4 things to know when traveling to Canada on business


Each year, hundreds of thousands of people travel to Canada for business purposes. It’s a country with rich history, lucrative connections, and beautiful people – but it also has its nuances.

If this is your first time traveling to Canada on business, it’s wise to plan ahead. Here are some specific things to know:

Businessperson vs. Business Visitor

Canada separates business travelers into one of two categories: businessperson or business visitor. The category you fall under will depend on factors like citizenship and purpose of visit.

“If you’re entering Canada to work as part of the Canadian labor market under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) or another Free Trade Agreement (FTA), the Canadian government considers you a businessperson rather than a business visitor,” travel journalist Brenna Swanston notes.

If you’re an American, you’ll most likely be classified as a businessperson. This simply means you’re entering under the free trade agreement as outlined under NAFTA. This enables you to easily enter the country for temporary business or investment reasons.

Canadian immigration places businesspeople into three distinct categories:

  • Professionals are individuals who are qualified to work in a job (as stipulated by NAFTA), have a job offer from a Canadian business in their field, and have a valid work permit.
  • Intra-company transferees are people who are sent from the same company in a different country. These individuals are coming over to work as short-term managers, executives, or specialized employees (and have proper work permits).
  • Traders and investors are individuals who supervise business transactions that concern large amounts of goods and services (primarily between Canada and their home country). Again, work permits are required.

The majority of people visiting Canada on business – including most Europeans – do so as business visitors. Business visitors don’t need work permits, but must enter the country for one of three reasons: (1) To seek out ways to grow their business; (2) To invest; and/or (3) To advance their business relationships.

Canadian eTAs

If you’re traveling to Canada as a business visitor, you will need either a visitor visa or an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to legally enter the country. Fingerprints and photos may also be required for a visitor visa.

“An approved eTA is issued for a period of five years, or until the date of passport expiry, whichever date comes first,” Official-Canada-eTA.com explains. “An approved eTA allows travellers to visit Canada for up to six months, however, the authorized time period of stay may vary based on the dates stamped in the traveller’s passport by the Canadian border officials.”

Basic Customs and Etiquette

When traveling on business to any foreign country, it’s always a good idea to brush up on some of the local customs and etiquettes. If nothing else, this saves you from embarrassment. Take tipping for example.

“In Canada, tipping is expected for service,” one Canadian travel blogger mentions. “Generally, tipping is 15% of the bill but it is not uncommon to tip to 20% for great or outstanding service. Sometimes, if you eat out as a larger group (usually of 6 or more) the tip may get added automatically so if you are unsure just ask your server. Even if service is bad, you would still tip a lesser amount – perhaps 10% – but not tipping anything can be seen as rude.”

You should also know that small talk is the norm. Any time you find yourself waiting in line or surrounded by people, it’s generally considered acceptable to strike up conversation about weather, sports, or anything else you find noteworthy. This is a great way to create some quick connections.

Renting Vehicles/Transportation

Driving in Canada is done so on the right side of the road. While the country uses a mixture of the metric and imperial systems, driving is entirely metric. Gasoline is measured in liters and distances in kilometers.

If you want to rent a vehicle, you’ll find all major car rental brands in the country – including Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, and Avis. You’ll find them at airports and in all major cities.

Safe and Prosperous Travels

Canada might not be the top business destination in the world, but it’s certainly carving out a name as a popular market for well-connected business leaders who want access to North American markets. As you plan your next trip, you may find the information referenced in this article to be helpful. Safe travels!

Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash