New Canadian Work Permit Rules Threaten Hollywood Shoots

Jack Rowand/ABC

A policy overhaul aimed at temporary foreign workers slaps fees and delays on talent at work on movies and TV shows like "Arrow" and "Supernatural."

TORONTO — Recent changes to Canada's flawed Temporary Foreign Workers Program threaten to leave Hollywood actors, directors and other key crew hired to work here stranded at the border.

A federal overhaul in June on how mostly low-skilled foreign workers obtain permits to temporarily work in Canada has left Hollywood and other foreign talent now needing to pay a $1,000 per-worker fee and face a 15-day waiting period to obtain work permits for location shooting in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

A host of Canadian industry players met Wednesday in Vancouver with federal immigration minister Chris Alexander to ensure the new rules don't undermine Canada's competitiveness when it comes to bringing Hollywood across the border.

Stephen Waddell, national executive director of ACTRA, Canada's actors union, said the $1,000 cost of per-worker permits remained a concern.

According to Waddell, Alexander offered assurances that film and TV producers, who often hire foreign talent with little time to spare before cameras roll, will receive quick and efficient processing of work permit applications.

"We want to ensure U.S. production companies continue to come to Canada, and that permit requests are expedited and dealt with efficiently," he said.

American crews and talent are often attached and travel to Canada as Los Angeles-based producers bring movies and TV shows north for location shooting.

And many Canadian jobs are in turn generated by that U.S. production coming north.

Hannah Robbins, manager of global accounts at Chicago-based Talent Partners, which provides talent and production support services to U.S. producers, said rebounding Hollywood location shooting in Canada is threatened by immigration policy changes not directly tied to film and TV production.

"We've recently been tracking a resurgence in interest in Canadian production, but these additional burdens … could reverse this healthy trend," Robbins warned.

A petition has been created on website that calls upon the federal government to drop the $1,000 per-worker fee and the 15-day waiting period for permits.

Officials at the federal employment and social development department in Ottawa were not available for comment at press time.