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NAFTA and Alternative Options for Business Travel to Canada

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With US President Donald Trump hinting that he may withdraw his country from the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”), many are starting to consider what the effects that such a withdrawal would have on goods and services crossing North American borders.

What has not been widely reported is the expected effect on business immigration (e.g., US and/or Mexican nationals seeking temporary entry into Canada for business or investment purposes).

Chapter 16 of NAFTA currently allows citizens of the US and Mexico (i.e. who are not Canadian residents) to enter Canada as a “business visitor” for temporary business or investment purposes, and stay in Canada for up to six months – all without a “work permit”. To qualify under these business visitor provisions, a traveller must be entering Canada for the purposes of engaging in qualifying activities (which include conferences, trade-shows, conventions, and business meetings for taking orders or negotiating contracts for goods or services for certain enterprises).  (For a complete list of permissible activities, click here).

So what happens if NAFTA disappears overnight?

Some other options would still be available for business travellers needing to enter Canada temporarily.

Similar to NAFTA, section 186 of the Immigration Refugee Protection Regulations (“IRPA”) also provide a work permit exemption to business visitors, which are defined in section 187(2) as:

  1. foreign nationals purchasing Canadian goods or services for a foreign business or government, or receiving training or familiarization in respect of such goods or services;
  2. foreign nationals receiving or giving training within a Canadian parent or subsidiary of the corporation that employs them outside Canada, if any production of goods or services that results from the training is incidental; and
  3. foreign nationals representing a foreign business or government for the purpose of selling goods for that business or government, if the foreign national is not engaged in making sales to the general public in Canada.

Under section 187(3) foreign nationals who want to enter Canada as a business visitor under the IRPA may do so if:

  1. the primary source of remuneration for the business activities is outside Canada; and
  2. the principal place of business and actual place of accrual of profits remain predominately outside Canada.

A second option falls under the Canadian Government’s Global Skills Strategy, which allows business travellers to temporarily work in Canada for:

  • a short-term work assignment of 15 days (once every six months) or 30 days (once every twelve months), if their occupation is classified as skill type 0 (executive, managerial) or skill level A (professional) under the National Occupation Classification; or
  • a 120 day period (once a year), if performing research and if at the invitation of a publicly-funded degree granting Canadian post-secondary institution or affiliated research institution – obviously a much more particular limiting option.

So there is some good news for business travelers here.  Even if NAFTA were to collapse, there would still be some options available for foreign business travelers who want to do business in Canada.

Need specific advice on business immigration to Canada?  Start the process by clicking here.

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