US-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement (USMCA)


On November 30, 2018, the United States and Mexico and Canada signed the new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (USMCA) which replaces the previous North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Fortunately, the provisions under the former NAFTA have been not been changed and remain the same. The USMCA is very important for the movement of cross-border personnel for Canadian, American, and Mexican citizens.

The following categories are available for the citizens of Canada, US and Mexico:

1. BUSINESS VISITORS

2. PROFESSIONALS

3. INTRA-COMPANY TRANSFEREES

4. TRADERS AND INVESTORS

1. BUSINESS VISITORS

Canadian Immigration Regulations allow a foreign national entry as a business visitor if they are seeking to engage in international business activities in Canada without directly entering the Canadian labour market. However, the Permanent Residents of either country are not eligible under the USMCA. They would need to seek entry as a business visitor under section 187 of IRPR.

A business person (citizen of Mexico or USA) can enter Canada without a work permit provided they are seeking to engage in a business activity set out in Appendix 1603.A.1 of USMCA which includes:

• Research and design

• Growth, Manufacture and Production

• Marketing

• Sales

• Distribution

• After Sales Services*

• General Services

• Commercial Transactions

• Public Relations and Advertising

• Tourism

• Tour Bus Operation

• Translation

The Business Person must satisfy that that their employer in the US or Mexico have provided them a letter their activity is listed in Appendix 1603.A.1, the activity is international in scope and not seeking to enter the Canadian labour market.

2. PROFESSIONALS

The easiest way for professional is to obtain a work, However, it is important to recognize that when applying for any work permit under the USMCA, IRCC requires that employers pre-register the job offer in IRCC’s online Employer Portal before the professional can apply for the work permit at the port of entry.

There is no need to obtain a Canadian Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) before applying for a work permit. The professionals can apply directly at the port of entry just like a traditional business visitor if they are able to provide the required documents

The minimum requirements for this work permit include  Proof of citizenship, profession as listed in in Appendix 1603.D.1 of the USMCA, qualification to work in that profession, pre-arranged employment with a Canadian employer and  Provision of professional level services.

There should be an employee-employer relationship with a Canadian enterprise. The professional should have a full time position with physically relocating to Canada. The work permit is usually issued from one to three years with an option to extend it with no caps.

A contract between the professional and a Canadian enterprise

This is your traditional “contract for service” where a Canadian company contracts with a self-employed professional to provide a defined scope of services with a set end date. These independent contractor situations are very common when a Canadian company needs to engage a US or Mexican professional to complete a specific project, or provide a professional service.

3. INTRA-COMPANY TRANSFEREES

This option is for a US or Mexican company that has a subsidiary, branch, or affiliate relationship with a Canadian company. The added advantage under USMCA is the list of eligible transferees is expanded to any employee that is currently working at an Executive or Senior Managerial level or in a position involving “specialized knowledge.” However, the renewals for ICT work permits are capped at 5 years for specialized knowledge personnel and 7 years for executive and senior managerial level employees.

The minimum requirements for this work permit include:

• citizenship of the US or Mexico;

• employment in an executive or managerial capacity or one involving specialized knowledge;

• transferring from a related company (parent, subsidiary, affiliate, or branch); and

• employment for at least one full year in the previous three-year period.

Because of the significant advantages of the USMCA ICT work permit, many companies in the US and Mexico actually choose to incorporate a subsidiary in Canada to help facilitate the movement of personnel into Canada.

4. TRADERS AND INVESTORS

These work permit options are extremely technical and require a significant amount of background information including business plans, detailed financials and a host of other supporting documentation. However, in some cases, the USMCA Trader and Investor work permits are the only option available.

In order to qualify for a USMCA Trader work permit, the following requirements apply:

• applicant has American or Mexican citizenship;

• employing enterprise has American or Mexican nationality;

• activities involve substantial trade in goods or services;

• trade is principally between either the U.S. or Mexico and Canada; and

• position is supervisory or executive, or involves essential skills