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Visa Requirements for U.S. Musicians Working in Canada

Author: Brad Howland
First Posted: July, 2005


"What special forms are there for entry to Canada? We are playing music festivals in Canada and will pay taxes at the end of the year. Do we need any info from the festivals for customs officials?"


Thanks for your question. One way to enter Canada and legally work is through the American Federation of Musicians (AFM). Here is some information we received from the Canadian Office of the American Federation of Musicians back in July, 2005:

Cultural Exchange – AFM Members Performing in Canada

The Canadian Office of the American Federation of Musicians has been designated as the sponsoring organization for a cultural exchange program, whereby members of the A.F. of M. will not require department of employment validation (EMP-2151) prior to entering Canada for commercial engagements for a period up to three (3) months duration.

The following documentation is required in order to obtain a work permit to enter Canada as a performing musician under this program.

  1. Each musician and member of the technical staff, if any, must complete an application form CE-AFM-1, preferably fifteen (15) days in advance of the performance date. The form letter enclosed herein can be reproduced as needed, but must be signed by the AFM Local official verifying membership status of performing musicians, which must be current for the duration of stay being requested.
  2. A copy of a duly executed AFM contract covering the engagement(s) to be performed in Canada is required.
  3. Each person must carry proof citizenship, i.e. birth certificate, passport, or citizenship papers.
  4. A charge of $20.00cdn for each "Cultural Exchange" authorization is required (for members of a band crossing a port of entry as one unit $20.00cdn charge applies. Musicians crossing separate from the group will be charged an additional $20.00cdn per authorization). This fee is payable to AFM Canada in Canadian funds by cheque or cash. No other form of payment will be accepted.

Please forward copies of completed applications, engagement contracts and fee to:

American Federation of Musicians
-Canadian Office-
Attention: Corina Robidoux, Artist Immigration
75 The Donway West, Suite 1010
Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3C 2E9

Update (Sept. 2012): The name and address for the American Federation of Musicians in Canada has changed. They are now known as the Canadian Federation of Musicians (CFM) ∼ new address is 150 Ferrand Drive, Suite 202, Toronto, ON Canada M3C 3E5.

The Canadian Office will return to the leader/single musician a completed CE-AFM-2 form letter, which must be presented to the Canadian Immigration Inspector at the port of entry into Canada, along with a copy of the contract(s). At this time a form IMM-1102 Work Permit will be issued and an administration fee will be charged.

Single member(s) @ $150.00 each and for groups of three through fourteen members travelling as one unit @ $450.00. Note: These amounts payable in Canadian funds.

In some instances "performing artists" may not have to pay the fee or require authorization to work. Please contact Corina Robidoux for additional information.

The contract referred to above is Form LPCC Live Performance Contract for Canada. Form LPCC and Form CE-AFM-1 are available from the Canadian Office.

Note where it says performing artists may not have to pay the fee or require authorization to work. Citizenship and Immigration Canada indicates which performing artists can enter Canada without a work permit here (Thanks to Greg Smith for forwarding that link to us).

The steps I recommend following are:

  1. Visit the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website, read the section on Performing Artists, and decide if your gig requires a work permit;

  2. Read everything on their website under Working Temporarily in Canada (in particular, the bulleted list under "Work Permits");

  3. Contact the Canadian Office of the AFM and ask whether or not your gig requires a work permit (it's a good idea to have confirmation);

  4. If you need a work permit, obtain the forms and contracts indicated above from the Canadian Office;

  5. Make sure you are a member in good standing of your AFM Local;
  6. Fill out the required CE-AFM-1 forms and have them verified by your AFM Local;

  7. Get Form LPCC contracts for all your gigs; and

  8. Send everything to the Canadian Office for approval.

Whatever you do, don't try and sneak across the border to work. If you need a work permit and can't get necessary paperwork ready in advance, your best bet is to turn the gigs down.

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