How to Apply for NAFTA Work Permit

What is the NAFTA Work Permit?

The North American Free Trade Agreement came into force in 1994. One of the primary objectives of NAFTA was to eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade and investment between the North American countries of Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Since the agreement came into effect, it has helped to stabilize economic growth between its member countries.

In an effort to expedite business people’s entry into Canada under NAFTA, the NAFTA work permit was established. Business people who qualify under the NAFTA class are not required to receive a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). Citizens of Canada, the U.S., and Mexico entering Canada for temporary business or investment reasons under NAFTA are divided into 4 groups: Business Visitors, Professionals, Intra-Company Transferees, and Traders and Investors. Please see the appropriate section below to find out more information about how to apply for a NAFTA Work Permit.

Business Visitors:

Business visitors are those individuals under NAFTA who will participate in international business activities. This class does not need a work permit as they will not be considered part of the Canadian labour market. The initial validity of a NAFTA work permit for Business Visitors can be up to 6 months, but quite often they are only valid for a few days to a few weeks.


The requirements for Business Visitors who apply for a NAFTA work permit are:

Appendix 1603.A.1 outlines what business activities would qualify. These should be activities of a commercial nature such as: marketing, sales, distribution, research and design (R&D), manufacture and production, after-sales service, and general service.

Documentation Necessary to Apply

In order to apply for a NAFTA work permit as a business visitor, the following documents are needed:

Although a business visitor applying for a NAFTA work permit should not be paid in Canada, payment for the trip expenses from a Canadian source is allowed. Also, sometimes a verbal confirmation that the applicant’s place of business is outside Canada will suffice.

Many business visitors under a NAFTA work permit are in Canada to attend conferences, conventions, negotiations, or research.

After-Sales Service

There is a whole subsection referred to in Appendix 1603.A.1 for after-sales service. After-sales service involves installation, repair, and servicing of equipment or software. In general, business visitors who are performing after-sales service on equipment or are training / supervising workers qualify under the after-sales service category. However, hands-on building and construction work is not allowed under this category.

If a business visitor is seeking entry in the after-sales service category, he or she must provide documentation or demonstrate that they have “specialized knowledge”. This means that they can show they have the skill or knowledge to perform the after-sales service and are licensed by the appropriate authoritative body to do so. Furthermore, he or she needs to show that the activities being performed are covered in the relevant sales contract or warranty agreement

Remember: Business visitors can only apply for a NAFTA work permit at the border or port of entry into Canada.


Professionals need to be qualified to work in one of over 60 job titles determined by NAFTA. Professionals will be entering the Canadian labour market and therefore will need a job offer from a Canadian business in one of the pre-determined fields. The initial validity for a NAFTA work permit for Professionals can be up to 3 years.


The requirements for Business Visitors who apply for a NAFTA work permit are:

Appendix 1603.D.1 outlines the over 60 occupations that determine the Professional class under a NAFTA work permit. The job titles provided in this document are by no means exhaustive and may go under alternate titles. If a job title does not exactly match the Appendix but the duties are identical, there is room for flexibility. Appendix 1603.D.1 also mentions the minimum education requirements and credentials required for each job title, but again, there is some flexibility afforded in certain cases.

According to Appendix 1603.D.1, eligible professions under the NAFTA professionals category are:

Accountant, Architect, Computer Systems Analyst, Disaster Relief Insurance Claims Adjuster, Economist, Engineer, Forester, Graphic Designer, Hotel Manager, Industrial Designer, Interior Designer, Land Surveyor, Landscape Architect, Lawyer, Librarian, Management Consultant, Mathematician, Range Manager, Research Assistant, Scientific Technician, Social Worker, Sylviculturist, Technical Publications Writer, Urban Planner/Geographer, Vocational Counselor

Under Medical Professions:

Dentist, Dietitian, Medical Laboratory Technologist, Nutritionist, Occupational Therapist, Pharmacist, Physician, Physiotherapist, Psychologist, Recreational Therapist, Registered Nurse, Veterinarian

Under Scientist:

Agriculturist, Animal Breeder, Animal Scientist, Apiculturist, Astronomer, Biochemist, Biologist, Chemist, Dairy Scientist, Entomologist, Epidemiologist, Geneticist, Geologist, Geochemist, Geophysicist, Horticulturist, Meteorologist, Pharmacologist, Physicist, Plant Breeder, Poultry Scientist, Soil Scientist, Zoologist

Under Teacher:

College, Seminary, University

Documentation Necessary to Apply

In order to apply for a NAFTA work permit as a professional, the following documents are needed:

Self-employment is not allowed for the Professionals category. The applicant must have a pre-arranged job offer which can be: an employee of a Canadian enterprise, a contract between the professional and a Canadian enterprise, or a contract between the professional’s U.S. or Mexican employer and a Canadian enterprise.

Remember: Professionals can apply for a NAFTA work permit at either a Canadian port of entry or at a visa office before traveling to Canada. Furthermore, if a professional continues to comply with the requirements outlined in this class, extensions to the initial validity of the visa can be given.

Intra Company Transferees:

Intra-company transferees are a special class under the NAFTA work permit program that continue to work for a U.S. or Mexican company but are transferred to a Canadian office. In essence, they continue to work for the same employer in an international branch. To qualify for this class you must have worked on an ongoing basis for at least 1 in the last 3 years for the same or related U.S. or Mexican employer. The Intra-company Transferee class requires a work permit and involves work as a manager or executive with specialized knowledge.

The initial validity of an Intra-company transferee NAFTA work permit can be up to 3 years.

Requirements and Documentation Necessary to Apply

The requirements for Business Visitors who apply for a NAFTA work permit are:

In defining an Executive Capacity, generally the position involves directing or managing the whole or a division of an organization. This position would include creating company goals and policies and other key decisions. In defining a Managerial Capacity, generally the position involves supervising and managing a department. This position would include authority over day-to-day operations and the authority to reorganize, hire, and fire personnel.

In determining Specialized Knowledge, an Intra-company transferee applicant would have to be able to demonstrate both “proprietary knowledge” and “expertise”. Proprietary knowledge is loosely defined as company specific high level knowledge related to a company’s product or the services it provides. Expertise is a general term which implies that the applicant has specialized or privileged knowledge of the company’s processes, procedures, and operation in an international capacity.

Documents that could be used to provide evidence of specialized knowledge could be: resumes, reference letters, employment reference letters, lists or awards, lists of publications, degrees or certifications, etc.

Remember: Intra-company transferees can apply for a NAFTA work permit at either a Canadian port of entry or at a visa office before traveling to Canada. If an applicant continues to abide by the conditions of this class, the initial visa can be extended for additional durations of up to 2 years. However, there is a cap on these extensions. An Intra-company Transferee cannot be employed by a Canadian employer for more than 7 years total.

Traders and Investors:

Traders and investors are a specialized class of NAFTA work permit holders who are generally involved with business activities related to large amounts of trade in goods or services between Canada and either the U.S. or Mexico. This individual would most likely be working in a supervisor or executive type capacity for a company that has made a substantial investment in Canada.

Traders and investors require a work permit and can receive a visa with an initial validity of up to 1 year.

Traders - Requirements and Documentation Necessary to Apply

The requirements for Traders who apply for a NAFTA work permit are:

To verify a substantial trade in goods or services, documentation such as completed sales or copies of binding contracts will be needed to satisfy immigration officials that the main business activity in Canada will be international trading. Furthermore, a Trader applicant must show that at least 50% or more of the trade conducted by the enterprise is between Canada and either the U.S. or Mexico.

Information should be provided to immigration officers about the applicant’s position so that it may be verified that he or she is working in a supervisory or executive capacity. This information should detail the job duties, amount of control over operations, experience and credentials, and details about the applicant’s subordinate employees.

For determining essential skills, the Trader applicant needs to provide proof of his or her area of specialization. This could be in the form of academic or training credentials, a salary that is relatively higher than other skilled labourers in a similar field, and a summation of overall relevant experience.

Remember: Traders should apply for a NAFTA work permit at a visa office before attempting to travel to Canada. If the Trader continues to abide by the conditions of this class, they could receive additional extensions of up to 2 years with no limit.

Investors – Requirements and Documentation Necessary to Apply

The requirements for Investors who apply for a NAFTA work permit are:

An Investor applicant must be able to provide proof of investment funds. This could be proven by providing details from a business bank account which is used for business operations. In addition, lease and rent payments for property or equipment could be considered as part of an investment. Goods or equipment transferred to Canada could also help to prove the nature of an investment if the applicant can demonstrate that the equipment is being used for a current commercial enterprise.

In general, when assessing an Investor’s application under the NAFTA work permit, immigration officers will try to determine if the investment in Canada is significantly proportional to the total investment. In other words, the applicant needs to show that there is a minimum amount of investment in relation to the size of his or her enterprise and the nature of the business in question.

Remember: Investors should apply for a NAFTA work permit at a visa office before traveling to Canada. Like Traders, Investors who continue to abide by the conditions of this class could receive further extensions to the NAFTA work permit for up to 2 years with no limit.

In Conclusion:

Contact Akrami and Associates

If you are considering applying for a NAFTA work permit, let our team help you advise you and organize your application. Our team of Canadian immigration lawyers and consultants has the knowledge and experience to help facilitate business people’s entry into Canada.

At Akrami & Associates there is always a way!