top of page

What is covered by NAFTA and GATS? Free Trade Agreements (FTA's) 

Business people come to do business under a Free Trade Agreement.


Business people can enter and work in Canada if they qualify under one of these agreements:

  • North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

  • Other Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)

  • General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)



NAFTA removes the need for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) for all business persons covered by the Agreement.
In the case of a business visitor, it removes the need for a work permit.
For professionals and intra-company transferees, it expedites the application process because one can apply at the port of entry (POE), (Nationals who require a temporary resident visa to enter Canada, however, should apply at a visa office prior to coming to Canada).


What NAFTA does not do:

- NAFTA does not assist permanent admission.
- It does not apply to permanent residents of the three countries.
- It does not replace the general provisions dealing with foreign workers.
- It has no effect on universal requirements related to passports and identity documentation, medical examinations, and safety and security.
- It does not replace the need for workers to meet licensing or certification requirements respecting the exercise of a profession.
- It does not extend special privileges to spouses and members of the family. Their entry is governed by the provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Regulations.

Who is covered by NAFTA?

The temporary entry provisions of Chapter 16 of the NAFTA are restricted to citizens of the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. In the case of the U.S., citizens of the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are covered by the NAFTA; however, citizens of Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are excluded from the NAFTA.

Permanent residents of the three countries are not covered. They are, however, covered by the general provisions governing the temporary entry of foreign workers.

NAFTA lets citizens of Canada, the United States, and Mexico gain quick entry into each other’s countries for temporary business or investment reasons. These people do not need a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). This means that Canadian employers do not need to have a job offer approved by Employment and Social Development Canada to hire an American or a Mexican business person.

Under NAFTA, business people must meet the general rules for temporary entry to Canada.


There are four groups of businesspeople under NAFTA:


Business visitors

A business visitor is someone who comes to Canada to take part in international business activities without being part of the Canadian labor market. Business visitors usually stay in Canada for a few days or a few weeks but are able to stay for up to six months.

Business visitors do not need a work permit.


To work in Canada as a professional, you must:

be qualified to work in one of the jobs set out in NAFTA (for example, accountant, computer systems analyst or engineer),
have a job offer from a Canadian business in that field 
have a work permit.


Intra-company transferee

This is a person who is sent to work for the same company in a different country. If this is your case, you must:

have worked on an ongoing basis, for at least one year in the last three years,
for the same or a related employer in the United States or Mexico,
be transferred to Canada to work short term for the same or a related employer,
work as a manager, as an executive or in a job that uses specialized knowledge, and
have a work permit.

Traders and investors

To work in Canada as a trader or investor, you must:

be involved in planning, as a supervisor or executive, or in a role that involves essential skills, a large amount of trade in goods or services, mainly between Canada and your home country, or a large investment in Canada by you or your company,
meet any other rules of NAFTA and have a work permit.

Other free trade agreements (FTAs)

the Canada-Chile FTA,  
the Canada-Peru FTA,
the Canada-Colombia FTA,
the Canada-Korea FTA
are modeled on NAFTA to make it easier for business people from one country to enter another country for a short time.

General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)

Under GATS, Canada agreed to make it easier for foreign business people to access the Canadian services market. This applies to service providers from more than 140 World Trade Organization member countries.

Three groups of business people are covered:

  • business visitors,

  • professionals,

  • intra-company transferees.

Qualified business people can enter Canada more easily because they do not need an LMIA from the Government of Canada or, in the case of business visitors, a work permit.

International Mobility Program: International Free Trade Agreements

International Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) contain provisions to facilitate, on a reciprocal basis, temporary entry for business persons. Eligible persons entering under an FTA will generally require a work permit but are exempt from a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

The Chile, Peru, Columbia, and Korea FTAs on this page contain provisions similar to NAFTA, which grant temporary entry to four categories of business persons: business visitors, professionals, intra-company transferees, and traders and investors.

How to proceed if you require assistance?

1. Email us ( Your issue and any documentation that you consider relevant


2. We review your documents and appoint a consultant/lawyer to contact you with the brief assessment


3. You decide whether to proceed.


All our cases are handled by experienced lawyers and RCIC immigration specialists.


Source & Copyright: The source of the above visa and immigration information and the copyright owner is the: Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Immigration Quebec

Disclaimer: The content of this page is provided as an information guide only. The use of this website is at the viewer/user's risk. While every effort is made in presenting up-to-date and accurate information, no responsibility or liability is accepted by the owners of this website for any errors, omissions, outdated or misleading information on these pages or any site to which these pages connect or are linked.​​

bottom of page