Immigration requirements for Canadian trade show magicians working in the United States.

I am no lawyer so it may well be wise to double check anything I am about to say here. I have been wrong before! However this is what I have been able to find out from my own experience. For some odd reason American trade show magicians can work legally in Canada but it doesn’t work very well the other way round. In other words the arrangement is not reciprocal. Americans can come here to work in trade shows but Canadians are subject to more restrictions going into the US. I understand that at one time Americans had to pay $150 at the border in order to work in Canada but even that simple requirement has been lifted. Some Canadian performers would say “it ain’t fair”!!!

Anyway some years ago I contacted US Customs and Border protection to find out what the regulations were. This following correspondence should give some insight to Canadian magicians wanting to work at US trade shows or to companies wanting Canadian performers to work on their booths in the United States.

First I sent them this enquiry through their website:
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Hello there. I wonder if you can help me. I am a free lance trade show presenter who works for various companies on their trade show booths.

I would like to know the entry requirements to the USA for a Canadian citizen to work temporarily at a US trade show (usually two or three days) for a Canadian company. Is any work permit or visa required?

And while on the subject perhaps you can tell me the requirements for a Canadian citizen who wants to work temporarily at a US trade show for an American company with headquarters in the United States.

And one more. The requirements for the same kind of activity described above for an American company with a Canadian division.

I thank you in advance for any information you can provide.
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………         And here was their  reply …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Thank you for contacting the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) INFO Center.

As a Canadian citizen working at a trade show in the U.S., you must be on a Canadian payroll presenting to us a letter on company letterhead stating your purpose of visit, length of stay, and who is paying your salary while in the U.S. Also, you will need a copy of the contract that the work is being done under. If the CBP Officer is satisfy with your documentation he/she will issue you a B1 status at the airport/land border upon entering the U.S.

The second and third scenarios are not viable. The closest scenario would be if you work for a Canadian firm with a U.S. affiliate and they petition for them to come in L status as an intracompany transferee.

If you have any other questions or would like clarification on this response, please feel free to contact us either by calling our toll free number 877 CBP-5511 (227-5511) or if calling from outside the United States our toll number 202-325-8000 and speak with a Public Information Officer. Our hours of operation are Monday thru Friday from 8:30 AM-5:00 PM Eastern Time.

Please note that in our online tracking software, a “Solved” status simply means that we have provided you with the best information we have to your question. There may still be steps you need to complete before your situation is resolved to your satisfaction. Those steps are explained in our response. If you need further clarification on those steps, please feel free to contact us back.

This email is intended for Informational Purposes Only, final determination of admission is solely at the discretion of the CBP Officer based upon the inspection at the time of entry.
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So there it is for what it is worth. However, I have been told by other trade show magicians that the third scenario of an American company with a Canadian division is a grey area. They said it would be OK providing you were paid by the Canadian division rather than the US one. Of course this contradicts the official reply above. So be very careful with it. Again I am not an immigration lawyer.

Speaking of which I have seen suggestions that the entertainer contact an immigration lawyer to get the proper visa before even coming to the airport. The suggestion was that the company hiring you would pay the lawyers fee which I think from memory would be around $1500.  I have never gone this route so I cannot tell you how viable it is or whether the company would want to go to this extra expense. Use what I have posted as a guideline and do your own investigation.

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