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I’ve just learned that in late June 2014 Canada repealed it’s work permit requirements for foreign musicians playing time-limited engagements in the country. As someone involved in a Canadian-American musical duo, this is some of the best news I’ve heard all year!!!

After a petition through rallied 143,481 signatures and an overhaul of the temporary foreign worker program, Canada has removed the “tour tax” it implemented in 2013. The “tour tax” targeted non-union musicians and smaller venues (larger venues were oddly exempt) with $275 fees per performer (and crew member) per show, on top of a $150 work permit per performer, or $450 per band. In addition, Canada has also removed the work permit and Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) requirements for playing gigs in bars & restaurants (per Operational Bulletin 580, 6/23/14).

In the past, under the R186(g) exemption, artists didn’t need a permit to busk on the street, and play private events, festivals, and concerts in venues which didn’t serve food or drink. However, in our experience, the government had a hard time determining which venues were indeed exempt. On a few occasions they counted venues we were playing that simply offered a few tea bags and some hot water in the back, hardly a restaurant! We wonder if that confusion may have supported the move to overhaul the temporary foreign worker guidelines?

In any case, Dan and I booked our shows, paid their fees, and followed their rules, and still, when they refused to grant me a work permit in January 2014, stating that I wasn’t playing enough “big” shows to make it worth their while, we had to cancel the 40 odd engagements we’d spend months booking, many of them private house concerts with long time fans. It made no sense.

This is an amazing victory! Artists will still need contracts from venues, letters from house concert hosts etc., when they cross the border, but it sounds like the process just got easier and simpler for everyone! Canada, I’ll see you in 2015!

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Laurel Thomsen

Violin, Viola, Vocals
Performance, Instruction, Recording

Based in Santa Cruz, California

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