The Canada-European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement

On September 21, 2017 the immigration provisions of the Canada-European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (“CETA”) came into effect.

Chapter 10 of CETA facilitates the temporary entry of business persons.  The European Union’s commitments are the most ambitious that the European Union has ever negotiated in a free trade agreement.  For Canada, CETA’s temporary entry provisions contain similar ideas to those contained in the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA“), although there are very significant differences.

CETA is significant from a Canadian immigration perspective because prospective foreign workers who are eligible for work permits under CETA do not require Labour Market Impact Assessments (“LMIAs“).  This means that companies do not have to first test the Canadian labour market before hiring a foreign worker, nor do they have to commit to labour market benefits.

Any Canadian businesses seeking to hire United States or Mexican nationals will typically begin by determining whether their prospective employees are eligible for work permits under NAFTA.  When CETA takes affect, the same will be true for Canadian employers hiring citizens from the European Union.

If you are a Canadian business seeking to employ a European Union national, or you are a European national seeking to work in Canada, the following are things that you should know about CETA.

1. CETA Contractual Service Providers will not need a LMIA to work in Canada for a 12-month period every 24 months.  

Contractual service providers are people employed by a European Union enterprise that does not have an establishment in Canada and that has signed a contract to supply a service to a consumer in Canada that requires the presence on a temporary basis of the European company’s employee in Canada.  To qualify for a LMIA exemption, the contractual service supplier must:

  • be a citizen of a European Union member state;
  • be engaged in the supply of a service on a temporary basis as an employee of a European Union enterprise which has obtained a service contract in Canada;
  • have been employed by the European Union enterprise for at least the year immediately preceding the date of entry into Canada;
  • generally possess a university degree or a qualification demonstrating knowledge of an equivalent level;
  • generally possess professional qualifications where such qualifications are required to exercise an activity pursuant to the law, regulations or other requirements of Canada, where the service is supplied; and
  • possess three years of professional experience in the sector of activity that is the subject of the contract.

The CETA Professionals Contractual Services Suppliers category applies to all occupations which Canada classifies as professional or managerial in the following thirty-seven sectors:

  1. Legal advisory services in respect of international public law and foreign law (i.e. non-EU law)
  2. Accounting and bookkeeping services
  3. Taxation advisory services
  4. Architectural services and urban planning and landscape architecture services
  5. Engineering services and integrated engineering services
  6. Medical and dental services
  7. Veterinary services
  8. Midwives services
  9. Services provided by nurses, physiotherapists and paramedical personnel
  10. Computer and related services
  11. Research and development services
  12. Advertising services
  13. Market research and opinion polling
  14. Management consulting services
  15. Services related to management consulting
  16. Technical testing and analysis services
  17. Related scientific and technical consulting services
  18. Mining
  19. Maintenance and repair of vessels
  20. Maintenance and repair of rail transport equipment
  21. Maintenance and repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles, snowmobiles and road transport equipment
  22. Maintenance and repair of aircrafts and parts thereof
  23. Maintenance and repair of metal products, of (non-office) machinery, of (non-transport and non-office) equipment and of personal and household goods
  24. Translation and interpretation services
  25. Telecommunication services
  26. Postal and courier services
  27. Construction and related engineering services
  28. Site investigation work
  29. Higher education services
  30. Services Relating to Agriculture, Hunting and Forestry
  31. Environmental services
  32. Insurance and insurance related services advisory and consulting services
  33. Other financial services advisory and consulting services
  34. Transport advisory and consulting services
  35. Travel agencies and tour operators’ services
  36. Tourist guides services
  37. Manufacturing advisory and consulting services

2. CETA Independent Professionals will not need a LMIA to work in Canada for a 12-month period every 24 months. 

Independent Professionals are self-employed individuals in the European Union who have contracts in Canada.  To be eligible to work in Canada as a CETA Independent Professional, a European Union citizen must:

  • be engaged in the supply of a service on a temporary basis as a self-employed person in Canada;
  • have at least six years professional experience in the sector of activity which is the subject of the contract;
  • possess a university degree or a qualification demonstrating knowledge of an equivalent level; and
  • possess professional qualifications where this is required to exercise an activity pursuant to the law, regulations or other requirements of the Party, where the service is supplied.

The CETA Professionals Independent Professionals category applies to all occupations listed which Canada classifies as managerial or professional in the following sectors:

  1. Legal advisory services in respect of international public law and foreign law (i.e. non-EU law)
  2. Architectural services and urban planning and landscape architecture services
  3. Engineering services and integrated engineering services
  4. Computer and related services
  5. Research and development services
  6. Market research and opinion polling
  7. Management consulting services
  8. Services related to management consulting
  9. Mining
  10. Translation and interpretation services
  11. Telecommunication services
  12. Postal and courier services
  13. Higher education services
  14. Insurance related services advisory and consulting services
  15. Other financial services advisory and consulting services
  16. Transport advisory and consulting services
  17. Manufacturing advisory and consulting services

Importantly, the CETA Independent Professionals category does not include the following sectors:

  • medical and dental services
  • veterinary services
  • midwifery services
  • services provided by nurses, physiotherapists and paramedical personnel
  • higher education services

3. CETA’s Intra-Corporate Transferee provisions will allow a multi-national company to transfer Senior Personnel, Specialists and Graduate Trainees to Canada

CETA’s Intra-Corporate Transferee (“ICT”) provisions are similar to Canada existing Intra-Company Transferee provisions, with the key distinction being that Graduate Trainees qualify as ICTs under CETA.

Natural persons who have been employed by an enterprise in the European Union, or who have been partners in it for at least one year, can be transferred to a subsidiary, branch, or parent company in Canada.  To qualify, the seconded employee must also be either a Senior Personnel, a Specialist, or a Graduate Trainee.

Senior Personnel will be allowed work permits valid for the lesser of 3 years, or the length of the contract, with a possible extension of up to 18 months. To qualify, a seconded employee must:

  • work in a senior position within an enterprise and primarily direct the management of the enterprise, a department or sub-division thereof;
  • exercise wide latitude in decision making, which may include having the authority personally to recruit and dismiss or taking other personnel actions (such as promotion or leave authorisations), and (i) receive only general supervision or direction principally from higher level executives, the board of directors and/or stockholders of the business or their equivalent, or (ii) supervise and control the work of other supervisory, professional or managerial employees and exercise discretionary authority over day-to-day operations.

Specialists will be allowed work permits valid for the lesser of 3 years, or the length of the contract, with a possible extension of up to 18 months.  To qualify, a seconded employee must:

  • possess uncommon knowledge of the enterprise’s products or services and its application in international markets; or
  • possess an advanced level of expertise or knowledge of the enterprise’s processes and procedures such as its production, research equipment, techniques or management.

Graduate trainees will be allowed work permits valid for the lesser of 1 year or the length of the contract, whichever is shorter.  To qualify, aseconded employee must:

  • possess a university degree; and
  • be temporarily transferred to Canada for career development purposes, or to obtain training in business techniques or methods.

4. CETA will allow European investors to obtain LMIA exempt work permits to start their business. 

European investors who are staying for an extended period in Canada can also obtain LMIA exempt work permits.  Investors are defined as those who:

  • will establish, develop, or administer the operation of an investment in a capacity that is supervisory or executive;
  • are the investor; and
  • are employed by an enterprise that has committed or is in the process of committing a substantial amount of capital.

A CETA investor work permit will be issued for one year, with possible renewals.

5. Business Visitors will Continue to be able to Travel to Canada

Under CETA, there are two categories of business visitors: short-term business visitors and business visitors for investment purposes.  Because CETA business visitors are in some cases more narrowly defined than general business visitors under current Canadian immigration law, officers will apply whichever type of business visitor provision is broader.

Specific examples of CETA short-term business visitors include those conducting independent research and design, those conducting marketing research, those engaged in most types of international sales and purchasing, tourism personnel and translators. It is important to note that the maximum length of stay of short term business visitors under CETA shall be 90 days in any six-month period.

A business visitor for investment purposes is an employee in a managerial or specialist position who is responsible for setting up an enterprise but who does not engage in direct transactions with the general public and will not receive direct or indirect remuneration from a Canadian source.

The above is just a summary of very complex free trade agreement provisions, and we strongly recommended that prospective applicants under CETA consult the IRCC website or a professional to see whether CETA encompasses them.

More information about CETA can be found here. 


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