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What Treaty Agreements Allow Me to Come to Canada?

Are you a business person who is from a country that has a treaty agreement with Canada? If the answer is YES, you may be eligible to enter Canada temporarily under one of the following agreements.

If the answer is “Maybe” or “I don’t know” then you definitely need to read further.

There are many treaties that can allow foreign nationals to come to Canada. Each treaty has its own intricate application process and eligibility requirements. This article will give a brief overview of treaty agreements with Canada and will briefly examine the popular treaty agreements that businesspersons use to access Canada.

Treaty Agreements allow for foreign nationals to come to Canada on a temporary work permit. International Free Trade Agreements contain provisions around temporary entry to Canada for businesspeople as part of the worker mobility provisions.

This type of work permit allows you to visit and enter Canada without needing a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to conduct business activities. The process of getting a LMIA is very lengthy, challenging at the best of times, and not something that would be the first option for proceeding forward. Being exempt from a LMIA is a huge benefit to these programs. This allows you to come to Canada much quicker than a lot of other temporary immigration programs.

If you are eligible under a free trade agreement, you will generally need a work permit (there are some exceptions for work that does not require a work permit, but this is a general rule). A work permit can be granted for up to a year and can be extended at a later date, but this varies between agreements. This type of permit can also lead to permanent residency if the person should wish to stay in Canada permanently and eventually apply for Canadian Citizenship.

The Canada-US-Mexico-Agreement (CUSMA)

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was established to strengthen ties and promote business between Canada, the United States, and Mexico. The new Canada-US-Mexico-Agreement (CUSMA) supersedes NAFTA and came into effect in July 2020. However, the temporary entry process or businesspersons remains unchanged. Work Permits provisions were put in place to allow for the easy facilitation of business professionals looking to enter Canada to conduct business without the lengthy process of a LMIA while at the same time allows for an easier way to conduct cross-border business.

To be eligible for this program, you must be a citizen of the United States or Mexico. The US does not include citizens of Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and the US Virgin Islands. The US does include citizens of the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, however, NAFTA and CUSMA recognize four categories of businesspersons: business visitors, professionals, intra-company transferees, and traders/investors.

Keep in mind that the coverage under CUSMA is restricted to only citizens of the United States or Mexico. Individuals who are permanent residents of either country do not have access to facilitated entry into Canada, so you must have a passport from one of these countries to be able to access the provisions under this agreement. However, they do have access through other temporary foreign worker programs or another trade agreement where your country is a party to, but we will speak more on that later.

This agreement also does not facilitate permanent admission into Canada. “Temporary entry” is defined as “entry without the intent to establish permanent residence.” Upon arrival at a port-of-entry, you will be granted a work permit for a period of up to 12 months. If your business activity is for a period of greater than a year, you will need to renew your work permit before it expires. An officer must be satisfied that your intent to stay in Canada is temporary.

Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement (FTA)

The provisions of the Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement are similar to the basic provisions of NAFTA. The main differences are in the recognized categories, business visitors, and professionals. In terms of business visitors, activities were removed to reflect the agreement between Canada and Chile, including harvester owners and transportation operators. In terms of professionals, Chilean minimum education requirements and alternative credentials were added to the basic requirements in NAFTA to reflect the specific educational system in Chile.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement (FTA)

This agreement is modeled after NAFTA’s agreement for temporary entry for businesspersons, but there are some differences. The Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement includes permanent residents, not only citizens like NAFTA. Proof of PR status is an accepted document for the application. There are also many additions to a business visitor in comparison to NAFTA. In terms of intra-company transferees, the Canada-Peru FTA states the transferee must be employed continuously for six months, unlike NAFTA where the transferee must be employed for one year. The Canada-Peru FTA also includes a new category for intra-company transferees – management trainee on professional development. In this agreement, professionals are listed in a ‘negative list’, which means all professionals who meet a general definition are covered. Technicians are listed in a ‘positive list’, meaning only technicians on the list are covered.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA)

The Canada-Columbia Free Trade Agreement is very similar to the Canada-Peru FTA. The main difference between the two agreements is what country the applicant is from, but more importantly, the Canada-Columbia FTA includes open work permits to spouses. This agreement allows spouses of traders and investors, intra-company transferees, and professionals and technicians to have a spousal open work permit.

Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA)

The Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement has the same main provisions as NAFTA, but there are differences in the two categories of businesspersons – business visitors and professionals. The Canada-Korea FTA also facilitates work permits for spouses of all business persons’ categories. In terms of business visitors, some activities were removed, such as harvest owners and customs brokers, to reflect the specifics of the Canada-Korea FTA. In terms of professionals, this agreement recognizes two different types of professionals – contract service suppliers and independent professionals.

A contract service supplier is an employee of a Korean company, and that Korean company is contracted to provide services to a Canadian company. The employee, then, seeks temporary entry into Canada to fulfill the obligations of that pre-arranged contract. An independent professional is a self-employed Korean professional who seeks entry in Canada to provide services to a Canadian company under the terms of a pre-arranged contract.

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)

The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement allows entry for certain business people who are citizens of the European Union to enter Canada to work, without the requirement of a LMIA. This agreement considers three categories of visitors to enter Canada for business purposes: key personnel (including intracompany transferees and investors), contractual service suppliers and independent professionals, and short-term business visitors.

There are limits to how long CETA work permits may be extended. Intracompany transferees may be extended for up to 18 months, and graduate trainees may not receive any extensions. Work permits for contractual service supplies, independent professions, and engineering and scientific technologists may be extended for up to 12 months. Investor permits are eligible for extensions up to the discretion of the officer.

General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)

The temporary entry of businesspersons under the General Agreement on Trade in Services can be facilitated without the need for a LIMA. GATS is a treaty of the World Trade Organization (WTO). All members of the WTO are parties to GATS. WTO has 164 countries that are members. GATS recognizes three categories of businesspersons: business visitors, intra-company transferees, and professionals. The applicant must: be a citizen of a member nation; be seeking entry to Canada according to an employment contract; have their academic and professional qualifications assessed before they can be granted entry. There is an extensive list of criteria that has to be met to enter Canada under this treaty agreement.

There are unique rules for the entry of professionals under GATS. Professionals need to meet certain minimum educational requirements, alternative credentials, and other licensing requirements.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Agreement (FTA)

The Canada-Panama Free Trade Agreement has similar temporary entry provisions to NAFTA, but only business visitors and professionals are currently sought after. This agreement facilitates temporary entry to Canada without the need of a LMIA. Canada-Panama FTA allows temporary entry for permanent residents and citizens of Panama. All applicants must provide proof of permanent residence or citizenship in support of their application.

Professionals, under the Canada-Panama FTA, can stay in Canada for the shortest of the following:

  • Up to three years
  • For the duration of their contract
  • Until the expiry of their travel document

Extensions may be issued in increments of up to three years with no limits on the number of extensions issued. However, the officer must be satisfied that the intent of stay is still temporary.

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

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership allows temporary entry to Canada for certain businesspersons who hold citizenship in CPTPP countries. These countries include Australia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, and Vietnam. The CPTPP also holds a LMIA exemption. CPTPP allows temporary entry into Canada for four categories of business persons: business visitors; investors; intra-corporate transferees; and professionals and technicians. If the applicant has a valid visa or electronic travel authorization, they may apply at a Canadian port of entry.

A benefit of the CPTPP is that, depending on the citizenship of the principal applicant, their spouse may also be allowed to work in Canada. This does not include business visitors. The spouse’s length of stay should be the same length of stay as the businessperson they are accompanying, and this includes work permit extensions. 

A Final Word

The worker mobility provisions are great options to facilitate the movement of people around the globe in a worker capacity and are always the best method to proceed with, should you qualify under this category. Hopefully, you now have a better idea about some other lesser-known options out there that may help you make your way to Canada.

Should you have any questions about whether or not you can immigrate to Canada through a treaty agreement or are ready to dive into getting a Second passport to Canada, feel free to reach out to us and we will surely get you started to understand the options that are available to you!

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