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Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

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Employment of Family Members of Foreign Representatives

Eligibly Requirements | General Guidelines

Most recent date of change: February 18, 2013

Update to these guidelines

Table of Contents

  1. Policy Objective and Scope of Application
  2. Delegation of Authorities
  3. Definitions
  4. Policy Requirements: spouses and children exempt from a work permit
  5. Policy Requirements: spouses and children who are not exempt from a work permit
  6. Renewal of work permit
  7. Exclusions and Special Cases
  8. Volunteer Work
  9. Working On School Campus and Off Campus
  10. Postgraduate Work Permit
  11. Enquiries
  12. List of Countries with which Canada has concluded a Reciprocal Employment Agreement or Arrangement (REA)

1. Policy Objective and Scope of Application

1.1 It is the goal of the Government of Canada to make every reasonable effort to extend facilities to spouses and children of accredited foreign representatives interested in accessing the local labour market, including those of members of international organizations and other offices established in Canada1. This commitment is primarily met by negotiating and implementing, bilaterally, employment arrangements and agreements that allow spouses and children to pursue private gainful occupation and, secondly, deploying efforts to ensure that their day-to-day application continuously respect the principle of reciprocity and fairness insofar as is possible.

1.2 The following policy, which clarifies circular notes XDC-6386 of November 1987 and XDC-1517 of July 2003, provides administrative requirements that must be met by foreign missions, international organizations and other offices established in Canada prior to spouses and children pursuing employment in Canada.

1.3 Nothing in this policy shall be construed as preventing Canada from applying the provisions of this policy restrictively on a basis of reciprocity or to accord a treatment greater than that which is covered herein on the basis of reciprocal employment arrangements or agreements.

2. Delegation of Authorities

2.1 The Office of Protocol of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has been entrusted with the responsibility to negotiate REAs with other countries on behalf of the Government of Canada and oversees their implementation once signed and/or ratified by treaty, within the limits prescribed by this policy and the relevant formal instruments. The Criminal, Security and Treaty Law Division of the Department's Legal Affairs Bureau gives legal advice on the application of REAs in respect to both treaties and arrangements that do not impart obligations that are binding under international law. This Division is also responsible for the actual procedures relating to the making of REAs that will eventual become treaties, up to and including the preparation of formal instruments relating to the ratification of agreements.

2.2 The Office of Protocol's mandate is also achieved in close cooperation with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), which facilitates the issuance of work permits when such permits are required. The authority to issue a Social Insurance Number (SIN) to eligible spouses and dependents is reserved to Service Canada.

3. Definitions

For the purpose of this policy, the following expressions shall have the following meaning:

3.1 "spouses" and "children" refer to the definitions contained in FAC's circular notes XDC-3196 of November 12, 2004 and XDC-0643 of April 25, 2005.

3.2 Reciprocal Employment Agreements and Arrangements (REAs) are treaty or non-treaty frameworks between Canada and another state whereby, on a reciprocal basis, the spouse and children of accredited employees at the Missions can enter the local labour market. REAs generally remove all restrictions on the employment of spouses and dependant children and put them on a basis of equality with the local population, provided they fulfill the legislative and regulatory conditions required for the exercise of any profession and except for cases where reasons concerning public order and national security would prevent the employment and there is regulatory or legislated requirements for a security clearance or for specific qualifications in order to practice certain professions.

4. Policy Requirements: spouses and children exempt from a work permit (Identification card D or I)

4.1 Guided by section 186(c) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulation, spouses and children of diplomatic agents and those who have status equivalent to that accorded to diplomatic2 may work in Canada without a work permit if the person has received a Note or Letter from The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade stating in writing that it authorizes the foreign national to work. This Note or Letter shall normally be referred to as "work authorization".

4.2 The Office of Protocol will, upon official request from the diplomatic mission, international organization or other accredited offices, issue a work authorization provided that:

  • the applicant is accredited;
  • there exists an REA between Canada and the sending state concerned;
  • the applicant submits a copy of a valid work offer, only in the case of countries that impose such a condition on Canadians;
  • the applicant does not intend to operate a sole proprietorship or with someone else as a partnership (see 7.3);
  • it is understood that the person's civil and administrative immunities with respect to all matters arising out of employment is waived by the sending State, the international organization or the office.

4.3 While the Office of Protocol strives to process initial requests under 10 days during low volume periods and from 10 to 15 working days during high volume periods, these service standards will henceforth be subject to readjustment should Canadian spouses and dependents in the country of the sending government be placed in a far less favourable situation when applying to work under the same REA.

4.4 The work authorization Note or Letter has no expiry date. It is understood however that permission to work is valid for the duration of the accreditation period only.

4.5 It is incumbent on diplomatic missions, international organizations and other offices established in Canada to ensure that persons authorized to work obtain a Social Insurance Number (SIN) prior to commencing employment. Applications can be submitted in person at any local Service Canada Centre and must be accompanied by the original work authorization Note or Letter from the Office of Protocol along with the valid identity card. In cases of renewal or extension, the original work authorization Note or Letter can be submitted again to renew the SIN number.

4.6 Spouses and children who have received a work authorization shall cease to work immediately following the end of functions of the principal or, if such is the case, if the beneficiary should cease to fulfill the conditions required to be considered a "member of the family forming part of the household".

4.7 Spouses and children of diplomatic agents and those who have status equivalent to that accorded to diplomatic agents shall, as a consequence of the waiver of civil and administrative immunities, be liable to pay income tax and social security taxes levied by the employer on any remuneration arising from the employment. As regards income derived from gainful employment in Canada, such persons shall, where applicable, be subject to the provisions of existing bilateral conventions for the avoidance of double taxation with respect to taxes on income and capital and to any other relevant agreement.

Who is authorized to obtain a Social Insurance Number (SIN)?

See also Circular note XDC-0625 of April 3, 2009. In general terms, every person who works in insurable or pensionable employment in Canada is required to have a SIN. By law, the person must provide his/her SIN to authorized federal agencies, such as Service Canada, Canada Revenue Agency and the employer.

Spouses and children of foreign representatives authorized to work in Canada under the REA and who have met all administrative requirements only can apply for and obtain a SIN. The "900 series" SIN that is issued to these individuals contains an expiry date, which will usually coincide with the date of expiry on the acceptance/ID card. For more information on SIN please visit Service Canada.

As foreign representatives themselves are not authorized to pursue professional and commercial activities for personal gain and profit outside their official functions during accreditation, they shall not be authorized under any circumstance to obtain a SIN, nor should they make an application on behalf of any member of their family. This rule also applies to parents and parents-in-law to whom The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has conferred diplomatic or official status.

Diplomatic missions, international organizations and established in Canada are responsible for informing all foreign representatives and their family members of this policy and to immediately report all cases where a SIN was obtained by an ineligible person.

5. Policy Requirements: spouses and children who are not exempt from a work permit (Identification Card C or J)

5.1 Spouses and children of members of the administrative and technical staff, members of the service staff, consular officers, consular employees, as well as spouses and children of officials and members of the administrative staff of international organizations and other offices established in Canada are not exempt from the work permit requirement. Diplomatic missions, international organizations and other offices established in Canada must first request on their behalf a work authorization Note or Letter from the Office of Protocol, following which applicants must request a work permit through Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to facilitate their movement in the labour market.

5.2 The Office of Protocol will, upon official request from the diplomatic mission, international organization or other accredited office, issue a work authorization Note or Letter provided that:

  • the applicant is accredited;
  • there exists an REA between Canada and the sending state concerned;
  • the applicant submits a copy of a valid work offer, only in the case of countries that impose such a condition on Canadians;
  • the applicant does not intend to operate a sole proprietorship or with someone else as a partnership (see 7.3).

5.3 While the Office of Protocol strives to process initial requests under 10 days during low volume periods and from 10 to 15 working days during high volume periods, these service standards will henceforth be subject to readjustment should Canadian spouses and dependents abroad are placed in a far less favourable situation when applying to work under similar circumstances.

5.4 The work authorization Note or Letter has no expiry date. It is understood however that the validity date of the work permit issued by CIC will not exceed the date of the identity card.

5.5 Each work authorization Note or Letter will provide information on how to
access the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (Instruction Guide IMM 5553 and Application to change condition, Extend my stay or Remain in Canada as a worker IMM 5710) online to facilitate the request for a work permit. The application must must be sent by mail.

5.6 It is incumbent on diplomatic missions, international organizations and other offices established in Canada to ensure that persons authorized to work obtain a Social Insurance Number (SIN) prior to commencing employment. Applications can be submitted in person at any local Service Canada Centre and must be accompanied by the work authorization Note or Letter from the Office of Protocol along with the identity card and the work permit granted by CIC. In cases of renewal or extension, the original work authorization Note or Letter can be submitted again, along with a renewed work permit from CIC.

5.7 Spouses and children who have received a work permit shall cease to work immediately following the end of functions of the principal or, if such is the case, if the beneficiary should cease to fulfill the conditions required to be considered a "member of the family forming part of the household".

5.8 Spouses and children of members of the administrative and technical staff, members of the service staff, consular officers, consular employees as well as spouses and children of officials and members of the administrative staff of international organizations do not generally enjoy immunity from civil and administration jurisdictions and shall be liable to pay income tax and social security taxes levied by the employer on any remuneration arising from the employment. As regards income derived from gainful employment in Canada, such persons shall, where applicable, be subject to the provisions of existing bilateral conventions for the avoidance of double taxation with respect to taxes on income and capital and to any other relevant agreement.

6. Renewal of work permit

In order to renew their work permit, family members must submit their application (see 5.5) to CIC prior to the expiry date of the permit. Applicants are encouraged to submit their application at least one month before the expiration date of their current permit to avoid last minute situations. While the application is in process, they may, by law, continue working in Canada under the same conditions as the initial work permit until a decision is rendered by CIC. This is known as "implied status ". During this interim period, employers requiring confirmation of status may contact DFAIT's Office of Protocol.

7. Exclusions and Special Cases

7.1 The Office of Protocol can only issue work authorizations Notes or Letters to spouses and children who are accredited. Parents and parents-in-law, while under accreditation, are not eligible to work in Canada.

7.2 Where the Office of Protocol is satisfied that circumstances warrant special processing, it has the discretion to approve requests for a work authorization. Such special cases may include, but are not limited to, instances where a spouse and child of a foreign representative must pursue an internship as part of his/her educational program.

7.3 In the event that a family member wishes to obtain a work authorization in order to operate a sole proprietorship or business parternship, it is incumbent on the mission or international organization to declare this in its request to the Office of Protocol, and provide as much details as possible on the potential business. The Office of Protocol will examine the appropriatness of such request and/or have a discussion with the mission or international organization. Any person having received a work authorization who in fact operates a sole proprietorship or business partnership without the express authorization from the Office of Protocol risks having his/her diplomatic or official status withdrawn.

8. Volunteer Work

8.1 Family members who wish to undertake volunteer work are not normally required to obtain a work authorization or permit provided that such employment does not constitute a remunerable occupation. An example of acceptable volunteer work is a position within a charitable or religious organization. It is important to note that the sole fact of not receiving remuneration for an occupation is not tantamount to fulfilling volunteer work. For greater certainty, the mission should contact the Privilege and Immunities Unit of the Office of Protocol.

Volunteering for a political party in Canada or an elected member at the federal, provincial or municipal levels is regarded as an interference in the internal affairs of Canada and thus will not be tolerated.

9. Working On School Campus and Off Campus

Children of foreign representatives shall not undertake employment on university or college campus, nor shall they engage in off-campus gainful occupation, unless authorized in writing by the Office of Protocol following procedures set forth under either section 4 or section 5 of this policy.

10. Postgraduate Work Permit

Work authorisations issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) pursuant to this policy cannot be used for the purpose of work under post graduate work permit program of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Missions must first request a letter of no objection from the Office of Protocol of DFAIT in this regard to enable the individual to apply for a postgraduate work permit with CIC.

11. Enquiries

For interpretation and application of this policy, diplomatic missions, international organizations and other offices established in Canada should contact:

Primary Contacts:

Manager, Privileges and Immunities
(613) 944-1159

Advisor, Privileges and Immunities
(613) 944-4768

By email: xdc@international.gc.ca

Other contacts:

Deputy Director, Privileges, Immunities and Accreditation
(613) 944-5386

Citizenship and Immigration (CIC) Liaison Officer
(613) 992-0889

12. List of Countries with which Canada has concluded a Reciprocal Employment Agreement or Arrangement (REA)3

  • Albania
  • Argentina *
  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Belgium
  • Benin
  • Bolivia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Brazil *
  • Britain
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cameroon
  • Chile
  • Democratic Republic of Congo *
  • Colombia*
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic*
  • Denmark
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Ethiopia
  • Finland
  • France *
  • Gabon
  • Georgia
  • Germany
  • Ghana
  • Greece
  • Grenada
  • Guinea
  • Guyana *
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • India*
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Jamaica *
  • Kenya *
  • Korea
  • Latvia
  • Lebanon *
  • Macedonia
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Mali
  • Mexico
  • Mongolia
  • Morocco
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Norway
  • Pakistan
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Poland*
  • Portugal *
  • Romania
  • Rwanda
  • Senegal
  • Serbia
  • Slovak Republic
  • South Africa *
  • Spain *
  • Sri Lanka
  • St.Lucia
  • St. Vincent & the Grenadines
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland *
  • Tanzania
  • Togo
  • Trinidad & Tobago
  • Uganda
  • United States of America
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela
  • Yemen
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

* Specific terms


1 A number of headquarters agreements between international organizations and the Government of Canada do not contain any general provision granting to dependents the authorization to work in Canada. Despite these disparities, and in the interest of maintaining an equitable approach, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada reaffirms its current practice of providing facilities in relation to gainful occupation when requested officially by an organization.

2 For instances, spouses and children if senior officials of accredited international organizations.

3 As REA's are concluded bilaterally, the scope of the agreement/arrangement may vary from one contry to another.

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Date Modified:
2013-02-20