On Oct. 30, 2016, Canada and the European Union signed the Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (CETA), which, amongst other things, will make it easier for European Union citizens to work in Canada without their employers first needing to obtain labour market impact assessments (LMIA).
CETA is only the latest free trade agreement that Canada has signed. One of the first steps that a foreign national who is interested in working in Canada should do is determine whether their home country has signed a free trade agreement with Canada. If so, they should check if the agreement encompasses their specific area of employment.
LMIA vs. free trade agreements
The main benefit of a free trade agreement encompassing one’s employment is that the person’s potential Canadian employer does not need to first obtain a positive or neutral LMIA prior to the foreign worker being able to obtain a Canadian work permit.
LMIAs can be a very cumbersome process. They generally require that an employer conduct domestic recruitment, meet prevailing wage requirements, complete numerous application forms, enter into a transition plan, and pay a $1,000 per foreign worker application fee. For many employers, obtaining LMIAs is simply too great an obstacle to employing foreign nationals in Canada.
It is much easier for employers to employ workers who are encompassed by free trade agreements. Employers must simply enter information about the proposed job offer into the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website, pay a $230 employer compliance fee and provide a written job offer to the prospective employee.
Free trade agreements
As of writing, Canada has free trade agreements that contain immigration provisions in force with the United States, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Colombia and South Korea.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a free trade agreement between the United States,Read more ›
On February 11, 2015, the Government of Canada publicized amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations that affected most applicants in the International Mobility Program (the “IMP“).
The IMP includes all streams of work permit applications that are exempt from the Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA“) process, including workers covered by free trade agreements, people participating in exchange programs like International Experience Canada (“IEC“), provincial nominees, intra-company transferees, post-graduate work permit holders, etc.
In reviewing the changes described below, it is important to understand the distinction between a closed work permit and an open work permit. A closed work permit limits a foreign worker to a particular employer. An open work permit allows the foreign worker to work for any employer.
- The changes consist of:
- Requiring that employers of prospective closed work permit holders in the IMP provide information to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC“) before their prospective employees apply for work permits;
- Requiring that employers of prospective closed work permit holders pay a $230.00 “employer compliance fee” per employee before their prospective employees apply for work permits; and
- Introducing a new $100.00 “privilege fee” on open work permit applicants.
The Government of Canada has announced that the above changes will all take effect on February 21, 2015.Read more ›
On September 26, 2014, Canada and the European Uniona agreed to adopt the The Canada-European Union: Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (“CETA“), with the goal at the time being that the agreement will take effect in 2016. While that ultimately did not happen, on October 30, 2016, Canada and the European Union signed a final version of the agreement.
Chapter 10 of CETA provides for the facilitation of the temporary entry of business persons. The European Union’s commitments are the most ambitious that the region has ever negotiated in a free trade agreement. For Canada, the CETA’s temporary 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“).
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.Read more ›
On September 22, 2014, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and South Korean President Park Geun-hye signed the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement (“CKFTA“). Chapter 12 of the CKFTA provides for the facilitation of the temporary entry of business persons. The CKFTA Final Agreement Summary notes that South Korea’s commitments are the most ambitious the country has ever negotiated in a free trade agreement. For Canada, the CKFTA’s temporary entry provisions are pretty similar to those contained in the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA“), although there are differences.
The CKFTA is significant from a Canadian immigration perspective because prospective foreign workers who are eligible for work permits under the CKFTA do not require Labour Market Impact Assessments (“LMIA“). Indeed, as the CKFTA Final Agreement Summary states:
When it comes to investing and providing services, there is no substitute for being on-site, where clients are located. Investors want to witness their investments, talk to their partners and get a feel for the local environment. Professionals, including architects, management consultants and engineers, need to contact clients on-site in order to fulfil contracts in the South Korean market.
Temporary-entry provisions in the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement address barriers that business persons face at the border, particularly by eliminating the need to obtain a labour market opinion and/or economic needs test. The Agreement will establish new preferential access to our respective markets and facilitate greater transparency and predictability for the movement of business persons between Canada and South Korea. The Agreement’s temporary-entry provisions complement commitments taken in the area of services, investment, goods and government procurement.
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,Read more ›