Working in Canada Under the “New NAFTA”

On September 30, 2018, after almost 14 months of negotiation, Canada and the United States successfully reached an agreement for Canada to join the preliminarily agreed upon pact with Mexico to update and revise the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”). The new NAFTA will be renamed the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (“USMCA”). The US, Canada and Mexico are expected to sign USMCA at the end of November 2018.

Chapter 16 of the current NAFTA governs the temporary entry of business persons into Canada. In general, chapter 16 allows employers in the US, Canada and Mexico to access professional labour from all three countries under expedited immigration programs. In the NAFTA negotiation, the three countries did not re-negotiate Chapter 16. This means the USMCA will contain the existing temporary foreign worker programs that are in NAFTA. This article summarizes the common temporary foreign worker categories for Canadian employers. Please note this is not a complete list of the temporary foreign worker categories under NAFTA and USMCA.

1. Business Visitors

Business visitors may enter Canada without the need to obtain a Canadian work permit. Business visitors engage in international business activities related to: research and design; growth, manufacture and production; marketing; sales; distribution; after-sales service; and general service. In general, these activities reflect the components of a business cycle.

For Canadian employers, the business visitor category can be used to assist employees who are citizens of the US or Mexico to enter Canada for internal meetings and/or to provide or attend intra-company trainings offered in Canada.

2. Professionals

Professionals may enter Canada on a LMIA-exempt work permit to provide pre-arranged professional services in one of approximately 60 listed occupations, including accountants, architects, computer systems analysts, engineers, graphic designers, management consultants, medical professionals, scientists, and post-secondary teachers.

3. Intra-Company Transferees

Intra-company transferees are employed by an American or Mexican enterprise in a managerial or executive capacity, or in one which involves specialized knowledge, and are being transferred to the Canadian enterprise on a temporary basis to provide services in the same capacity. There are specific requirements that both the employer and employee must meet. Intra-company transferees may obtain an LMIA-exempt work permit.

This is a brief review of some of the more common temporary foreign worker categories under NAFTA and USMCA. For further information, please do not hesitate to contact one of the lawyers in our Immigration Law Practice Group.

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