Understanding Immigration Laws Under NAFTA, USMCA

immigration, business travel, NAFTA, USMCA, US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, work permit, professionals, intra-company transferee, American, Mexican, employee

Understanding Immigration Law under NAFTA and USMCA

On November 2018, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, President Donald Trump, and former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement that replaced the NAFTA trade deal. The new NAFTA has been renamed the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (“USMCA”). If you are looking to work in Canada under NAFTA / USMCA Canadian Immigration laws, our immigration lawyers help.

Categories Of NAFTA / USMCA Business Travel

During the 15-month negotiation in 2018, USA, Canada and Mexico negotiated several things, but did not re-negotiate Chapter 16 of NAFTA. Chapter 16 of NAFTA governs the temporary entry of business persons into Canada. Chapter 16 allows employers in the USA, Canada and Mexico to access professional labour from all three countries under expedited immigration categories. Therefore, this means the new USMCA will contain the same categories and conditions set out in NAFTA.

NAFTA / USMCA Business Visitors

Business visitors may enter Canada without the need to obtain a Canadian work permit. This allows for quick, easy and inexpensive entry to Canada.

Who are Business Visitors?

Business visitors engage in international business activities. For example, these activities relate to the following: after-sales services; marketing; sales; distribution; general service; research and design; growth, manufacture and production.

Similarly, Canadian employers can use the business visitor category to assist employees or even non- employees who are citizens of the USA or Mexico to enter Canada to provide after-sale-services, deliver or attend trainings, and be present at work meetings or conferences in Canada.

Professionals Entering Canada

Certain professionals from USA and Mexico may enter Canada on a LMIA exempt work permit to provide prearranged professional services in one of the listed occupations set out in Chapter 16 of NAFTA.

Admitting Professionals Under NAFTA – USMCA Canadian Immigration

The list of professions includes, for instance, accountants, architects, computer systems analysts, economist, engineers, graphic designers, hotel managers, industrial designers, lawyers, management consultants, research assistant, scientists, health professionals and post-secondary educators. This list is not exhaustive. Allowances exist under Chapter 16 for several other professions.

Maximum Time For Work Permit Issuance & Possible Extensions

Initial work permits can be granted for a duration of up to three years. This depends on the duration of the temporary contract.

In addition, extensions may be issued in increments of up to three years with no limit on the number of extensions providing the individual continues to comply with the requirements for professionals.

It is important to note that when requesting an extension, the individual must demonstrate to immigration officers that the employment in Canada is still temporary and that he is not using the agreement as a means of circumventing normal immigration procedures.

NAFTA Intra-Company Transferees

Intra-company transferees are American or Mexican citizens employed by an American or Mexican enterprise in a managerial or executive capacity, or in apposition which involves specialized knowledge, and are being transferred to the Canadian enterprise on a temporary basis to provide services in the same capacity.

Intra-Company Transferee Requirements

There are specific requirements that both the employer and employee must meet to obtain an LMIA-exempt work permit.

  • proof of American or Mexican citizenship;
  • confirmation of current employment of the individual by the enterprise outside of Canada;
  • confirmation of continuous employment of the individual outside of Canada by the enterprise for one year. This must occur within the three-year period immediately preceding the initial date of application;
  • proof of current position in an executive, or managerial capacity or one involving specialized knowledge,
  • in the case of “specialized knowledge”, evidence that the person has such knowledge and that the position in Canada requires such knowledge; and lastly,
  • description of the relationship between the enterprise in Canada and the enterprise in the U.S. or Mexico.

Work Permit Terms And Extensions

A work permit issued at the time of entry can have a maximum duration of three years. However, a shorter allowance for individuals authorized to enter Canada to open an office or for employment in a new office exists.  In these situations, normally the initial permit carries only a maximum one year period.

Similarly, to the professional category, extensions can be granted, but unlike the professional category, the category of intra-company transferees have a “cap” imposed on the total duration of employment. The total period of stay for a person employed in an executive or managerial capacity may not exceed seven years. The total period of stay for a person employed in a position requiring specialized knowledge may not exceed five years.

NAFTA – USMCA Canadian Immigration Lawyers

If your company is considering retaining a citizen from USA or Mexico for professional services, urgently requires an individual to come to Canada to provide on site training, or is seeking to transfer an American or Mexican employee from a subsidiary or enterprise that has “qualifying” relationship with your company, please do not hesitate to contact one our office. However, immigration laws are often challenging to navigate. Our NAFTA – USMCA Canadian Immigration lawyers have the experience to handle your cross border matters. Call us from anywhere toll-free at 1-877-225-8817 (or locally in Calgary, Alberta 403-225-8810 ), or, to let us get back to you right away, email us directly here.