Working and immigrating under Canada’s Free Trade Agreements

Asheesh Moosapeta
Published: December 19, 2022

Canada has Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with over 50 countries. These relationships maintain favorable commercial conditions between Canada and fellow member nations, while removing barriers to business between them; often involving the movement of temporary business people and workers, to and from Canada.

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What are the benefits of FTAs?

FTAs allow business people from signatory nations to enter and temporarily work in Canada. These individuals do need a work permit to enter Canada—however, they will not require a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to obtain it. The LMIA is the Canadian government’s internal assessment to judge the effect of hiring a foreign worker, on the Canadian labour market; being LMIA-exempt makes the process of obtaining a work permit under an FTA program easier and faster.

These individuals will have the opportunity to work, and potentially even immigrate to Canada under permanent residence (PR). Individuals applying for PR will be able to cite their Canadian work experience in their immigration applications—experience that Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) values highly when evaluating candidates; and one of the best ways to raise one’s Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. The CRS is the primary way that candidates in the Express Entry pool are judged. The Express Entry system of programs is the main pathway the federal government uses to welcomes economic class immigrants to Canada—and encompasses the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), and the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP).

What FTAs is Canada a part of?

Among the FTAs Canada has entered into, are the:

There are multiple other FTAs as well. Citizens of these signatory nations may be eligible to obtain facilitated and expedited work permits under terms of their country’s specific agreement with Canada.

How can you apply for a work permit under an FTA program?

The process of applying through one of these FTA programs varies depending on the specific path chosen, but is generally encompassed within the regular process of applying for a temporary work permit. Normally either an employer or an employee can apply directly to these programs.

For some programs (for example CUSMA), citizens of Mexico and the United States of America do not need temporary resident visas to come to Canada, and so their applications for a work permit may be processed at the port of entry.

At the time of application, candidates will need to make clear which program they would like to apply for, that they have all the required documents, and that they are eligible for the program.

What immigration programs are workers under an FTA program eligible for?

Once workers under an FTA program have collected Canadian work experience, they become eligible for a number of PR programs, should they want to pursue PR in Canada. These include the:

Economic immigration is a huge goal for the Canadian government within the next few years, with Canada set to welcome over 431,000 new permanent residents in 2022 alone, under its economic class of immigration programs; to meet continued market and labour demand.

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