The North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”) allows citizens of the USA and Mexico to obtain certain Canadian work permits without a Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”).  Besides NAFTA, Canada has negotiated similar provisions under free trade agreements with Chile, Peru, Columbia, Panama, and Korea.

The main NAFTA categories are:


American or Mexican citizens with the required educational credentials and pre-arranged employment in Canada may qualify for a NAFTA Professional work permit. These work permits can be processed fairly quickly, and can be valid for up to 3 years at a time. Some of the qualifying professions include Management Consultants, Accountants, Computer Systems Analysts, Graphic Designers, Engineers, Pharmacists, Scientists and more.


This is one of the most useful, but least used, NAFTA categories. Americans and Mexicans who have made, or are in the process of making, a “substantial investment” in a business in Canada may obtain a work permit to develop or direct the business. Though the investment must be “substantial”, there is no specified minimum; we have used this for everything from consulting businesses to golf course developments.

We take clients through the process of identifying or refining their business concept, researching and preparing their business plan, then preparing the NAFTA Investor application to clearly set out the economic benefits that the proposed business will create. If an interview is required, we will also prepare our clients as to what to expect.


Similar to the NAFTA Investor category, American or Mexican citizens who are engaged in “substantial trade” in goods and services between Canada, the USA and Mexico may obtain a work permit to develop and direct the Canadian business. We review our client’s business history to assess the likelihood of success under this category, prepare a Business Plan, then prepare the NAFTA Trader application and supporting documentation.

Intra-company Transferees

Intra-company Transferees are those who wish to transfer from their American or Mexican employer to work at a Canadian affiliate. Applicants must have worked:

  • with an affiliate of the Canadian company in the USA or Mexico for at least one year in the past three years; and
  • in a position that was executive,  senior managerial, or required specialized knowledge.

Approved applicants under this NAFTA stream will obtain a work permit.

Business Visitors

Business visitors who meet specified criteria do not even require a work permit at all under NAFTA. In general,

  • they would be coming to Canada for short periods of time;
  • there is no attempt to enter the Canadian labour market;
  • their activities would be international in scope;
  • their primary source of remuneration would be outside of Canada;
  • the employer’s principal place of business is outside of Canada.