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Business, Commercial and Corporate

Immigration under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement

  • Christopher Jackson
By Christopher Jackson Partner
For over a year, Canada, the United States, and Mexico have been negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), all while under threat from the Trump administration to terminate it all together.

Just recently it appeared that Canada would be left out of a new agreement between the United States and Mexico, however, late in the evening on September 30th all sides reached a deal on a new agreement entitled the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

The new USMCA, which must still be approved by the legislatures in each country and the pundits and analysts are still sifting through the details to determine what the changes will mean for Canada’s dairy farmers and our auto industry. However, at least one thing that will remain the same will be the provisions permitting temporary entry for certain business persons.

Under NAFTA certain persons from Canada, the United States and Mexico are eligible for visas under a streamlined process to facilitate “temporary entry on a reciprocal basis” to each country.1 The three main categories of persons eligible for facilitated visas under NAFTA are Business Visitors, Traders and Investors, and Intra-Company Transferees.2

The facilitated entry for these individuals means easier access to foreign markets for Canadian businesses, for example, being able to provide on site after sales service to US or Mexican businesses or fulfill contractual obligations in those countries. For businesses with offices or affiliates in both Canada, the United States, or Mexico this also means greater ease of transferring employees with specialized knowledge from an office in one country to another.

The facilitated visa process also benefits certain markets and industries in each country as well, and not just individual businesses. For example, Canadian nurses quite frequently work in the United States as a result of the immigration provisions under NAFTA, providing health care services in areas where access to health care professionals is more difficult.3

Therefore, it is good news for Canadians and Canadian businesses that the full text of the USMCA released on Sunday appears to have retained the provisions governing business immigration under NAFTA. Persons falling into the three categories discussed above will still be able to apply for visas under the same criteria under similar temporary entry provisions4 and as a result Canadians will continue to be able to benefit from facilitated access to the United States and Mexican labour markets and Canadian businesses will continue to be able fill specific needs with individuals from those labour markets.

Should you have any questions regarding the visa process under new USMCA please do not hesitate to contact us.

1North American Free Trade Agreement, Article 1601