What Is A Nafta Work Permit? (Introduction) 

NAFTA Professional Work Permits are available for U.S. or Mexican business persons entering Canada to provide pre-arranged professional services. The current list of eligible professional occupations under NAFTA includes over 60 professions, encompassing various fields, including engineers, accountants, lawyers, scientists, teachers, technicians, and others. 

NAFTA Work Permits are exempt from the Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), which is a requirement for most other temporary foreign worker programs in Canada. The permit is temporary, with a maximum duration of three years, and can be applied for at a Canadian visa office or port of entry. 

While application processes may vary slightly, both the U.S. and Mexico offer the same professional work permits for Canadians entering their labor markets temporarily. 

For assistance with NAFTA Professional work permit applications, you can contact our Immigration Lawyer in Canada.

Who Can Apply for NAFTA Visa Canada?

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), only citizens of Canada, Mexico, and the United States are eligible to apply for work permits in the other two countries. Permanent residents of these countries are not eligible for NAFTA work permits.

Here are four main categories of the NAFTA professional list in Canada:

Business visitors: This category NAFTA job list includes individuals entering Canada for a short period to engage in business-related activities such as attending conferences, conducting research, or providing technical assistance.

Traders and investors: This category includes individuals entering Canada to establish, develop, or manage a business enterprise in Canada.

Professionals: This category NAFTA job list includes individuals possessing specialized skills or knowledge in a particular profession who enter Canada to provide pre-arranged professional services.

Intra-company Transferees: This category NAFTA job list includes individuals who are transferred from a company’s branch or subsidiary in one NAFTA country to a branch or subsidiary in another NAFTA country.

When considering hiring a foreign national from Canada, Mexico, or the United States, employers must determine which category applies to the specific individual. For work permits, the relevant categories are professionals and intra-company transferees.

Qualifications To Get NAFTA Work Permit in Canada

To qualify for a NAFTA Work Permit in Canada, applicants must meet the education, experience, and certification requirements for their respective professions. 

These requirements are mentioned in detail in the NAFTA agreement‘s appendix.

Education: Possess the necessary educational credentials, such as a bachelor’s degree or equivalent, as specified for the specific profession.

Experience: As outlined in the appendix, have a minimum of relevant work experience in the specified profession.

Certification: For professions that require Canadian certification, applicants must obtain the necessary certification before commencing work in Canada. This may include professional licenses, registrations, or other relevant qualifications.

It is important to note that the specific requirements may vary depending on the profession list of NAFTA Work Permit in Canada. Applicants should carefully review the appendix to determine the exact qualifications needed for their occupation.

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NAFTA Work Permits Can Be Issued for the Following Professions

NAFTA defines “Professionals” as individuals who enter Canada to provide pre-arranged professional services in a qualifying occupation. These professionals can work in Canada as salaried employees through a contract between themselves and a Canadian employer or between their U.S. or Mexican employer and a Canadian employer.

A key distinction is that self-employment is not permitted under the NAFTA Professional Work Permit category. This means that professionals cannot start their businesses or freelance in Canada while holding this work permit.

Here are the employment options for NAFTA Professionals in Canada:

Salaried Employee: The most common arrangement is for professionals to work as salaried employees for Canadian employers. This provides a regular employment structure and access to Canadian labor laws and benefits.

Contractual Agreement: Professionals may enter into a contractual agreement with a Canadian employer to provide specific services for a defined period. This arrangement provides flexibility and independence but may not offer the same level of benefits as a salaried position.

Intra-Company Transfer: Professionals can be transferred from their U.S. or Mexican employer to a Canadian branch or subsidiary under the NAFTA intra-company transferee category. It allows companies to relocate their skilled workforce while maintaining their employment ties.

In all three options, professionals must maintain a pre-arranged employment arrangement with a Canadian organization. Engaging in self-employment, such as operating one’s own business or freelancing, is prohibited in the NAFTA Professional Work Permit category.

NAFTA Work Permit Processing Time

There are two main ways to apply for a NAFTA Work Permit in Canada:

At the Port of Entry: Applicants can apply for a NAFTA Work Permit directly at a Canadian port of entry, such as a land crossing, airport, or harbor. This option is used for those who need to start working in Canada immediately. The processing time at the port of entry is usually immediate, and applicants will receive their work permit on the spot if their application is approved.

At a Visa Office Abroad: Applicants can also apply for a NAFTA Work Permit in advance through a Canadian visa office located in the United States or Mexico. This option is recommended for those who have more time to prepare their application and want to avoid any potential delays at the port of entry. The processing time at a visa office typically ranges from 2 to 4 weeks.

How to Get a NAFTA Work Permit in Canada?

To be eligible for a NAFTA Work Permit in Canada as an intra-company transferee, applicants must meet the following requirements:

General Requirements:

  • Be a citizen of the United States or Mexico.
  • Hold a full-time, bona fide job offer from a Canadian employer in a position that requires specialized knowledge of executive or managerial skills.
  • Have been continuously employed by the same employer for at least one year outside of Canada in the previous three years.
  • For Intra-Company Transferee, be transferred to a Canadian company with a qualifying relationship (such as a subsidiary, branch, or affiliate) with their current employer.
  • Comply with all applicable immigration entry requirements.

Documentation Requirements:

  • Proof of citizenship (copy of passport or birth certificate)
  • Employment offer letter from the Canadian employer clearly stating the position title, salary, and start date.
  • Proof of current employment (copy of employment contract or recent pay stubs)
  • For Intra-Company Transferee, confirmation of one year of continuous employment outside Canada (letter from the current employer)
  • Details of the current position (job description, duties, responsibilities)
  • Information about the intended duration of stay in Canada (employment contract or other relevant documentation)
  • For Intra-Company Transferee, proof of qualifying relationship between the Canadian and U.S./Mexican employer (charter, articles of incorporation, or other relevant documentation)

In addition to these requirements, officers may request additional tangible proof to establish the legitimacy of the intra-company transfer. It may include documentation of business transactions, shared resources, or common management practices between Canadian and U.S./Mexican companies.

Applicants are advised to carefully review the specific requirements for intra-company transferees under the NAFTA agreement and consult with a qualified immigration attorney to ensure they meet all eligibility criteria and submit a complete and well-documented application.

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Validity of NAFTA Work Permit Canada

The validity of a NAFTA Work Permit in Canada for intra-company transferees varies depending on the circumstances.

Initial Work Permit:

  • For intra-company transferees moving to a pre-existing Canadian office, the initial work permit can be issued for up to three years.
  • For intra-company transferees entering Canada to open a new office or be employed in a newly established office, the initial work permit is limited to one year.

Extension of Work Permit:

  • Subject to maintaining eligibility, intra-company transferees can apply for extensions of their work permits.
  • Extensions can be granted for a maximum period of two years at a time.

Total Length of Stay Cap:

  • The NAFTA agreement places a cap on the total length of stay for intra-company transferees in specific categories.
  • Intra-company transferees in executive or managerial positions are limited to seven years of cumulative stay in Canada.
  • Intra-company transferees in positions requiring specialized knowledge are limited to five years of cumulative stay in Canada.
  • Once the total length of stay cap is reached, intra-company transferees must either transition to a different work permit category or return to their home country.


Chaudhary Law Office provides legal assistance and advice for Canadian immigration solutions. Whether you need a work permit visa or want to renew your Canada PR, our experienced immigration attorneys can streamline the process and tackle legal complexities.

Our skilled Canadian immigration attorneys are prepared to assist and advocate for you throughout your immigration journey. Don’t navigate the immigration process alone; let us be your trusted partner on this transformative journey.

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