Workers across more than 60 occupations can continue to live and work in Canada under the updated free trade agreement between Canada, the United States, and Mexico.
The new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement or USMCA officially came into effect on July 1, 2020. This means the USMCA has officially replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which was introduced nearly 30 years earlier.
On immigration, the new agreement, variously called the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), or, more informally, NAFTA 2.0, remains more or less unchanged from the original and now quarter century-old NAFTA. This is despite significant changes in other areas, such as environmental protection and labour standards.
Under the USMCA, the chapter covering temporary entry for professionals and business persons, Chapter 16, remains largely intact. This may surprise those who expected the number of professions it covered to be reduced, or a cap on renewals to be brought in. Currently, there is no limit on the number of times eligible professionals and business persons may renew their status in Canada. In addition, the same rules that apply to American and Mexican professionals and business persons coming to Canada also apply to eligible Canadians heading to the US and Mexico.
Find out full details on the various work permit options available through the USMCA in our guide to USMCA work permits.
Many commentators expected United States President Donald Trump to double down on the “Buy American, Hire American” policy that has been a cornerstone of his presidency to date. When it came to the final agreement, however, no such restrictions were in the new agreement.
That’s not to say that Trump was the only actor who did not get everything their own way. For example, the Canadian delegation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce were among stakeholders who wanted the list of professions covered under Chapter 16 expanded to include more tech and IT occupations that didn’t even exist when the original NAFTA was introduced in 1994.
So after a lengthy negotiating period, Chapter 16 of the new agreement retains the status quo. Eligible workers will still be able to take up employment in Canada without their employer needing to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), which is typically needed in order for a Canadian employer to hire a foreign worker.