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NAFTA Work Permits

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a trilateral trade agreement negotiated between Canada, the United States, and Mexico in 1994. NAFTA provides unique opportunities for citizens of the United States and Mexico to work in Canada. Those foreign nationals covered by NAFTA provisions may be eligible to work in Canada without the requirement for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) or, in some cases, a work permit.

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Important Update

As of September 30th, 2018, Canada, the United States, and Mexico, reached a tentative deal for a new trade agreement: the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). If adopted by lawmakers this agreement will replace NAFTA. As per the current draft of the agreement, this will maintain identical provisions for business visitors and workers travelling between the countries as are outlined in NAFTA.

NAFTA establishes five situations wherein an American or Mexican citizen may be eligible for some sort of facilitated access to Canadian work authorization:

Did you know?

In order to be eligible for LMIA or work permit exemptions under NAFTA, a person must be a citizen of Canada, the United States, or Mexico. Permanent residents of these countries are not eligible for NAFTAs temporary resident benefits.

NAFTA Professionals

The NAFTA Professionals provision provides the opportunity for professional workers to apply for a Canadian work permit without the need for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). In order to be eligible under this provision, the worker must have work experience in one of the NAFTA Professionals List of Occupations and have an offer of employment to practice the profession with an employer in Canada.

Program Requirements – NAFTA Professionals

In order to qualify for the LMIA-exemption under the NAFTA Professionals provision, a person must be a citizen of either the United States or Mexico. As well, the person must meet NAFTAs definition of professional, meaning they must be qualified in one of the NAFTA Professional Occupations. Professionals must demonstrate the qualification to work in their profession, either by virtue of a degree or certification and evidence of pre-arranged employment with a Canadian employer.

Application Procedure – NAFTA Professionals

Those wishing to apply for a work permit as a NAFTA professional may do so in one of three ways:

  • At a Canadian Port of Entry (POE)
  • At a Canadian visa office prior to entry to Canada
  • If the person is already inside Canada as a temporary resident, they may apply from within the country.

In order to do apply for a work permit as a NAFTA professional, a person must provide the following required documents:

  • Proof of American or Mexican citizenship
  • Confirmation of pre-arranged employment in Canada
  • Proof of Canadian employment indicating the profession of the employment
  • Credentials demonstrating their qualifications in their intended profession in Canada

Did you know?

Work permits issued to NAFTA professionals may be issued for a maximum duration of three years. Professionals are eligible to apply for extensions of up to three years, with no limit on the number of extensions.

NAFTA Intra-Company Transfers

Under NAFTA, in some circumstances, a citizen of the United States or Mexico may transfer from within their enterprise to an enterprise located in Canada. In transfering to the Canadian enterprise, the employee will be exempt from needing a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), though they will be required to apply for a Canadian work permit. In order to qualify for this program, both the employee and the enterprise must meet certain requirements.

Program Requirements – NAFTA Intra-Company Transfers

In order to qualify for an LMIA-exemption under the NAFTA Intra-Company Transfers category, a person must be a citizen of either the United States or Mexico. The person must be seeking Canadian employment in an executive capacity, a managerial capacity, or in a position requiring specialized knowledge. The person must demonstrate that they have held continuous employment in a similar position for a period of at least one-year (full-time) prior to the date of the work permit application.

In order to be eligible for the NAFTA Intra-Company Transfer LMIA-exemption, the enterprises conducting the intra-company transfer must demonstrate a qualified relationship. Qualifying categories of relationships between enterprises include parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate relationships.  

Application Procedure – NAFTA Intra-Company Transfers

Those wishing to apply for a work permit as a NAFTA intra-company transferee may do so in one of three ways:

  • At a Canadian Port of Entry (POE)
  • At a Canadian visa office prior to entry to Canada
  • If the person is already inside Canada as a temporary resident, they may apply from within the country.

In order to do apply for a work permit as a NAFTA intra-company transferee, a person must provide the following required documents:

  • Proof of American or Mexican citizenship
  • Confirmation of current employment by an enterprise outside of Canada
  • Proof of one-year of full-time employment completed within the three years prior to the application date
  • Proof the Canadian position meets criteria as executive capacity, managerial capacity, or requiring specialized knowledge
  • Outline of the position in Canada
  • Intended duration of stay in Canada
  • Description of the relationship between the enterprise Canada and the American or Mexican enterprise

Work permits for NAFTA intra-company transferees may be issued for a maximum duration of three years. Intra-company transferees may apply for extensions of up to two years.

NAFTA Investors

Under NAFTA, some American and Mexican investors are eligible to apply for a Canadian work permit without the need for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). In order to qualify for this LMIA-exemption, an investor must have committed, or is intending to commit, to investing a substantial amount of capital in Canada. As well, the investor’s enterprise must be American or Mexican in terms of nationality.

Program Requirements – NAFTA Investors

In order to qualify for an LMIA-exemption under the NAFTA Investors category, a person must be a citizen of either the United States or Mexico and their enterprise must be American or Mexican in terms of nationality. It should be noted that the nationality of an enterprise is indicated by ownership rather than location of incorporation. As well, the investor must demonstrate that they have made, or are making, significant investment of capital in Canada.

If the applicant is an employee of the enterprise, their position must be in an executive capacity, a supervisory capacity, or require essential skills.

Application Procedure – NAFTA Investors

Those wishing to apply for a work permit as a NAFTA investor should submit applications in advance to a Canadian visa office. While regulations do allow a person to apply for a work permit at a Canadian Port of Entry (POE), due to the complex nature of this type of application it is strongly recommended that applicants submit in advance to a visa office.

In order to do apply for a work permit as a NAFTA investor, a person must provide the following required documents:

  • Proof of American or Mexican citizenship
  • Proof of enterprise nationality as either American or Mexican
  • Evidence of investment: financial evidence indicating prior or present possession and control of funds or other capital assets invested in Canada.

Work permits for NAFTA investors may be issued for a maximum duration of one year. Investors may apply for extensions of up to two years.

NAFTA Traders

Under NAFTA, some American and Mexican traders are eligible to apply for a Canadian work permit without the need for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). In order to qualify for this LMIA-exemption, a trader must demonstrate their involvement in the substantial trading of goods or services principally carried out between the United States or Mexico, and Canada. As well, the investor’s enterprise must be American or Mexican in terms of nationality.

Program Requirements – NAFTA Traders

In order to qualify for an LMIA-exemption under the NAFTA Traders category, a person must be a citizen of either the United States or Mexico and their enterprise must be American or Mexican in terms of nationality. It should be noted that the nationality of an enterprise is indicated by ownership rather than location of incorporation. As well, the trader must demonstrate their involvement in substantial trading in goods or services. This trading must be carried out principally between the United States or Mexico, and Canada.

The applicant’s position must be in an executive capacity, a supervisory capacity, or require essential skills.

Application Procedure – NAFTA Traders

Those wishing to apply for a work permit as a NAFTA trader should submit applications in advance to a Canadian visa office. While regulations do allow a person to apply for a work permit at a Canadian Port of Entry (POE), due to the complex nature of this type of application it is strongly recommended that applicants submit in advance to a visa office.

In order to do apply for a work permit as a NAFTA trader, a person must provide the following required documents:

  • Proof of American or Mexican citizenship
  • Proof of enterprise nationality as either American or Mexican
  • Evidence of participating in substantial trade of goods or services, principally with Canada
  • Proof position meets the requirements of being executive capacity, supervisory capacity, or requiring essential skills.

Work permits for NAFTA traders may be issued for a maximum duration of one year. Traders may apply for extensions of up to two years.

NAFTA Business Visitors

Under NAFTA, some American and Mexican businesspeople are eligible to enter Canada to temporarily engage in international business activities without requiring a Canadian work permit nor a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). In order to be eligible as a business visitor, a person must be carrying out business activities which are international in scope. The business visitor must maintain that their primary source of remuneration and principal place of business is outside of Canada. The business visitor cannot have any intention to enter the Canadian labour market.

Program Requirements – NAFTA Business Visitors

In order to qualify for an LMIA-exemption and work permit exemption under the NAFTA Business Visitors category, a person must be a citizen of either the United States or Mexico. The scope of this person’s business activities must be international. This provision is highly dependent on the business visitor demonstrating that they have no intention of entering the Canadian labour market. For this reason, business visitors will be required to prove that their primary source of remuneration and principal place of business are outside of Canada.

Application Procedure – NAFTA Business Visitors

Those wishing to enter Canada as a NAFTA business visitor may only apply at a Canadian Port of Entry (POE). Business visitors will be evaluated at POEs and cannot submit applications in advance.

In order to apply to enter Canada as a NAFTA business visitor, a person must provide the following required documents:

  • Proof of American or Mexican citizenship
  • Documentation support entry for the purpose of business activities
  • Evidence that business activity is international in scope
  • Proof that primary source of remuneration is outside of Canada
  • Proof that the business location is outside of Canada

Due to the nature of activities authorizing entry as a NAFTA business visitor, entry granted to Canada is only authorized for short-term periods, unless there are extenuating circumstances.

NAFTA Professionals Occupation List

The following occupations are considered professional occupations under NAFTA. Professionals in this category who meet the additional requirements for NAFTA professionals may be eligible for LMIA-exemption to work in Canada.

Minimum Education Requirements and Alternative Credentials 
General
AccountantBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or C.P.A., C.A., C.G.A. or C.M.A.
ArchitectBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license
Computer Systems AnalystBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or PostSecondary Diploma or PostSecondary Certificate, and three years experience
Disaster Relief Insurance Claims Adjuster (claims Adjuster employed by an insurance company located in the territory of a Party, or an independent claims adjuster)Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree, and successful completion of training in the appropriate areas of insurance adjustment pertaining to disaster relief claims; or three years experience in claims adjustment and successful completion of training in the appropriate areas of insurance adjustment pertaining to disaster relief claims.
EconomistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
EngineerBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license
ForesterBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license
Graphic DesignerBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or PostSecondary Diploma or PostSecondary Certificate, and three years experience
Hotel ManagerBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree in hotel/restaurant management; or PostSecondary Diploma or PostSecondary Certificate in hotel/restaurant management, and three years experience in hotel/restaurant management
Industrial DesignerBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or PostSecondary Diploma or PostSecondary Certificate, and three years experience
Interior DesignerBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or PostSecondary Diploma or PostSecondary Certificate, and three years experience
Land SurveyorBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial/federal license
Landscape ArchitectBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Lawyer (including Notary in the Province of Quebec)LL.B., J.D., LL.L., B.C.L. or Licenciatura Degree (five years); or membership in a state/provincial bar
LibrarianM.L.S. or B.L.S. (for which another Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree was a prerequisite)
Management ConsultantBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or equivalent professional experience as established by statement or professional credential attesting to five years experience as a management consultant, or five years experience in a field of specialty related to the consulting agreement
Mathematician (including Statistician)Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Range Manager/Range ConservationalistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Research Assistant (working in a post-secondary educational institution)Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Scientific Technician/TechnologistFootnote 5Possession of (a) theoretical knowledge of any of the following disciplines: agricultural sciences, astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, forestry, geology, geophysics, meteorology or physics; and (b) the ability to solve practical problems in any of those disciplines, or the ability to apply principles of any of those disciplines to basic or applied research
Social WorkerBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Sylviculturist (including Forestry Specialist)Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Technical Publications WriterBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or PostSecondary Diploma or PostSecondary Certificate, and three years experience
Urban Planner (including Geographer)Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Vocational CounsellorBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Medical/Allied Professional
DentistD.D.S., D.M.D., Doctor en Odontologia or Doctor en Cirugia Dental; or state/provincial license
DietitianBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license
Medical Laboratory Technologist (Canada)/Medical Technologist (Mexico and the United States) Footnote 6Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years experience
NutritionistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Occupational TherapistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license
PharmacistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license
Physician (teaching or research only)M.D. or Doctor en Medicina; or state/provincial license
Physiotherapist/Physical TherapistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license
PsychologistState/provincial license; or Licenciatura Degree
Recreational TherapistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Registered NurseState/provincial license; or Licenciatura Degree
VeterinarianD.V.M., D.M.V. or Doctor en Veterinaria; or state/provincial license
Scientist
Agriculturist (including Agronomist)Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Animal BreederBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Animal ScientistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
ApiculturistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
AstronomerBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
BiochemistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
BiologistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
ChemistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Dairy ScientistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
EntomologistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
EpidemiologistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
GeneticistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
GeologistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
GeochemistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Geophysicist (including Oceanographer in Mexico and the United States)Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
HorticulturistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
MeteorologistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
PharmacologistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Physicist (including Oceanographer in Canada)Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Plant BreederBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Poultry ScientistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Soil ScientistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
ZoologistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Teacher
CollegeBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
SeminaryBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
UniversityBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

NAFTA Definition of Terms

Executive Capacity

In order to meet the definition of executive capacity, a position must meet some or all of the following criteria:

  • directs the management of the organization or a major component or function of the organization;
  • establishes the goals and policies of the organization, component, or function;
  • exercises wide latitude in discretionary decision-making; and
  • receives only general supervision or direction from higher level executives, the board of directors, or stockholders of the organization.

Managerial Capacity

In order to meet the definition of managerial capacity, a position must meet some or all of the following criteria:

 

  • manages the organization, or a department, subdivision, function, or component of the organization;
  • supervises and controls the work of other supervisory, professional, or managerial employees, or manages an essential function within the organization, or a department or subdivision of the organization;
  • has the authority to hire and fire or recommend those, as well as other, personnel actions (such as promotion and leave authorization); if no other employee is directly supervised, functions at a senior level within the organization hierarchy or with respect to the function managed; and
  • exercises discretion over the day-to-day operations of the activity or function for which the employee has the authority.

 

Specialized Knowledge

In order to meet the definition of specialized knowledge, a position must require both proprietary knowledge and advanced expertise. These are defined through NAFTA as the following:

 

  • Proprietary Knowledge: “company-specific expertise related to a company’s product or services. It implies that the company has not divulged specifications that would allow other companies to duplicate the product or service.”
  • Advanced Expertise: “specialized knowledge gained through significant (i.e. the longer the experience, the more likely the knowledge is indeed “specialized”) and recent (i.e. within the last 5 years) experience with the organization and used by the individual to contribute significantly to the employer’s productivity.”

Essential Skills

Essential skills refer to skills which are vital to the operation of an enterprise. These skills generally require an advanced level of knowledge or expertise which would not be possessed by the average skilled worker.

Supervisory Capacity

A supervisor directs, controls, and/or manages the activities of subordinate employees. Under this definition, a supervisor does not frequently engage in hands-on activities. As well, a first-line supervisor generally does not qualify in this category.

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