International mobility program – FTA opportunities for businessmen

In order to create the most favourable conditions for international competition for Canadian companies, Canada has concluded bilateral and multilateral agreements on foreign trade (FTA). Most of the free trade agreements that Canada has signed contain provisions to facilitate the mobility of temporary businesspeople in Canada.

In most cases, foreign workers wishing to obtain a work permit in Canada under one of the FTAs, are exempt from obtaining a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), which simplifies and facilitates the process of obtaining a work permit.

The International Mobility Program (IMP) allows foreign nationals to obtain work permit without an LMIA. Work permits issued under the IMP can be open or closed, depending on the specific program and agreement. Such work permits can be issued to several categories of entrepreneurs or self-employed persons, intra-company transferees, investors and some other categories.

The main multilateral free trade agreements Canada that fall under the IMP are:

  • Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (ex-North American Free Trade Agreement, known as NAFTA)
  • Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union and its member-states
  • Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) which includes eleven states such as Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Japan, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Vietnam, Chile and Peru.

Each of these agreements offers several simplified procedures for business visitors. In addition, to CUSMA, CETA, and CPTPP, the entry to Canada for businesspersons can be facilitated under the International Mobility Program: General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).

Finally, Canada signed several bilateral free trade agreements:

  • Canada-Korea FTA
  • Canada-Chile FTA
  • Canada-Peru FTA
  • Canada-Colombia FTA
  • Canada–Panama Free Trade Agreement

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA)

CUSMA allows citizens of Canada, the USA and Mexico to obtain quick entry into each other’s countries for temporary trade or investment reasons.

In Canada, these people do not need a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). Therefore, Canadian companies are exempt from a job offer approved by Employment and Social Development Canada to hire a Mexican or American businessperson. There are four groups of businesspeople under CUSMA:

  • CUSMA professionals
  • CUSMA intra-company transferees
  • CUSMA traders
  • CUSMA investors

CUSMA professionals

CUSMA professionals are eligible to get a work permit should they work in one of the 60 specific NOCs. CUSMA professionals may be asked to provide evidence of education and work experience in their field. They also must have a job offer.

CUSMA intra-company transferees

CUSMA intra-company transferees can obtain a work permit for a job in the Canadian branch, subsidiary, or affiliate of the American or Mexican corporation. They should get relevant work experience in the company in a similar position for at least one year within the last three years. These foreign workers can hold positions of executives, senior managers, or individuals with specialized knowledge.

CUSMA traders

A CUSMA trader must prove the intention to trade goods or services between Canada and the United States or Mexico. Substantial trade is defined as more than 50% of the trade between Canada and these countries.

CUSMA investors

A CUSMA investor must make a significant investment in a Canadian company. CUSMA allows investing both in a new or existing Canadian business. The investor must prove he has an intention to travel to Canada in order to establish, develop, and operate the business. CUSMA investor work permits can be issued both to investors personally and to employees of the investor who are considered essential personnel of the company.

Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)

CETA is very similar to CUSMA. It also allows entry to Canada for businesspeople and obtaining work permits without getting a positive LMIA decision

  • CETA Business Visitors
  • CETA Intra-company transferees
  • CETA Investors
  • CETA Contractual service suppliers and independent professionals

CETA Business Visitors

Under the CETA, Canada welcomes two categories of business visitors: visitors for investment purposes and short-term business visitors. The definition of CETA visitor for investment purposes is regarded to top manager of an enterprise. Similar to CUSMA professionals, there is a list of eligible occupations for CETA short-term business visitors. CETA Business Visitors can stay in Canada for 90 days.

CETA Intra-company transferees

The only difference in CETA Intra-company transferees from other Intra-company transferee programs is the addition of the graduate trainees’ subcategory. They are allowed to stay in Canada for up to three years and can apply for extension of another 18 months. The main reason for their transfer must be obtaining a training or career development purpose at the enterprise.

CETA Investors

CETA Investors is also similar to CUSMA. The investor must prove the intention to establish, develop, and operate the business. CETA investor work permits can be issued both to investors personally and to employees of the investor who are considered essential personnel of the company for a period of one year.

CETA Contractual service suppliers and independent professionals

CETA Contractual service suppliers and independent professionals are citizens of the European Union who are engaged in business relations with Canada for a period of 12 months.

Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)

Similarly, to CUSMA and CETA, CPTPP also includes several categories of businesspeople whose work permits are LMIA-exempt:

  • CPTPP Professionals and Technicians
  • CPTPP Business Visitors
  • CPTPP Intra-Corporate Transferees
  • CPTPP Investors

CPTPP Professionals and Technicians

Eligible foreign professionals and technicians in NOCs under skill levels 0, A, and B may temporarily fall into this category for up to one year (with an option to extension).

CPTPP Business Visitors

Business visitors under CPTPP can temporarily enter Canada without a work permit for a short-term business visit or as a service salesperson.

CPTPP Intra-Corporate Transferees

In this category, eligible employees and trainees of a Canadian parent company, branch, subsidiary or affiliated company in Canada may enter Canada on a work permit without the need for an LMIA.

CPTPP Investors

This category is for eligible businessmen from certain CPTPP countries who wish to establish, develop or manage investments in Canada, or who are currently raising significant capital in Canada.

Bilateral Free Trade Agreements

Bilateral Free Trade Agreements regulate the terms of activity for business visitors from South Korea, Panama, Chile, Peru, and Colombia. Most of them are identical to the terms of entry to Canada for Professionals, Business Visitors, Intra-Corporate Transferees, and Investors.

Are you a foreign citizen, wishing to conduct business activity in Canada? Not sure what are your rights and opportunities to legally act in Canada under a Free Trade Agreement between your country and Canada? Contact Mansouri Immigration Firm. Our years of experience will save you hours of headache. Let the professionals work on your behalf.