Or, what NOT to say to a customs agent when doing freelance work abroad
My first trip to Canada was back in 2009. I was traveling to shoot a promotional video abroad for a wedding, portrait, and lifestyle photographer in Edmonton, Alberta.
When crossing through the customs at the Calgary airport, the customs agent asked me “What brings you to Canada?”
I innocently (i.e. stupidly) told her the truth. “I’m here to shoot a promo video for a photographer.”
Now, those of you savvy travelers out there already know where I messed up. Don’t you? And you probably know what’s coming next.
“Can I see your permit?” She asked.
Permit? What permit? Who the hell said I needed a permit? I’m going to be in and out in a day. Badda-bing, badda-boom. I don’t need no stinkin’ permit.
Oops! My bad! Apparently I did.
Ignorance is not bliss
Apparently, it’s not legal for a foreigner to do work in the country without some kind of legal paperwork.
And apparently, you can ONLY get that paperwork if you can prove that NO ONE ELSE in Canada can do the same work.
Are you joking?
So she asks me “Where does this photographer live?”
I said, “Oh, I think he lives in Alberta.”
Now, if you live in Canada, or if you have a half-way decent geography education, you know how idiotic I sounded. Saying he lives in Alberta would be like being at the LAX International airport and saying I was meeting someone living in California.
I think the nice Canadian lady probably thought “Poor, dumb American” and felt sorry for me. I say that because she called my client and allowed him to come down meet me, and pay for a 3-day work permit (at a few hundred Canadian dollars).
The moral of the story: when you’re a professional filmmaker or photographer and you’re shooting abroad in a foreign country: YOU’RE ON VACATION! (Also, learn about the geography of the country you’re visiting for crying out loud.)
Oh, by the way. Here’s that promo video I shot. I think it holds up pretty damn well after nearly 11 years!
Note: I should probably make it clear I’m joking with regards to my advice. You know that right? I would NEVER advocate breaking international laws when it comes to working abroad. You absolutely 😉 should make sure 😉that you get whatever permits 😉you need. 😉
Header photo credit: Photo on the right is by CDC on Unsplash. That’s me on the left. I no longer look that young and I’m considerably more hirsute in the face. 😀