Working in Canada under the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement

Vimal Sivakumar
Published: October 11, 2022

In 2020, the Canadian government replaced NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) with the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA).

CUSMA was enacted to further develop and reinforce strong economic ties between Canada and the two countries with which it shares a continent. Through CUSMA, some American and Mexican citizens can obtain a Canadian work permit.

Essential facts about working in Canada through CUSMA

  • Work permits through CUSMA typically do not require a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)
  • CUSMA work permits applications can be processed directly at any Port of Entry or a visa office

Schedule a Free Work Permit Consultation with the Cohen Immigration Law Firm

Below is a breakdown of the four different CUSMA categories that enable some American and Mexican nationals to work in Canada.

CUSMA Professionals

The first way that citizens of both the United States and Mexico can work in Canada is under the category of “CUSMA Professionals”. People who qualify as CUSMA Professionals must be equipped to work in Canada in one of approximately 60 targeted occupations.

A few examples of occupations that fall under this category include:

  • Accountants
  • Architects
  • Dentists
  • Graphic Designers
  • Nutritionists
  • Social Workers

CUSMA Professionals are required to have “pre-arranged employment in Canada, or a service contract with a Canadian company, in an occupation that corresponds to their professional qualifications.

It is vital to note that individuals applying for CUSMA work permits under this category may also be required to provide education credentials and proof of work experience depending on their targeted occupation.

CUSMA Intra-Company Transfers

The next category of CUSMA work permits is for individuals who are being temporarily transferred to work for the Canadian branch, subsidiary or affiliate of their US or Mexican employer.

Below are three key requirements to obtain a work permit as a “CUSMA Intra-Company Transfer”:

  • Applicants must be presently employed at the Mexican or American company in question
  • Applicants must have continuously worked a minimum of one year (out of the last three) in a comparable position to the one they will be occupying in Canada
  • The nature of the applicant’s work in Canada must be deemed “managerial, executive, or involving specialized knowledge” for the individual to be eligible under this category

CUSMA Traders

The third category through which Americans or Mexicans can obtain a work permit in Canada is as a “CUSMA Trader”. To be eligible for a work permit under this category, individuals must prove that they are entering Canada with the intention of carrying out “substantial trade” between Canada and their home country (either the United States or Mexico).

Note: Substantial trade takes place when “more than 50% of the trade [occurs] between Canada and one of the other countries”, as calculated based on either the volume or value of the goods/services being exchanged by the Trader’s employer.

Additionally, the company employing the incoming CUSMA Trader must be of Mexican or American nationality and have an existing trade relationship with Canada. This means that individuals entering Canada in this category cannot do so for the purpose of establishing such a trading relationship.

Finally, the incoming Trader must be employed either be employed as a supervisor or executive or display that their job includes duties that involve essential skills.

CUSMA Investors

The final option for entering Canada on a work permit through this agreement is as a “CUSMA Investor”. A CUSMA Investor is someone who has made a sizeable investment in a new or existing business within Canada and is attempting to enter the country to develop and direct that business.

In order to determine whether a prospective CUSMA Investor will be developing and directing a business, it must first be clear that they have a controlling stake in the company.

Additionally, anyone looking to come to Canada under this category must demonstrate that they are coming to Canada to direct, control and guide employees rather than partake in hands-on work. This can be demonstrated through any of following three methods:

  • The individual’s job title
  • Proof of the individual’s place within the company’s hierarchy
  • A description of the individual's specific job duties

Finally, essential staff members of the CUSMA Investor may also be granted work permits under this category.

Schedule a Free Work Permit Consultation with the Cohen Immigration Law Firm

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