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VIDEO BLOG: Canada Immigration and intra-company transfers

Under the International Mobility Program (IMP), companies can temporarily transfer qualified employees to Canada as ‘intra-company transferees’. These intra-company transfers can transfer valuable skills, help improve managerial effectiveness, increase competiveness and sales, expand Canadian exports, and enhance business opportunities in overseas markets.

This article will be of value to business leaders who wish to side-step the cumbersome, costly, and at times hostile process of trying to bring a foreign worker to Canada that is burdened by the protectionist environment of the standard and highly regulated procedures. 

The Canadian intra-company transfer (ICT) policy allows companies with a parent, subsidiary, branch or affiliate in Canada to temporarily transfer senior executives, senior managers, or employees with specialized knowledge to their Canadian location.

The ICT program is a popular option for international businesses, as companies transferring employees under the program are exempt from the need to obtain a cumbersome Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). The ICT program helps speed up application processing times.

Intra-company transferees do require a work permit in order to take up a position in Canada. They are exempted from the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) because they provide significant economic benefit to Canada through the transfer of their expertise to Canadian businesses.

Who can be an intra-company transferee?

In order to qualify for the program, transferees must have been employed with the affiliated foreign enterprise full time for at least twelve (12) consecutive months within the three (3) preceding years of applying, and must be coming to Canada to perform comparable work for the Canadian affiliate. Work in Canada must fall under one of three categories: 1) Executive; 2) Senior Managerial; or 3) Specialized Knowledge. 

Executive capacity means that the employee in question primarily directs the management of the enterprise or a major component thereof and receives only general (if any) supervision from higher level executives.

Senior managerial capacity means the employee manages all or part of the enterprise and supervises/controls the work of other managers or professional employees.
The ‘specialized knowledge’ category is for employees who can demonstrate specialized knowledge of the enterprise’s product or service, or an advanced level of expertise in the enterprise’s processes and procedures. 

As part of the Canadian Economic Action Plan introduced in 2014, specialized knowledge workers must demonstrate ‘knowledge at an advanced level of expertise’ AND ‘proprietary knowledge of the company’s product, service, research, equipment, techniques or management’. In other words, the employee must have critical skills which are ‘unusual’ (both within the industry and within the host company) and cannot be easily transferred to another individual in the short-term.

What Documentation is Required?

Intra-company transferees require a work permit in order to take up a position in Canada. Although work permits acquired through this program are exempt from the requirement to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), workers and employers who utilize the intra-company transfer program must comply with all provisions governing temporary work in Canada, including obtaining a Temporary Resident Visa, if applicable. Citizens from visa exempt countries can apply at the Canadian border or airport upon entry. Every element of the eligibility criteria must be established by a combination all the documents. 

How long can an intra-company transferee work in Canada?

A qualifying intra-company transferee may be issued an initial work permit valid for three (3) years. Executives and managers may be issued extensions in two (2) year increments up to a maximum of seven (7) years. Specialized knowledge workers may be issued work permits for up to five (5) years total. 

Intra-Company Transfers under International Agreements – GATS and NAFTA
The requirements for intra-company transfers under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are essentially the same as the general requirements outlined by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).

We would be happy to speak to you about Intra-Company Transferees. Please contact us to set up a consultation appointment.

Warren Creates is Head of Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall’s Immigration Law Group. He is a Certified Specialist by the Law Society of Upper Canada in the combined areas of Immigration, Citizenship and Refugee Law. He can be reached at or at 613.566.2839.