How to Work in Canada under the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

If you are a professional and need to gain access into Canada for business reasons you are in luck!  There is an agreement called NAFTA which allows citizens of Mexico and the U.S to enter Canada for business purposes.

[NAFTA is under revision. NAFTA will most likely turn into the USMCA (United States Mexico Canada Agreement). USMCA is expected to be approved in the beginning of 2019. Until then NAFTA will remain active and the visas under NAFTA are still available. Learn more about Canadians working under the USMCA]

Understanding the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

The goal of NAFTA is to liberalize trade between Canada, the United States, and Mexico. It works to abolish tariffs and other barriers to business conducted between the countries, which includes allowing citizens of each member country to have access to the others. In this way, business and trade can be facilitated. Only citizens of the three member countries may be qualified, and permanent residents are not included.

Working in Canada under NAFTA falls under the category of an International Mobility Program, which means those covered by NAFTA do not need an LMIA (Labour Market Impact Assessment) to get a Canadian work permit. Though workers and employers using the NAFTA program provisions are LMIA exempt, they still must comply with other rules governing Canadian temporary work permits. Additionally, if you apply under NAFTA your job offer does not need to be approved in order to be hired in Canada. Applications may be done at a Canadian Port of Entry or at a visa office, either online or on paper. For all of these reasons, applying under NAFTA can offer facilitated processing of the application.

NAFTA  applies to four different categories of business people;

Business Visitor

A business visitor is someone who enters into Canada to conduct business and isn’t directly employed in Canada. Business Visitors are usually in Canada for a very short period of time. For example, a meeting or conference. However, people here on this visa are able to stay here for up to 6 months. Please note that a business visitor does not need a visa as they are not directly working for someone in Canada.

NAFTA Professionals

To qualify as a NAFTA professional you must fall into the category of the 60 different professions that have been outlined by CIC. You must have a work permit and have already arranged employment in, once again, one of these 60 outlined professions.

Intra-Company Transferees

If you are applying as an Inter-Company Transferee you must have been working for one full year in the last 3 years for a company either in the United States of America or Mexico. You must also only be visiting Canada for work temporarily and must be affiliated in some way with the company that you are currently working for in the USA or Mexico. This position must also be executive, managerial or involve specialized knowledge. You must also have a work permit.

Traders and Investors

If you are a trader and/or investor looking to come to Canada, you must hold a substantial amount of trade in between Canada and your country of origin. A trader must prove their intent to carry out a substantial trade of goods or services. An investor must demonstrate that they have made a substantial investment in a new or existing Canadian business, and that they are entering Canada to develop this business. An staff member deemed an essential employee of the primary investor may also be granted a Canadian work visa under the provisions of NAFTA. As a trader or investor, you must once again be in an executive or managerial position, or a position that requires specialized knowledge. All other NAFTA requirements must be met, and work permit is also necessary.

Free Trade Agreements

There are also other agreements called FTA’a (Free Trade Agreements). These agreements are made between Canada and Chile as well as Canada and Peru, these agreements have many similarities to NAFTA, in order to make it easier to enter the Country for business purposes.

General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)

With this Agreement Canada has made it easier for people for foreign business people to access the Canadian Services Market. This applies to over 140 different countries. Unlike the other agreements, this agreement does not cover Traders and Investors, they do cover Business Visitors, Professionals and Intra-company Transferees.

How VisaPlace Can Help

Here at VisaPlace, we have experience working with American and Mexican citizens who would like to work in Canada under NAFTA. If think you may be qualified, what are you waiting for! Schedule a consultation or fill out our free online assessment to find out how we can best assist you.


About Fadi Minawi

Fadi primarily practices in US Immigration Law. He assists with matters relating to business immigration (including: relocation, expansion, investments, and work visas), litigation, admissibility issues, customs forfeitures and other cross-border issues. Fadi is also a criminal defense attorney and can assist with criminal matters in the US. Read more

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