NAFTA Professional Workers in Canada

NOTE: This page is for US (and Mexican) citizens who want to work in Canada. If you are a Canadian (or Mexican) citizen who wants to work in the US, please visit our page on TN professional workers in the United States.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – now known as the US-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement, or “USMCA” -has made it much easier for citizens of the United States and Mexico to work in Canada. Most other Canadian work permits need a “Labour Market Impact Assessment” known as a “LIMA.” This is a lengthy and expensive process. NAFTA work permits do not require an LMIA. This is the big advantage of NAFTA. If the employee qualifies for a NAFTA work permit, the application process can be completed in just a few days. Compared with other work permits, there will be minimal involvement and little cost to the employer. Fortunately, the recent changes to NAFTA have not changed the immigration provisions of NAFTA.

There are three requirements for a NAFTA work permit:

  • First, the employee must be a citizen of the United States or Mexico. Green card holders and H-1B holders do not qualify.
  • Second, the employee must have a job offer in one of the sixty NAFTA occupations. These occupations include engineers, university teachers, computer systems analysts, software engineers, accountants, architects, scientific technicians, professional nurses, management consultants, psychologists, dentists and many others. Click here for a complete list of NAFTA occupations.
  • Third, the employee must have the qualifications for the occupation specified in the NAFTA agreement. In most cases this is a bachelor’s degree in a field related to the occupation. In some occupations, such as nursing and psychology, a professional license is required.

There is now a two step application process.

  • First, the Canadian employer must submit an online “Offer of Employment.” This is done through an online portal. The Offer of Employment includes a description of the job duties, and basic information about the employee such as name and passport information. There is a fee of $230 CAD to submit the Offer of Employment. The Offer of Employment should be submitted by the Canadian business which will benefit from the worker’s services. If the worker will be paid by a party outside Canada (such as a US consulting company), the Canadian business can state that the U.S. entity will be responsible for payment and supervision of the worker. Once the Offer of Employment is submitted, the online system generates an “A Number.”
  • Next, the employee simply travels to Canada, and applies for a work permit at either a land border port of entry or at a Canadian airport. The employee presents a print-out of the “A Number,” a letter explaining the job offered, and proof of the worker’s qualifications such as copies of degrees and transcripts. A work permit is then issued. NAFTA work permits can be issued for up to three years. They can be renewed indefinitely. The fee for issuance of the work permit is $155 CAD (so total government fees add up to $385 CAD).

We can help both the employer and the employee with every step of the NAFTA application process. We will set up the online portal, and draft the Offer of Employment. We will prepare the entire application package. We will guide your through the application process.  Send us an email now for help with your case.

Another advantage of a Canadian NAFTA work permit is that the employee’s spouse or common law partner can get an open work permit to work at any job in Canada. This includes jobs that are not on the NAFTA list. This open work permit can be issued at the same time the employee applies for his or her own NAFTA work permit. The spouse or common law partner does not need a job offer to get an open work permit.

A NAFTA permit is a temporary work permit. However, NAFTA is also a great pathway to permanent residence in Canada. Permanent immigration to Canada today is based on a points-based system known as Express Entry. Applicants are ranked based on factors including education, language ability, work experience, and age. Extra points are awarded for Canadian work experience or a job offer in Canada. About every two weeks, invitations to apply for permanent residence are issued to the highest ranked candidates. It is difficult for most persons without job offers to get enough points, especially persons over 30 years of age and persons without advanced degrees. A person who has held a NAFTA job for at least one year will receive 50 extra points for having a job offer in Canada, or 200 extra points for a management level job offer. The employee will also receive 40 points for the year of Canadian work experience itself. These extra points will often ensure an invitation to apply.

While NAFTA provides simplified procedures, applications must be prepared carefully. We have handled many successful NAFTA applications.