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NAFTA Professional Work Permit

In 1992, a trilateral agreement that created a free trade partnership was negotiated between the three largest countries of North America – Canada, the United States and Mexico. This pact took effect in 1994 and became known as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

If you have any questions or require assistance with the NAFTA work permit, our team of immigration lawyers is here to help. Call us on 0333 305 9375 for immediate help & assistance with your situation. We’re here to help you in person, via the phone, or online.


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    Overview of the NAFTA Professional Work Permit

    The NAFTA professional work permit allows American and Mexican citizens to enter and live in Canada temporarily to provide professional-level services under the NAFTA agreement.

    However, they must meet some requirements and provide some documents to qualify to apply. The requirements include the following:

    • American or Mexican citizenship.
    • Educational qualifications.
    • Pre-arranged employment.

    Furthermore, they must be able to supply documents verifying that they meet these requirements. The professional occupations that are covered by NAFTA can be broadly grouped into:

    • General.
    • Medical/Allied.
    • Scientific/Research.
    • Teaching.

    Following a successful application, the applicant receives the work permit, valid for up to three years and renewable. Spouses or common-law partners who accompany NAFTA professionals are permitted to apply for open work permits and take up any job they get.

    In 2020, NAFTA was replaced with the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA). CUSMA is another term that is used. Although there were a few modifications, the requirements and procedures for obtaining a work permit remained the same.

    Lab technician

    What is a NAFTA Professional Work Permit?

    The Canadian NAFTA Professional Work Permit is an official document that allows a business person who has American or Mexican citizenship to enter Canada temporarily for approved business activities.

    These business persons or people are categorized under:

    • Business professionals.
    • Intra-company transferees.
    • Traders and investors.
    • Business visitors

    Applying for the Canadian NAFTA Work Permit as NAFTA Professionals

    NAFTA professionals are business persons who enter Canada temporarily to provide pre-arranged professional services. They do not require a Labour Market Impact Assessment to carry out their services but they require a work permit.

    They may provide professional-level services through a contract between the business person and a Canadian employer, through a contract between the American or Mexican employer of the business person and a Canadian enterprise, or as a salaried employee of a Canadian enterprise.

    If the job is not found in the list of eligible professions, applicants become ineligible. However, alternative job titles are allowed if job duties match that of one of the eligible professions.

    Self-employment is not allowed under the Professionals’ category in Canada. A person who wants to be self-employed in Canada should consider making an application under another category such as Trader or Investor.

    Requirements to enter Canada as NAFTA Professionals

    All applicants must meet the following requirements to be granted a NAFTA work permit:

    • They must prove they are of American or Mexican citizenship.
    • They must have educational qualifications (a degree or certification in a related educational program) for their profession and be engaged in business activities at a professional level in their area of qualification.
    • They must have pre-arranged employment with a Canadian employer in one of the several eligible professional occupations.
    • They must comply with Canadian immigration requirements for temporary entry.

    Benefits of a NAFTA Professional Work Permit

    The advantages of holding a Canadian work permit under NAFTA include the following:

    • Spouses or common-law partners of employees are allowed to apply for an open work permit to take up any job in Canada. If they apply, spouses and common-law partners can get the open work permit at the same time the employee is issued a NAFTA work permit, and they do not require a job offer to apply.
    • Although NAFTA work permits are temporary, they are a pathway to becoming permanent residents in Canada. This is because workers under the NAFTA business visitors can apply to the Express Entry program.
    • Applicants who apply for permanent residence are usually awarded extra points for a job offer or work experience in Canada as well as in other areas such as education, language ability, and age. A person with at least one year of experience working at a NAFTA job will be awarded 50 extra points, an additional 200 points if the person held a management-level position during the work period, and 40 points for the year of Canadian work experience.

    Documents required to enter Canada as NAFTA Professionals

    NAFTA professionals are required to present the following required documents:

    • Proof of American or Mexican citizenship.
    • Confirmation of pre-arranged employment such as an offer of employment from a Canadian employer, a signed contract with a Canadian enterprise, or a letter from an American or Mexican enterprise indicating that the applicant will provide service on its behalf to the Canadian enterprise.
    • Proof that they retained their employment outside Canada.
    • Details of the reasons for entry.
    Lady, overlooking documents

    There are steps to applying for a NAFTA Professional Work Permit:

    • The Canadian employer must submit an offer of Canadian employment indicating details of the employee such as name, passport number, and description of job duties through the online portal. Other supporting information required includes the source of remuneration for the employee and which party is responsible for the employee’s supervision.
    • Once the application fee has been paid and the application has been submitted, a number is generated which must be made available to the employee before he or she can proceed to apply for a work permit.
    • The employee will then proceed to apply for a NAFTA work permit at a Canadian Port of Entry. The employee must submit a letter showing the job details, copies of degrees or transcripts showing educational qualifications, and a printout of the generated number.
    • A work permit issuance fee applies and the work permit is issued if the employee shows substantial proof for each requirement.

    NAFTA Professional work permits can be issued for up to three years and can be renewed indefinitely. Application for a work permit can be done at the port of entry or a Canadian Visa office before going to Canada.

    Our expert immigration lawyers can assist you with your NAFTA work permit application.

    Professions and Educational Requirements

    There are more than 60 professional occupations covered by the agreement and can be grouped into categories such as Medical/Allied, General, Scientific/Research, and Teaching professional services. The following are professional occupations that are approved under NAFTA along with their accepted qualifications:

    General Professions and Minimum Education Requirements or alternative credentials

    The following are the general professions that are approved for American or Mexican citizens who intend to enter Canada as professionals under NAFTA:

    AccountantBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or C.P.A., C.A., C.G.A. or C.M.A.
    ArchitectBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial licence.
    Computer Systems AnalystBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years of work experience.
    Disaster Relief Insurance Claims AdjusterBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree, and successful completion of training in the appropriate areas of insurance adjustment pertaining to disaster relief claims; or three years of work experience in claims adjustment and successful completion of training in the appropriate areas of insurance adjustment pertaining to disaster relief claims.
    EconomistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    EngineerBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or State/Provincial licence.
    ForesterBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or State/Provincial licence.
    Graphic DesignerBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years of work experience.
    Hotel ManagerBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree in hotel/restaurant management; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate in hotel/restaurant management, and three years of work experience in hotel/restaurant management.
    Industrial DesignerBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years of work experience.
    Interior DesignerBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years of work experience.
    Land SurveyorBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or State/Provincial/ Federal licence.
    Landscape ArchitectBaccalaureate 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.
    LibrarianM.L.S. or B.L.S. (for which another Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree was a prerequisite). In addition, the librarian must have either a Master of Library Science degree or a Bachelor of Library Science and another baccalaureate degree which was necessary to enter the B.L.S. program.
    Management ConsultantBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or equivalent professional experience as established by a statement or professional credential attesting to five years of work experience as a management consultant, or five years of work experience in a field of speciality related to the consulting agreement.
    Mathematician (including statistician and Actuary)Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree. An actuary must satisfy the 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 ConservationistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    Research assistant (working in a post-secondary educational institution)Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    Scientific Technician/TechnologistPossession 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. Such business persons in this category are eligible for temporary entry to work in direct support of professionals in Agricultural Sciences, Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Engineering, Forestry, Geology, Geophysics, Meteorology or Physics.
    Social WorkerBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    Silviculturist (including Forestry Specialist)Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    Technical Publications WriterBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years of work experience.
    Urban Planner (including Geographer)Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    Vocational CounsellorBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.

    Medical/Allied Professions and Minimum Education Requirements

    The following are the medical/allied professions approved for American or Mexican citizens who intend to enter Canada as professionals under NAFTA:

    DentistD.D.S., D.M.D., Doctor en Odontologia or Doctor en Cirugia Dental; or State/Provincial license.
    DietitianBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or State/Provincial license.
    Medical Laboratory Technologist/Medical Technologist (Mexico and the US)Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years of work experience. Note that such business persons in this category are allowed to seek temporary entry to perform chemical, biological, haematological, immunologic, microscopic or bacteriological tests and analyses for diagnosis, treatment or prevention of disease in a laboratory.
    NutritionistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    Occupational TherapistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or State/Provincial license.
    PharmacistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or State/Provincial license.
    Physician (teaching or research only)M.D. or Doctor en Medicina; or State/Provincial license. Note that Physicians are not allowed to enter Canada to provide direct patient care. Patient care under teaching and/or research is permissible.
    Physiotherapist/Physical TherapistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or State/Provincial license.
    PsychologistState/provincial license; or Licenciatura Degree.
    Recreational TherapistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    Registered NurseState/provincial license; or Licenciatura Degree. Note that a licence issued by the Province of destination is necessary for a Registered Nurse to be allowed to enter Canada.
    VeterinarianD.V.M., D.M.V. or Doctor en Veterinaria; or state/provincial license.

    Science Professions and Minimum education requirements

    The following are the science/research professions approved for American or Mexican citizens who intend to enter Canada as professionals under NAFTA:

    Agriculturist (including Agronomist)Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    Animal BreederBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    Animal ScientistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    ApiculturistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    AstronomerBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    BiochemistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    Biologist (including Plant Pathologist)Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
    ChemistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    Dairy ScientistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    EntomologistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    EpidemiologistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    GeneticistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    GeologistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    GeochemistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    Geophysicist (including Oceanographer in Mexico and the US)Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    HorticulturistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    MeteorologistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    PharmacologistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    Physicist (including Oceanographer in Canada)Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    Plant BreederBaccalaureate or Licenciatura DegreePoultry Scientist – Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    Soil ScientistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    ZoologistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.

    Teaching Professions and Minimum Education Requirements

    The following are the teaching professions approved for American or Mexican citizens who intend to enter Canada as professionals under NAFTA:

    CollegeBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    SeminaryBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    UniversityBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
    Women walking in a row

    Benefits of NAFTA Professional Work Permit to University, College and Seminary Teachers

    The Canadian immigration requirements of the NAFTA ease temporary entry for American and Mexican teachers who have been offered temporary jobs at Canadian universities, colleges and seminaries. They include exchange professors, guest lecturers and visiting professors.

    Canadian, American and Mexican teachers can now obtain a work permit authorising temporary employment at a university, college, or seminary in any of the participating countries by presenting a letter from the employer describing the temporary appointment at a Port of Entry.

    Find out how we can assist with your NAFTA work permit application.

    How to Hire a Temporary Worker without a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)

    It is necessary to follow the right steps to hiring a temporary worker under the International Mobility Program, one of which is NAFTA. The steps for hiring a temporary worker under the NAFTA program are listed below.

    Application and Fee payment

    Applicants must create and fill out an offer of employment form online through the Employer portal. The offer of employment should contain details such as the foreign worker you intend to hire, job details, wages and benefits, and your business details.

    Submit the form through the Employer portal and pay the Employer Compliance fee (CAD 230), You will be given an ‘Offer of Employment’ number which you must give to the temporary worker you intend to hire. Note that you do not need to submit any form or make a payment if the temporary worker already holds an open work permit that authorises him or her to work for any Canadian employer.

    Some employers are exempt from paying a compliance fee. They include international missions or consular posts, foreign governments, owners or operators of an international bridge or tunnel, and international organisations recognized under the Foreign Missions and International Organisations Act.

    Employee Work Permit Application

    The temporary worker may then complete the process by following the steps to apply for a work permit online.

    After the application has been reviewed and approved, the applicant will receive a letter of introduction and a work permit from a Canada Border Services Agency official if they meet the requirement on arrival. If they do not, they can apply for a new work permit.

    Your temporary worker must be informed of the following:

    • They must carry the right travel or entry document such as a visitor visa or an electronic travel authorisation (eTA).
    • They must check with their government to know the requirements associated with leaving.
    • They must abide by the requirements of their work permits.

    Call us for further assistance with your NAFTA work permit application.

    How Can IAS Help?

    If you want to apply for a NAFTA professional work permit or extend your Canadian employment under the NAFTA program, our specialist advisers are here to help you and your family with our tailored immigration advice services.

    As part of our bespoke packages, you will be assigned a Canadian immigration lawyer who perfectly matches your individual and professional needs. Your lawyer will work with you to assess your goals and eligibility and guide you through your application journey, supporting you every step of the way.

    For permanent residence or NAFTA professional work permits, call 0333 305 9375 today to speak with one of our Canadian immigration lawyers to get an assessment of your eligibility and advise on the best visa program or immigration route.

    We offer immigration advice sessions as face to face appointments at all of our UK offices, or via the phone.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    NAFTA professional work permits may be extended for all categories of NAFTA. However, NAFTA Intra-company transferees have a cap on the duration of employment which is seven years for persons employed in a managerial or executive capacity and five years for persons employed in a role that involves specialised knowledge.

    Chapter 16 eases the temporary entry of citizens of Canada, the United States and Mexico into participating countries for activities such as the trade of goods and services and investment. Canadians will be afforded similar treatment when seeking entry to the United States or Mexico as NAFTA is a reciprocal agreement between participating countries.

    Chapter 16 does not replace, but supplements the existing general provisions. An American or Mexican business person seeking entry to Canada is eligible for consideration under the NAFTA requirements, as well as the general requirements for all foreign workers.

    A business person who prefers self-employment under NAFTA should apply under the Trader or Investor category. An American or Mexican citizen with self-employment outside Canada can still apply under the Professional category, given that the services to be rendered in Canada are pre-arranged with a Canadian employer

    They are not the same. Business people go to Canada to work under a free trade agreement, NAFTA for instance. Business visitors, however, are a category of business people under NAFTA who are permitted to carry out their business activities without the need for a work permit.

    Universities that wish to turn temporary workers into permanent workers must first give them permanent appointments.

    The worker may then apply for permanent residence and secure additional points for their employment and work experience. If they qualify as a skilled worker permanent resident, then a permanent residence visa will be issued.

    The NAFTA does not give applicants the option to appeal an entry refusal due to non-compliance with entry requirements. In the event of a refusal to grant entry, officers will provide reasons for the refusal.

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