

Individuals in three main categories may qualify for entry to Canada using CETA:

  1. key personnel which includes:
    1. intra-corporate transferees;
    2. investors; and
    3. business visitors for investment purposes.
  2. contractual service suppliers and independent professionals;
  3. and short-term business visitors.

Applications can be processed at a Canadian port-of-entry or submitted from within Canada if they meet the requirements set out in section 199 of the Regulations.

Ksenia Tchern

A founding partner of Abramovich & Tchern, Ksenia started her legal career at one of Canada’s top immigration firms, where she operated her own immigration law practice, with a focus on corporate and individual immigration applications.