Work Visas for Canadians Under NAFTA 2.0 (USMCA) to Remain Strong

Written by Akshata Arora on November 19, 2018. Work Visas for Canadians Under NAFTA 2.0 (USMCA) to Remain Strong in 2022 After the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was announced this past week, one of the lingering questions that Canadians had was whether or not Work Visas would be included in the new trade deal and if they would remain as strong as they are under NAFTA 1.0. As we now know, that question has been answered in the affirmative.

Work Visas for Canadians Under NAFTA 2.0 (USMCA) to Remain Strong

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will allow Canadians to live and work legally in the United States and Mexico. The new trade deal between the three nations was released and is now awaiting ratification by each nation’s legislative body before it comes into effect.

The Canada, U.S., and Mexico trade agreement, known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), was signed in late 2018 and was ratified by all three countries’ legislatures in 2019. While the USMCA deals with trade, it also sets out new rules around temporary work visas and works permit applications, some of which are already being utilized today and some that aren’t scheduled to take effect until 2022.

About Work Visas

The work visa process is more complex and time-consuming than ever before, according to Canada. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). As of May 8, 2018, there are 21 H-1B visa categories as well as other visas that allow a foreign worker or entrepreneur with special skills and talents to temporarily enter Canada for employment purposes.

Your eligibility will depend on what type of visa you’re applying for and on your country of citizenship. For example, a Canadian national seeking an L-1A Work Visa should plan ahead at least two months from their initial petition date if they want expedited processing of their application when filing Form I-129E Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker with USCIS.

About Work Visas for Canadians Under NAFTA

After President Trump officially passed a new version of NAFTA - called USMCA - work visas for Canadians under NAFTA remain strong and are here to stay as they protect Canadian jobs and trade standards going forward. According to government sources, more foreign workers will be needed in Canada over time because of the growing demand by Canadian companies who want and need skilled labor from other countries.

However, these changes are mainly focused on bringing top talent and expertise into Canada, which may not necessarily have resulted from USMCA but ultimately came about after some great negotiating by our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. This means there is still a possibility that any Canadian could get work on an E-2 visa or another type of visa to live and work long-term temporarily or permanently in North America or abroad.

Working Visa Agreement

The agreement signed by President Trump and Mexico's new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador is a breakthrough as American workers need protection from foreign competition because of globalization and technological advances. The new deal will require 75 percent of vehicle parts to be made in North America, which would mean that more jobs will be created for auto workers on both sides of the border.

This is a very big win for American autoworkers, who have been hard hit by trade with Mexico under NAFTA and displaced by robotics and technology. While wages rose significantly from 2002-2014, due to increased automation at US car factories such as Ford Motor Company's Flat Rock Assembly Plant or General Motors' Orion Assembly Center vehicles are now built faster than ever before.

Canada’s Immigration Program Favors Skilled Workers

One of Canada’s key immigration strategies is focusing on skilled workers who can contribute positively to Canadian society, including through small business creation. During Canada’s 2018 Immigration Levels Plan consultation process, many stakeholders called for a faster and more efficient way of obtaining permanent residence status, which means we could see significant changes to how Canada grants work visas in the coming years.

If you’re interested in immigrating to Canada, keep an eye out for these changes because they will likely impact you at some point. In general, though, if you have skills or experience that make you valuable as a worker or entrepreneur—or if your startup has high potential—Canada could be an excellent choice as an immigration destination under USMCA.

The Way Forward

In a press conference Tuesday morning, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland announced that Canada had reached an agreement with both its northern and southern neighbors regarding USMCA: The United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, formerly known as NAFTA.

As part of USMCA, which is due to replace NAFTA on December 1, 2018, pending approval from all three nations’ respective legislatures, Freeland said that there would be no changes made to existing visa requirements under Chapter 6 of USMCA; Canadians will still be able to travel across borders freely without worry about their citizenship status. She also confirmed that those who have Work Permits from each country can continue working in their new home without interruption even after December 1st.


The North American Free Trade Agreement is an agreement between Canada, Mexico, and United States creating a trilateral trade bloc in North America. The agreement came into force on January 1, 1994. It superseded: (1) the 1988 Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the United States, which implemented that aspect of NAFTA relating to trade in goods; and (2) all of Mexico's pre-existing bilateral agreements with both countries.

NAFTA visa types

  • NAFTA Professionals
  • NAFTA Intra-Company Transferees
  • NAFTA Investors
  • NAFTA Traders
  • NAFTA Business Visitors

1). NAFTA Professionals

If you work in a profession that falls under one of those listed as eligible occupations, you’re eligible for a pre-approved E-3 visa. An E-3 visa is granted for up to three years and can be renewed indefinitely without ever having to apply again, so long as your employment contract continues and you still meet eligibility requirements. The best part about an E-3 visa?

You don’t need to apply each time; just keep renewing it every time it expires! This makes planning easier, and knowing that there will always be a path forward opens doors by reducing uncertainty. By getting rid of these uncertainties, NAFTA professionals now have a clearer picture of what their lives will look like years down the road—something highly sought after by many job seekers today.

2). NAFTA Intra-Company Transferees

The new agreement doubles, from five years to 10 years, how long a worker can work on an intra-company transfer visa (the I Visa). In addition, workers who hold I-visas can now bring their spouses and minor children along with them—something that wasn't allowed under previous versions of NAFTA.

Workers must still have worked for at least one year out of their most recent three years with a parent, branch, or affiliate office of their employer before they are eligible; additionally, spouses must be employed outside Canada to qualify for an intra-company transfer visa.

3). NAFTA Investors

U.S.-Canada-Mexico Trade Agreement Will Create More Open Markets Across North America, Remain Beneficial to Canada and Its Citizens: The NAFTA replacement agreement, called U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA), includes provisions that will continue to allow citizens of Canada, Mexico, and all three countries under U.S.-North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) equal opportunity as investors, borrowers and lenders across North America through 2023.

4). NAFTA Traders

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), is a trade agreement with new rules for North American Free Trade Agreement countries, US, Mexico, and Canada. It will replace NAFTA when it comes into force between Canada and its U.S.-based trading partners on January 1, 2020, says Business Insider. The USMCA includes provisions that allow many people from all three nations to freely live and work anywhere within the region.

What does it mean? This means that if you are a Canadian citizen you can now benefit from strong work visa rules under the USMCA deal regardless of what Trump tweets about his problems with US immigrant visa policies as per Politico's report issued Thursday night by Roman Marusic October 4th, 2018 07:38 PM EDT.

5). NAFTA Business Visitors

The updated USMCA deal not only has positive implications for current and future trade but also for business travel. The new agreement preserves many of Canada’s existing business-visitor categories, including NAFTA Professionals and Intra-Company Transferees who may qualify under one of five options or any combination thereof.

As was the case with prior versions of NAFTA, qualifying visitors can stay in Canada at most 180 days out of a given 12-month period unless they are a full-time student or are employed by an international firm with offices in Canada; in those cases, stays may be as long as three years each and every time you come into Canada on business.


USMCA, or United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is a trade agreement that was made to replace NAFTA between those three countries; it focuses heavily on non-tariff barriers and reducing them. The USMCA deal only covers 35 years, which means that negotiators must meet again in 6 years, but it opens up free trade deals with a market of over 500 million people and 17 percent of global GDP.

However, USMCA also removes many clauses from NAFTA's chapter 19 (dispute resolution), which may affect future negotiations with China, which has long wanted to eliminate dispute panels entirely from international trade deals.

USMCA visa types

  • USMCA Professionals
  • USMCA Investors
  • USMCA Traders
  • USMCA Intra-Company Transfers

1). The USMCA Professionals

The USMCA Professionals category is a popular category for eligible U.S. and Mexican citizens with the requisite education and experience to work in Canada. The eligible occupations list includes a broad range of professions.

USMCA professionals wishing to work in Canada should note the following requirements:

  • Must be a citizen of the U.S. or Mexico.Must be in a profession identified in the list above.
  • Must have a qualification to work in that profession (degree or certification in a related educational program).
  • Must have pre-arranged employment with an employer in Canada.
  • Must have the provision of professional-level services in the field of qualification.

2). USMCA Investors

Eligible USMCA investors must demonstrate that they have made a substantial investment in a new or existing Canadian business and that they will develop and direct the Canadian business. Investors must also demonstrate that they have a controlling stake in the company. Several factors are taken into consideration when determining whether an investor is eligible, such as their title, their place within the company’s hierarchy, their job duties, and more. USMCA investors generally don’t take part in the company’s hands-on activities.

In order to be considered eligible, the following requirements must be met:

  • The investor must have either U.S. or Mexican citizenship.
  • The company must have U.S. or Mexican citizenship nationality (a majority of the company must be owned by persons of U.S. or Mexican citizenship).
  • The substantial investment must have already been made, or is actively being made, in Canada. In order for the investment to be considered “substantial”, it must be weighed against the total value of the business, or the amount normally required in establishing a venture of that nature.
  • The investor is seeking entry into Canada for the sole reason of developing and directing the business.
  • If the investor is also an employee of the company, his or her role must be executive or supervisory or involve essential skills.

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3). USMCA Traders

A USMCA trader maybe someone who has the intention and ability to engage in ‘substantial trade’ of goods or services. Substantial trade in this instance means that more than 50 percent of the company’s international trade is done between Canada and the U.S. or Mexico.

This can either be determined through the value of the transactions, or the volume being traded. Numerous transactions, although each may be small in value, might establish the requisite continuing course of international trade.

In order to be considered eligible, the following requirements must be met:

  • The applicant has U.S. or Mexican citizenship.
  • The employing enterprise has a majority of U.S. or Mexican nationality.
  • The activities involve substantial trade in goods or services.
  • The trade is principally between either the U.S. or Mexico and Canada.
  • The position is supervisory or executive or involves essential skills.

4). USMCA Intra-Company Transfers

Eligible persons from countries around the world may be able to obtain a work permit under Canada’s Intra-Company Transfer program. Work permits issued under the USMCA Intra-Company Transfer category may be issued for an initial entry of up to three years. Individuals authorized to enter Canada as a USMCA intra-company transferee to open an office or to be employed in a new office are typically issued an initial work permit for a maximum period of one year.

Much like the regular Intra-Company Transfer program (to which any eligible person from any country may apply), the USMCA Intra-Company Transfer category is segmented into three categories of workers:

  • Executives primarily direct the management of the enterprise, or a major component thereof, and receives only general (if any) supervision from higher-level executives.
  • Senior managers manage all or part of the enterprise and supervise or control the work of other managers or professional employees.
  • Workers with ‘specialized knowledge’ can demonstrate specialized knowledge of the enterprise’s product or service, or an advanced level of expertise in the enterprise’s processes and procedures.


Transition to Permanent Residence

For many temporary workers, getting a work visa is an important step on their path to permanent residence—and possibly Canadian citizenship one day down the road. Under current immigration rules, most foreign workers need a job offer from a Canadian employer before they can apply for a work visa or immigrate permanently.

Work visas remain as strong as ever under USMCA, though employers may need to be more careful about how they source workers from countries that have greater access under previous immigration agreements (such as Mexico). You’ll still need a job offer in hand if you hope to move here and secure your future with a new business or start-up idea.

Visas for Canadian and Mexican NAFTA Professional Workers

Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created special economic and trade relationships for the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Select NAFTA to visit the Office of the United States Trade Representative website and learn more.

The nonimmigrant NAFTA Professional (TN) visa allows citizens of Canada and Mexico, as NAFTA professionals, to work in the United States in prearranged business activities for U.S. or foreign employers. Permanent residents of Canada and Mexico are not able to apply for TN visas to work as NAFTA professionals. Select TN NAFTA Professionals on the USCIS website to learn more about TN nonimmigrant status. Continue Reading


After examining all relevant factors, it is clear that work visas and Canadian immigration are not likely to change dramatically under NAFTA 2.0 (USMCA). The new agreement removes tariffs on agriculture and automobile manufacturing, but those sectors have relatively little impact on immigration trends in North America.

So there’s little direct or indirect impact on Canadian work visas or immigration overall as a result of these changes. However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any changes over time.