International Mobility Program (IMP)

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Are you a Business Professional? Have you considered temporary work in Canada as part of your profession? Do you work in the Arts? Are you a student looking for short-term experience in the Canadian labour market? You may be eligible for Canada’s International Mobility Program (IMP).

Canada operates two labour migration programs: the IMP and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). The IMP was created to streamline applications for foreign nationals who can add to Canada’s economy and general culture. In other words, it simplifies the process of obtaining work authorization in Canada. This program is a second branch to the TFWP which was created to promote economic growth by filling labour shortages in Canada. That said, this article will review the general processes of the IMP.

Please note: approval through the IMP generally means you have been authorized to work in Canada. However, authorization to work does not always guarantee entry into Canada. As we explain further below, an applicant may need a second application for a Visitor Visa or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) in select cases. For further information and assistance please contact us at Cohen Brosh Law Offices.

Background & History

A primary objective of Canadian immigration policy is to benefit the economy and fill labour shortages. Historically, this began with a variety of dispersed immigration programs which were designed to recruit foreign workers to become domestic caregivers and farm labourers in Canada. For example, as early as the 1890s, Scottish and English women were invited to serve as long-term domestic caregivers for Canadian families. Farm workers from Mexico and the Caribbean were granted short-term work permits through bilateral trade agreements. Additional, varying programs were subsequently added, such as free trade agreements, youth mobility programs, live-in caregiver programs, agricultural programs, etc. The history of Canadian immigration policy with respect to temporary foreign workers was not always fair or inclusive and migrant workers did not have the added legal protections they do now. Yet, these programs paved the way for the temporary worker programs and protective policies Canada has in place today. As time progressed, Canadian immigration policy grew to become more inclusive and to allow the evaluation of applicants to be based primarily on merit rather than country-of-origin alone. Eventually, all of the dispersed programs that were in place, such as youth mobility programs, agricultural programs, international trade agreements, caregiver programs, etc. all evolved to fit under the umbrella of the TFWP. In 2014, the Temporary Foreign Worker Program was restructured to simplify the process. A streamlined, second branch was created called the International Mobility Program (IMP). This new branch was a way to encourage faster entry for higher-skilled workers.

Who are high-skilled workers? Administration of the IMP is handled by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and according to the ESDC, high-skilled workers hold the following main job groups:

  1. Management jobs E.g., restaurant managers, mine managers, shore captains
  2. Professional jobs requiring university degrees E.g., doctors, dentists, architects
  3. Technical jobs and skilled trades requiring college diplomas or apprenticeship training E.g., chefs, plumbers, electricians.

 As mentioned above, the IMP favors those who can progress Canada’s overall economy and culture – examples of such workers will be provided throughout this article.

In short, foreign nationals have been entering Canada under the different pathways that make up the IMP long before it was in place. The IMP was more of a restructuring of the TFWP that adopted existing methods of entry. Some program categories that are now governed by the IMP can be found listed below.

International Mobility Program Categories:

  • LMIA- exempt work permits
  • LMIA and work permit exempt authorization
  • Free Trade Agreements
  • International Experience Canada
  • Permits for spouses of temporary skilled workers or international students
  • Post-Graduate Work Permits

LMIA Exemption: An advantage of the IMP

Foreign Nationals can receive permission to work temporarily in Canada in 3 ways:

  1. A Work Permit that requires an LMIA i.e., Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP)
  2. A Work Permit application that does NOT require an LMIA i.e., IMP
  3. The authorization to work without a work permit or LMIA i.e., IMP

The IMP simplifies the process of obtaining work authorization in Canada. In many ways, this shortens the processing time for most applicants. The TFWP still exists as a sister stream to the IMP with a few differences. Most positions under the TFWP require a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). An LMIA is a report that allows ESDC to directly assess the impact to the Canadian culture and economy of each position. Canadian employers are generally required to get an LMIA before they can hire a foreign national. A negative report can cause your application to be rejected. You may recall from the introduction that the TFWP was created to fill labour shortages in Canada. A positive LMIA confirms that there is a skill shortage and that Canadians or permanent residents are unavailable to fill the need for temporary labour. This report indicates that hiring an employee from abroad will not negatively impact the Canadian labour market. Many people who come to work in Canada will need their Canadian employer to obtain a positive LMIA before they can proceed with a work permit application. With some exceptions, positions under the IMP are free from this requirement. Workers under the IMP are able to bypass the bureaucracy and costs involved in this step because they are exempt from the LMIA requirement.

An exemption from the LMIA will likely happen in cases where:

  • There are cultural/ economic benefits to Canada i.e., Entertainment, sports, business
  • Mutual benefits between countries i.e., Free Trade Agreements
  • Refugee claimants
  • Humanitarian reasons


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 Work Permits under the IMP

The International Mobility Program (IMP) accommodates those seeking work authorization in Canada, often by issuing open work permits. (An Open Work permit does not restrict you to one specific location or employer.) As noted above, the IMP does not require an LMIA and thereby simplifies the process of obtaining work authorization in Canada. It also saves the Canadian employer all of the time and money involved in the TFWP application process. Those accepted into this stream tend to be well-educated or highly trained individuals in higher-skilled professions.

Positions Where Work Permit is NOT Required

Remember, there are a number of positions that may not require a work permit at all under the IMP. Below are several examples. 

Athlete or Coach

Civil Aviation Inspector

Emergency Service Provider

Foreign Diplomat

News reporter or film and media crew

Religious Leader

Aviation accident or incident investigator

Convention Organizer

Examiner and Evaluator 

Judge or Referee for sports, music/ dance festival, animal show or agricultural contest

Performing artist

Short-term Researcher (with some parameters)

Business Visitor

Crew Member

Expert Witness or Investigator

Military Personnel

Public speaker (less than 5 days)

Short-term highly-skilled worker (With some parameters)

This list is not exhaustive and many of the positions have specific parameters and conditions. For instance, business visitors do not need a work permit and most can stay in Canada for up to 6 months. The government of Canada website provides a list of positions eligible under the IMP without a work permit. It also offers a tool to help foreign national find out if they are able to work in Canada without a work permit. 

 An intra-company transferee falls under the IMP. This is a person working in the Canadian location for their same employer. The intra-company transferee serves as an example of a foreign worker who does not require an LMIA, but DOES require a work permit.

To qualify as a transferee:

  • Employee must work as a manager or specialized position
  • Worked for at least one year in the past three years on an ongoing basis for the same or similar
  • Employer is already doing business in Canada (be a parent/subsidiary or have a branch in Canada)
  • Application for Temporary Work Permit

Please note the importance of obtaining proper work authorization to work in Canada. If you are uncertain as to whether or not you are eligible to work in Canada without an LMIA or a work permit, please access the Government of Canada site using the link above or contact our office for guidance.

Free Trade Agreements

Canada currently holds free trade agreements with several countries. The IMP is the part of Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that honors them. It manages the entry of business people under those programs. Most of Canada’s free trade agreements came into being before the IMP existed. NAFTA, for example, came into being in 1994.

Current Canadian Free Trade Agreements in Force

Trade AgreementCountries involvedDate enforced
Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)Australia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam2018-12-30
Canada- Ukraine Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA)Ukraine2017-08-01
Canada-European Union: Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)European Union2017-09-21
Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement (CKFTA)Korea2015-01-01
Canada-Honduras Free Trade AgreementHonduras2014-10-01
Canada-Panama Free Trade AgreementPanama2013-04-01
Canada-Jordan Free Trade AgreementJordan2012-12-01
Canada-Colombia Free Trade AgreementColombia2011-08-15
Canada-European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Free Trade AgreementEuropean Free Trade Association (EFTA): Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland2009-07-01
Canada-Peru Free Trade AgreementPeru2009-08-01
Canada-Costa Rica Free Trade AgreementCosta Rica2002-11-01
Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA)Israel1997-01-01
Canada-Chile Free Trade AgreementChile1997-07-05
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)Mexico, Unites States of America1994-01-01

Those entering the country and working under the umbrella of Free Trade Agreements are referred to as Business People. Free Trade Agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), recently renegotiated to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (CUSMA), allow citizens of the US, Canada and Mexico gain access to each other’s countries for short periods for the purposes of work or investments. Employers can hire foreign nationals of any countries in the trade agreement without specific government approval. Positions between trade agreement countries are assumed to be beneficial to the overall economy and culture of each other.

Traders and investors entering Canada under NAFTA must apply for a work permit and meet necessary requirements of NAFTA. Traders/investors or their company must come with a large investment to the Canadian branch of the business. Applicants under this category must be an essential part of planning, building or managing the business.

General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)

The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) is a program implemented to accommodate business people coming into Canada. It applies to applicants from more than 140 of the countries in the World Trade Organization (WTO). This program covers business visitors, professionals and intra-company transferees. GATS simplifies the process of entering and working in Canada for these groups. For business visitors by eliminating the need for a work permit. For business people, GATS eliminates the need of an LMIA. This makes the process of working in Canada simpler and cheaper.

International Experience Program

Canada has participated in youth mobility agreements since 1956International Experience Canada (IEC) is a program for international youth to experience work and travel within Canada. The applicants’ country of origin must be a participant of the program. This program has 3 categories:

  • Working Holiday
  • Young Professionals
  • International Co-op (internship).

Participating Countries

BelgiumHong KongNew ZealandTaiwan
Costa RicaItalyPolandUnited Kingdom
Czech RepublicRepublic of KoreaSan Marino
DenmarkRepublic of LatviaSlovakia

The working holiday category allows applicants to apply without a job offer. Applicants can apply for an open work permit. This gives them the freedom to work with multiple employers in more than one location. 86% of permits approved from IEC are from this category.

Young Professionals must already have a job offer when applying. The Offer must contribute to their professional development. The position must also add to the improvement of the global economy. Applicants in this category must have an offer at the time of application. There is no option to later work for other employers or in other locations within Canada in this stream. Please note that you cannot be self-employed in this category.

The International co-op (internship) stream accepts students who already have a job offer for school credit. This means that post-secondary students will receive school credit for completing the internship position. Job offers must be directly linked to the applicant’s field of study.

Applying Under International Experience Canada

This stream is unique because the applicants must first receive an invitation to apply before they can begin the application. This feature helps determine your eligibility before you begin the application process. Potential applicants can refer to the Government of Canada website and complete the Come to Canada Questionnaire to receive a personal reference code. Creating an Immigration Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) account online, applicants can use the personal code to submit the Apply to Come to Canada application. Approved parties will receive an invitation to apply via the IRCC account. There is a limit of 10 days to begin the application. Once it is begun, the applicant has 20 days to complete it. At this stage employers must pay the $250 employer compliance fee if applicable. All supporting documents and biometrics can be submitted through the online portal. According to the Government of Canada website, applications can take roughly 56 days. Please refer to overview below, available on the Government of Canada website.

Immigration officers are able to request financial information at any time during the application process. You must be able to prove you have some sort of financial support during the time you will be in Canada. Approved applicants can be turned away at a port of entry due to lack of funds or financial support. Remember, as mentioned above, approval under the IEC grants authorization to work or intern in Canada but does not guarantee entry. To enter you must always meet the visa or eTA requirements applicable.

Noteapplicants must also carefully observe the work permit that was issued to them. Some permits will specify that they do not authorize re-entry. This means if the applicant leaves Canada expecting to return before their permit expires, they will not be permitted to re-enter the country.

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International Mobility Program Process

Applicants are encouraged to review Temporary Foreign Work Permit and International Mobility Program guidelines to determine their appropriate stream. Foreign nationals can review section 186 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR). If your position is not part of the list but is still considered work, you must check if an LMIA is required. Work is activity for which the applicant will be paid. Work does not include the following:

– volunteer work

– helping a friend or family member

– working for yourself

If an LMIA is not required, the employer must complete an LMIA-exempt offer of employment and pay the employer compliance fee to the IRCC. This must be completed before an applicant begins their application process.

If you are applying for an unrestricted work permit, you will need an exemption code. Once you submit the code, the offer of employment will be reviewed in the system. The genuineness of the offer must be assessed. The list of employers who have been non-compliant will also be cross-referenced. There must be confidence that the employer has provided acceptable working conditions in the past. Applicants can review the government-made list of non-compliant employers based on compliance inspections. The processing officer can reject the application if they have concerns about anything that happened in the past 6 years.

Basic Applicant Requirements

At this stage the application process will focus on the applicant. You can be barred from entering Canada for any reason at any point in the application process. Candidates can be inadmissible for criminal reasons or misrepresentation. If medical or criminal history might affect your application, you still have other options. Some of these barriers can be overcome in some cases. We recommend an assessment of your personal case by a Canadian Immigration professional. The help of an authorized representative such as an RCIC or Canadian lawyer can be beneficial to any applicant. An experienced representative can help any applicant to navigate the forms and process. The application process has many forms, requirements and also exceptions. For example, applicants from visa-exempt countries do not need to apply for a visa with the work permit. But if you are applying from a visa-exempt country you do need an Electronic Travel Authorization- described below. Another applicant for a similar work permit who is not from a visa-exempt country will require a second application for a visa, unless for one of the visa-exempt positions listed above.  An experienced professional can help you navigate the specifics of your unique case.

Applicants who do not need a visitor’s visa have the option of applying for a work permit from a port-of-entry i.e., airport. This is an added advantage, especially for applicants with time constraints. However, an application like this must be very well-prepared. All required and relevant documents must be presented to the Immigration Officer. We recommend consulting an RCIC or Canadian lawyer to determine if this is an option for you and how to best approach it. 

NoteCanadian employers can benefit from an RCIC as much as any foreign national professional. Employers attempting to hire a foreign national need to be a part of the process. An experienced professional can offer advice and save time for the employer, especially if hiring multiple people with different backgrounds.

 Anyone entering Canada under the IMP can intend to later apply for Permanent Residence status, but the officer must be confident that the applicant will return to their home country after the completion of the temporary work stint in Canada. The border officer must be fully convinced that the applicants’ connection to their home country is stronger than their connection to Canada.

Note: Failing to meet this requirement at the port of entry is one of the most common reasons why applicants get denied.

Proof of Home Country Connections

·         Financial Statements·         Family Connections
·         Proof of Assets·         Community commitments
·         Business Obligations·         Commitments in the home country
·         Future Obligations·         School/ Education commitments


The officer must also confirm if the applicant meets the requirements of the job offer. Even though the employer may have already done this. For example, if the position is a professional one requiring academic qualifications, border officers will be checking the applicant’s academic history to make sure they are qualified. The applicant must also meet all language, medical etc. requirements. If the application is approved, a letter of invitation will be sent. This letter should be brought to the port of entry upon arrival but does not guarantee entry into Canada.

Remember, getting an approved application under the IMP doesn’t mean you have permission to enter Canada yet. Receiving a permit means that you are allowed to work in Canada. Getting approval to enter Canada can sometimes be a complete other process.

If you receive a temporary work permit you will also need to meet the requirements for entry into Canada as well. This may not be required for countries that have current free trade agreements with Canada (see list above). Many approved applications for temporary work will have Visitor Visas or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) automatically issued with the permit. An eTA is an electronic link to your passport that some travelers to Canada from visa-exempt countries might need. It allows you to fly to or through Canada.  This is a requirement for those travelling to Canada by air from visa-exempt countries except for the United States. The application is available online. A valid passport is needed to obtain an eTA.

Visa-Exempt Countries

AndorraFalkland IslandsDenmarkJapanPapua New GuineaSwitzerland
AustraliaGibraltarEstoniaRepublic of KoreaPolandTaiwan
AustriaMontserratFinlandLatviaPortugalUnited Arab Emirates
BahamasPitcairn IslandFranceLiechtensteinRomaniaUnited States
BelgiumSaint HelenaGermanyLithuaniaSamoaVatican City State
British citizensTurks and CaicosGreeceLuxembourgSan Marino
British Nationals (overseas)Brunei DarussalamHong KongMaltaSingapore
British overseas citizensBulgariaHungaryMexicoSlovakia
BermudaCroatiaIrelandNetherlandsSolomon Islands
British Virgin IslandsCyprusIsrael (national Israeli passport)New ZealandSpain
Cayman IslandsCzech RepublicItalyNorwaySweden

Reminder: Even with an approved work permit, valid passport and eTA, everyone entering Canada must pass the Border check screening at the ports of entry. Border officers have complete discretion even if applicants have already been approved.

Note: The process of applying for a work permit or visa can become very difficult for many applicants. The steps and requirements will vary, depending on the type of permits requested.

Rejected Applications

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What can applicants do if their application is refused?

All rejected applicants will receive a letter explaining the reasons for the decision. If your application has been refused you are not out of options. You can always reapply. If you have evidence or documentation that can refute the reason you were rejected, you can re-apply with this information. Sometimes the circumstances that caused the refusal can change i.e., saving funds after being rejected for not having sufficient assets or finances. In cases like these, the simplest route is to apply again, showing the Immigration Officer that your circumstances have changed. 

Challenging a Refusal:

If you have reason to believe that there was an issue with the decision of your application, you can contest it. The Federal Court of Canada can review applications that may have been unfairly rejected. Before you request a judicial review, consult with a Canadian lawyer. The lawyer can review the case and determine if a review is appropriate. This process is costly and comes with time constraints. There is a lot to consider before going down this path. Also, a judicial review does not guarantee that the Visa Officer will be found at fault. It does not guarantee that the rejection will be reversed. If the Federal Court finds fault with the refusal, your case is re-assessed by a different visa officer. This visa officer will make a decision on your case based on their own independent assessment.

Note: When applying for a judicial review you do not have the option to submit new evidence. The Federal Court of Canada will only review the decision of the visa officer based on the documents and information that the officer had at the time. If you have new information to provide, it might better suit you to reapply.

International Mobility Worker Unit

Applicants and their potential employers under the IMP have a unique advantage called the International Mobility Worker Unit (IMWU). This is a network of professionals who can provide advice during the application process. They can advise if the foreign national will need a LMIA and/or if they need a work permit at all. The applicant must be from a visa-exempt country and living outside of Canada. The request for information must be submitted 30 days before the foreign national arrives in Canada. Border services will take the IMWU opinion into account. The Toronto IMWU services all provinces west of Ontario. The Montreal IMWU services the provinces east of Quebec.


IRCC offers a Document Checklist on the Government of Canada website for each application category. Applicants can use it to ensure that they are sending a complete application.

 The following documents must be completed, signed and dated with each application:

  • Application for Work Permit made Outside of Canada (IMM 1295)
  • The Family Information form, Statutory Declaration of Common-law Union (IMM 5409)
  • Use of a Representative (IMM 5476) must also be completed, signed and dated if applicable.

 Biometric Documents Required:

  • Photocopy of Information page of Passport
  • 2 identical photos of applicant
  • Proof of current immigration status, if applicable

 Applicants must provide proof that they meet the requirements for the position being offered. This includes degrees, diplomas or records of employment. The document requirements for your specific category should be thoroughly reviewed prior to submission of your IMP application.


Canada allows eligible family members to come with the applicant. Those who qualify are spouses, common-law partners or dependent children. Spouses or common-law partners who intend to work in Canada must apply for their own work permit. They will often qualify for an open work permit which is not restrictive by employer or location. Children are permitted to enroll in school with a study permit. Proof of family relationship will be required in some cases and these applications can be processed together. Children are able to apply for a study permit after arrival, though not all children will require one.

Processing Time

The Global Skills Strategy (GSS) program allows IMP applicants to begin working faster. Most applications that do not need an LMIA are eligible for two-week processing.

General GSS Requirements:

  • Applicants must be outside of Canada at the time of applying
  • Position must be managerial or professional (doctors, dentists, etc.)
  • Employer must have already submitted the offer of employment and compliance fee

Those applying for IEC are not eligible. Family members applying with the main applicant are eligible for the two-week processing. Incomplete applications or those requiring further questions, reviews or information will take longer.

The Government of Canada estimates the processing times for applications that do not qualify for GSS. Applications submitted outside of Canada can take approximately 10 weeks. Applications submitted within Canada will take an estimated 85 days. The applications can take much longer or shorter; this is simply an estimate. Processing times also depend on where the applicant is applying from. The nature of the position, and the standing of the employer will also affect this.

Summary of Processing Time Estimates:

Applications submitted within Canada

85 days

Applications Submitted Outside of Canada

10 weeks

GSS Program

2 weeks



The Canadian government has instituted several changes in order to better regulate employers of foreign nationals under temporary work permits. As you now know, in 2014, the Canadian government split Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) into two different programs, the TFWP and the International Mobility Program (IMP). The TFWP requires an LMIA, the IMP does not. In the 2014 restructuring, more stringent requirements have been introduced to both programs. Employers of applicants to the IMP must now submit information even though an LMIA is not needed. As of February 2015, all employment information including offer of employment must be sent directly to the IRCC. This requirement is one of the many regulatory changes the Canadian government has put in place to deter and eliminate the exploitation and abuse of foreign workers by Canadian employers.

A $230 CDN compliance fee was also introduced in February 2015 for most employers hiring foreign nationals under the IMP. This fee supports the increased employer inspections and the new employer compliance regime. The employer must submit this fee before the foreign national submits their application. Otherwise, the application will be refused. If an application is denied or cancelled by the parties involved, the fee can be returned to the employer. Increased inspections of employer compliance were introduced in 2015. Employers are required by law to provide an adequately safe environment for employers. Work environments must be free of physical, mental, abuse. An inspection can be done anytime from the foreign nationals first day of work up until six years after. The employer is required to attend the inspection to answer questions and provide any necessary documents. The Inspecting officer can request any documents including proof that employer has registered for private health insurance for the temporary worker and workplace safety insurance. The inspecting officer has the right to photograph or make any audio or video recordings of anything they see on sight. Investigating officers do not need permission to do such. They are able to keep photocopies of any paperwork found on-site or inspect any area of their choosing. Part of the reason for these inspections is to make sure that the actual work position and environment are similar to the offer of employment. These are an attempt to avoid employers taking advantage of unknowing foreign nationals.

Non-Compliant Employers

As of December 2015, there are more punishments placed on non-compliant employers. Warning letters are generally sent first. These will follow the inspection and notify the employer of the issues and possible penalties. Employers have the right to reply with explanations to defend themselves. Employers are being inspected against the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations. Employer has 30 days to respond and can request a 30-day extension. Fines of any amount can be applied. Employers can even be banned from hiring temporary foreign workers. The federal government also has the right to publicize the employers’ non-compliance. These employers get added to a public list of non-compliant employers. The concern here is to maintain an honest standard for the quality of the temporary foreign worker program. The employers’ job offers must be genuine and similar to what was originally told to the applicant.

If you have already received a job offer in Canada, we recommend that you check if the employer is on the non-compliant list. If your potential employer is on the list it likely means they have been banned from hiring foreign nationals, at least temporarily. They may be attempting to hire illegally. Compliance of employers in the IMP, is monitored by Citizenship and Immigration Canada according to IRPR guidelines.


The International Mobility Program is a simpler system of allowing foreign nationals who are valuable to the Canadian economy, and culture as a whole, authorization to work in the country. The Canadian government allows those who qualify under the IMP guidelines to receive a temporary work permit. These are given to people who can be beneficial to the Canadian financial system and way of life overall. Again, be reminded that some of those approved for a temporary work permit may also be required to apply for a visa. Approval of a temporary work permit does not guarantee entry into Canada. As shown above, the IMP is growing in Canada. Many foreign nationals are benefitting from the Canadian economy and society while also contributing. For further info about the IMP or for assistance with your own application process, contact us at Cohen Brosh Law Offices. We would be happy to help you.

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