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The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) allows accelerated entry of business visitors, professionals, intra-company transferees and traders-investors from the United States and Mexico to Canada. 

All qualified applicants for the NAFTA Work Permit Canada are exempt from the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). This represents a significant time saving for both applicants and Canadian employers.  

Who Can Apply for NAFTA Visa Canada?

Only citizens of the United States and Mexico can apply to work under NAFTA in Canada. Permanent residents of these countries are not covered. The agreement specifies four general categories of eligible applicants.

  • business visitors;
  • professionals;
  • intra-company transferees;
  • traders and investors.

For the purpose of hiring a foreign national from the United States and Mexico, the relevant categories are: Professionals and Intra-Company Transferees.

Professionals - Work Under NAFTA in Canada

NAFTA defines ‘Professionals’ as persons who intend to work in Canada to provide pre-arranged professionals services. 

The nature of their professional engagement in Canada can be either as salaried employees of a Canadian business, through a contract between the professional and the Canadian employer, or through a contract between the American or Mexican employer of the person and a Canadian business. 

A professional can be employed by more than one employer. However, self-employment is not permitted under this category.

Professions Covered by NAFTA

The NAFTA Job list, also known as Appendix 1603.D.1 of NAFTA, includes more than 60 occupations. 

Although the list is not open to interpretation, immigration officers accept different titles for the same occupation as long as the duties are the same. This can be confirmed by referring to the National Occupational Classification (NOC).

Qualifications - NAFTA Work Permit Canada

Only persons who are qualified to perform the duties of the occupation will be able to obtain the Canadian NAFTA work permit. The qualification may include educational credentials and/or work experience. The minimum requirements are listed next to the occupation title in the agreement’s appendix

Importantly, applicants in occupations, that require Canadian certification, must obtain it prior to starting work in Canada.   

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How to Get a NAFTA Work Permit Canada

All applicants who want to work under NAFTA in Canada as professionals must meet the below requirements.

General Requirements

The foreign national must:

  • be a citizen of the United States or Mexico;
  • hold a profession that is identified in Appendix 1603.D.1;
  • meet the qualification to work in that profession (degree or certification in a related educational program);
  • have a pre-arranged employment with a Canadian employer;
  • intend to provide professional level services in the field of qualification; and
  • comply with existing immigration requirements for temporary entry.
  •  

Documentation

An applicant for the Professional NAFTA Visa must provide the following documentation:

  • a proof of American or Mexican citizenship (e.g. Passport, Birth Certificate, etc.);
  • an evidence of pre-arranged employment in the form of:
    • a signed contract with a Canadian business, or
    • a written employment offer from a Canadian employer, or
    • a letter from the American or Mexican employer on whose behalf the service will be provided to the Canadian business;
  • documents which contains the following information:
    • the proposed employer in Canada;
    • the profession for which entry is sought;
    • details of the position (title, duties, duration of employment, arrangements as to payment; and
    • the educational qualifications or alternative credentials required for the position; and
    • evidence that the person has at least the Minimum Education Requirements and Alternative Credentials listed in Appendix 1603.D.1 (copies of degrees, diplomas, professional licenses, accreditation or registration, etc).

Where to Apply - NAFTA Visa Canada

Under the NAFTA Visa Canada system, the application for a work permit for professionals may be made at a Canadian Port-of-Entry (i.e. land crossings, harbour or airport). In other words, a United States or Mexican national may apply with all the supporting documentation on arrival to Canada. This speeds up the process and goes hand-in-hand with the spirit of the agreement, which is the promotion of cross boarder trade and cooperation.

Foreign applicants may also choose to apply at a Canadian visa office in the United States or Mexico before departing for Canada. Applications can be mailed or submitted online.

NAFTA Visa for US Citizens Working in Canada

The citizens of the United States or Mexico who have been authorized to enter Canada as temporary residents (e.g. visitors or workers) may apply to change their status to a NAFTA professional from within Canada as per [R199] of IRPR. In other words, they do not need to leave Canada to obtain a new NAFTA Work Permit Canada.

NAFTA Work Permit Processing Time

Canadian Port-of-Entry (i.e. land crossing, airport, harbour)

NAFTA Work Permit Canada – that is processed at the Port-of-Entry, with all the supporting documentation, will be completed at the time of submission.

Visa Office Abroad

If the foreign national chooses to apply in advance through a visa office in the United States or Mexico, the processing times are based on the standard processing times for work permits at the respective office. Click here to verify the current processing time.

Validity of NAFTA Work Permit Canada

Qualified professionals can be issued an initial work permit of up to three years. Subsequent renewals may be granted again for up to three years and there is no limit on the number of extensions as long as the person meets the requirements for professionals.

NAFTA Job List - Appendix 1603.d.1 – Professions Covered by NAFTA

Occupation

Minimum education requirements and alternative credentials

Accountant

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or C.P.A., C.A., C.G.A. or C.M.A.

Architect

accalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial licence. (“State/provincial licence” and “state/provincial/federal licence” mean any document issued by a state, provincial or federal government, as the case may be, or under its authority, but not by a local government, that permits a person to engage in a regulated activity or profession.)

Computer Systems Analyst

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary 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

Economist

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Engineer

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial licence

Forester

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial licence

Graphic Designer

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years experience

Hotel Manager (See note for further details.)

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree in hotel/restaurant management; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate in hotel/restaurant management, and three years experience in hotel/restaurant management

*This provision refers to a management position to which other managers report, e.g., general manager, director. It also refers to specialty managers, e.g., food and beverage managers, convention services managers within a hotel.

Industrial Designer

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years experience

Interior Designer

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years experience

Land Surveyor

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial/ federal licence

Landscape Architect

Baccalaureate 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

Librarian

M.L.S. or B.L.S. (for which another Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree was a prerequisite)

A librarian must have either:

  1. a Master of Library Science degree; or
  2. a Bachelor of Library Science and another baccalaureate degree which was necessary to enter the B.L.S. program.

Management Consultant

Baccalaureate 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 and Actuary)

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
An actuary must satisfy the necessary requirements to be recognized as an actuary by a professional actuarial association or society operating the territory of at least one of the Parties

Range Manager/Range Conservationalist

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Research assistant (working in a post-secondary educational institution)

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Scientific Technician/ Technologist

Possession 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
A business person in this category must be seeking temporary entry to work in direct support of professionals in agricultural sciences, astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, forestry, geology, geophysics, meteorology or physics.

Social Worker

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Sylviculturist (including Forestry Specialist)

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Technical Publications Writer

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years experience

Urban Planner (including Geographer)

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years experience

Vocational Counsellor

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years experience

Medical/Allied Professional

Dentist

D.D.S., D.M.D., Doctor en Odontologia or Doctor en Cirugia Dental; or state/provincial license

Dietitian

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license

Medical Laboratory Technologist (Canada)/ Medical Technologist (Mexico and the U.S.)

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years experience

*A business person in this category must be seeking temporary entry to perform in a laboratory chemical, biological, hematological, immunologic, microscopic or bacteriological tests and analyses for diagnosis, treatment or prevention of disease.

Nutritionist

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Occupational Therapist

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license

Pharmacist

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license

Physician (teaching or research only)

M.D. or Doctor en Medicina; or state/provincial license

*Physicians may not enter for the purpose of providing direct patient care. Patient care incidental to teaching and/or research is permissible.

Physician (teaching or research only)

M.D. or Doctor en Medicina; or state/provincial license

*Physicians may not enter for the purpose of providing direct patient care. Patient care incidental to teaching and/or research is permissible.

Physiotherapist/Physical Therapist

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license

Psychologist

State/provincial license; or Licenciatura Degree

Recreational Therapist

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Registered Nurse

State/provincial license; or Licenciatura Degree

*To be authorized to enter Canada as a registered nurse, a licence issued by the province of destination is necessary.

Veterinarian

D.V.M., D.M.V. or Doctor en Veterinaria; or state/provincial license

Scientist

Agriculturist (including Agronomist), Animal Breeder, Animal Scientist, Apiculturist, Astronomer, Biochemist, Biologist (including Plant Pathologist), Chemist, Dairy Scientist, Entomologist, Epidemiologist, Geneticist, Geologist, Geochemist, Geophysicist, Horticulturist, Meteorologist, Pharmacologist, Physicist (including Oceanographer in Canada), Plant Breeder, Poultry Scientist, Soil Scientist, Zoologist

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Teacher

College

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Seminary

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

University

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Intra-Company Transferees - Work Under NAFTA in Canada

Apart from professionals, NAFTA allows hiring of foreign nationals as Intra-Company Transferees. 

In order to qualify, foreign nationals must be 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 a Canadian enterprise to provide services in the same capacity. 

The Canadian entity must be a parent, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate of the American or Mexican company.

How to Get a NAFTA Work Permit Canada

All applicants who want to work under NAFTA in Canada as intra-company transferees must meet the below requirements.

General Requirements

The foreign national must:

  • be a citizen of the United States or Mexico;
  • be seeking employment in an executive or managerial position or one involving “specialized knowledge”;
  • be transferring to a company that has a qualifying relationship with the enterprise in which he or she is currently employed;
  • be employed by an enterprise in the United States or Mexico, which have a parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate relationship with an enterprise in Canada;
  • be enegaged in a continuous employment, in a similar position outside Canada, for at least one year (full-time) in the previous three-year period from the date of initial application; and
  • comply with existing immigration requirements for temporary entry.

Documentation

An applicant for the Intra-Company Transferee NAFTA Visa must provide the following documentation:

  • a proof of American or Mexican citizenship (e.g. Passport, Birth Certificate, etc.);
  • an evidence that the foreign national is currently employed by a business outside of Canada;
  • a confirmation that the applicant has been employed continuously outside of Canada by the business for one year (full-time) within the three-year period immediately preceding the initial date of application;
  • a written evidence of the applicant’s current position in an executive, or managerial capacity or one involving specialized knowledge, i.e., position, title, place in the organization, job description;
  • in the case of “specialized knowledge”, evidence that the person has such knowledge and that the position in Canada requires such knowledge;
  • an outline of the position in Canada, i.e., position, title, place in the organization, job description;
  • an indication of intended duration of stay; and
  • a description of the relationship between the enterprise in Canada and the enterprise in the United States or Mexico.

Note that officers may request tangible proofs to establish the relationship between the Canadian and American or Mexican enterprises.

Where to Apply - NAFTA Visa Canada

Under the NAFTA Visa Canada system, the application for a work permit for intra-company transferees may be made at a Canadian Port-of-Entry (i.e. land crossings, harbour or airport). In other words, United States or Mexican national may apply, with all the supporting documentation, on arrival to Canada.

Foreign applicants may also choose to apply at a Canadian visa office in the United States or Mexico before departing for Canada. Applications can be mailed or submitted online.

The citizens of the United States or Mexico who have been authorized to enter Canada as visitors may apply to change their status to a NAFTA Intra-Company Transferee from within Canada as per [R199] of IRPR. Therefore, applicants do not need to leave Canada to obtain a NAFTA Work Permit.

NAFTA Work Permit Processing Time

Canadian Port-of-Entry (i.e. land crossing, airport, harbour)

NAFTA Work Permit Canada – that is processed at the Port-of-Entry, with all the supporting documentation, will be completed at the time of submission.

Visa Office Abroad

If the foreign national chooses to apply in advance through a visa office in the United States or Mexico, the processing times are based on the standard processing times for work permits at the respective office. Click here to verify the current processing time.

Validity of NAFTA Work Permit Canada

Qualified intra-company transferees can be issued an initial work permit of up to three years. However, individuals permitted to enter Canada to open an office or to be employed in a new office are issued an initial permit for a maximum period of one year. Extensions can be granted for a duration of up to two years if the person continues to comply with the requirements for intra-company transferees.

The category of intra-company tranferees is the only NAFTA category that has a cap on the total length of stay. Participants in executive or managerial capacity may not exceed seven years in total. Participants in positions requiring specialized knowledge may not exceed five years in total.

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