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New Temporary Public Policy for Visual Effects Studios hiring VFX Artists


by: Heather Bell and Jennifer Hunter

There has been quite the confusion among VFX studios and IRCC processing officers whether VFX artists qualify under the TV & Film work permit option, specifically International Mobility Program – Essential workers for the production stage of television and film [R205(a) – C14] – Canadian interests. We work with several VFX studios in Vancouver and have prioritized the use of the International Trade Agreements, other International Mobility programs, Labour Market Impact Assessment Global Talent Stream (LMIA GTS) and the BC Provincial Nominee Program Tech Stream. However, earlier this year, we started seeing more foreign nationals holding C14 work permits, primarily from studios in Central or Eastern Canada.

Internally, we debated the use of this program. The C14 guidelines were too vague to guarantee an approval. They required the role to be essential to the production and requested a letter from a union, which is non-existent for VFX artists. We decided to proceed with caution, providing all that was needed and a detailed letter of support from the VFX studio in lieu of a union letter. The work permits were approved.

Another benefit tied to the C14 work permits was the COVID-19 program delivery that gave priority processing to work permits in TV & Film industry submitted from outside Canada. The added confusion was enough VFX artists were receiving expedited processing under this COVID-19 measure when a studio submitted the request, even if the application itself was not a C14 work permit. Without fully understanding the C14 work permit and temporary COVID-19 program delivery, it seemed like a no brainer to continue with the C14 work permit application, or any work permit application for that matter, and to submit the expedited processing request under TV & Film. Even for us, it was worth trying in some cases. One thing we knew for certain throughout the Pandemic: the application of COVID-19 program deliveries and processing times outside Canada are inconsistent. Again, we had success in most cases.

Just as our team decided to pursue more C14 work permits for inside Canada applicants, on September 10, 2021, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) published a significant update to the C14 requirements and a new temporary public policy geared towards VFX artists.

Changes to the C14 Work Permit

First, IRCC expanded the requirements for C14, making it very specific to live-action TV or film in the production stage (filming) where the worker is considered high wage, essential to the filming and is required to be on location in Canada. The occupation must also be unionized in Canada, although not necessarily is the employer a unionized work place. Finally, the production must satisfy the criteria for federal, provincial or territorial tax credit, or is the recipient of federal, provincial or territorial funding. A C14 work permit application, meeting these requirements, can apply for the COVID-19 program delivery for expedited processing outside Canada.

New Graphic Designer Work Permit for Live-Action TV & Film

Second, IRCC introduced a temporary public policy for graphic designers working on live-action television or film in Canada. VFX artists fall within the graphic designer occupation under the 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) 5241. This policy is in effect from September 10, 2021 to March 9, 2022.

To qualify for the temporary public policy, a VFX Artist must:

  • Perform work at any stage of production for one or more live-action television or film productions being filmed in whole or in part in Canada;
  • be paid at or above the median wage for NOC 5241; and
  • provide a letter from the employer or authorized representative attesting to the details of the production, the position, wage and that the production satisfies the criteria for federal, provincial or territorial tax credit, or is the recipient of federal, provincial or territorial funding.

There is no COVID-19 program delivery offering expedited processing for applications made under this new temporary public policy from outside Canada.

Our Thoughts

At quick glance, the new public policy appeared to be another great avenue for VFX studios. However, we have yet to use it for our clients. The scope is too narrow. While some studios do provide VFX services to live-action TV and Film being filmed in Canada, it’s not clear if the VFX artists being hired under this policy can work on multiple productions simultaneously, some of which might not fit the requirements. Furthermore, it doesn’t help the many animation or gaming studios, who are equally important to Vancouver’s TV & Film industry.

While the changes clarify who qualifies under the C14 TV & Film work permit, we continue to take advantage of safer options: International Mobility programs, LMIA GTS and PNP applications for BC employers. Perhaps once more live-action TV & Film come to Canada, we will see the benefits of this program. But that likely requires an extension of the March 2022 expiry, when workplace COVID-19 restrictions hopefully have relaxed and international productions have less red tape to cross the border into Canada.

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