Understanding the new NAFTA: the CUSMA

Written by Milagros Melendez

On July 1, 2020, the CUSMA (Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement) came into effect, this being the first day of the third month after the ratification by the last member country, in this case Canada, with it having already been ratified first by Mexico and then by the United States.

Also known as the United States – Mexico – Canada Agreement or USMCA, or the new NAFTA or NAFTA 2.0, it comes to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created in 1994 and which regulates almost 500 million people living in North America. The treaty only affects citizens of these three countries and not permanent residents or other individuals within the territory.

The new NAFTA agreement leaves the provisions for work visas intact. The preservation of the visa program is important for workers in more than 60 professional categories and for employers across the continent, who will continue to have access to labor from all three countries.

The treaty facilitates temporary entry for business to citizens of the signatory countries involved in the trade of goods or services, or in investment activities, eliminating the need for a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) for all persons covered by the Agreement, as well as the need for a work permit for business visitors. Finally, it allows a more agile and shorter process for professionals and those transferred within a company. An application can be submitted at the port of entry (POE).

Business persons included in Chapter 16 of the NAFTA are grouped under four categories:

  • business visitors;
  • professionals;
  • intra-company transfers;
  • traders and investors.

Professionals in these categories who wish to come to Canada must meet the following requirements:

  • citizenship of the U.S. or Mexico;
  • profession identified in Appendix 1603.D.1 (a list of over 60 occupations, which is the mechanism by which selected professionals can enter Canada to provide their services);
  • qualification to work in that profession (degree or certification in a related educational program);
  • pre-arranged employment with a Canadian employer;
  • provision of professional level services in the field of qualification as indicated in the Appendix;
  • compliance with existing immigration requirements for temporary entry.

The Prime Minister has stated that he considers the entry into force of the agreement beneficial and hopes that it will be part of the post-COVID-19 recovery. Likewise, he indicated that during the negotiation process all the provinces were consulted, for which he is sure will be of benefit not only for industries but for all Canadians.

For any additional questions, we invite you to contact our professionals in immigration.

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