CUSMA: How Americans And Mexicans Can Work In Canada

CUSMA: How Americans And Mexicans Can Work In Canada
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New opportunities for jobs and trade with Canada’s economic partners are being developed through the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA).

That trade agreement, which came into effect on July 1, 2020, replaced the quarter-century-old North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Under CUSMA – which is also called the United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) in the United States – business people can gain temporary entry without having to get a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

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The work permit exemptions under CUSMA remained the same as under NAFTA.

But now there are talks between Canada and Mexico, dubbed the Canada-Mexico High-Level Economic Dialogue (HLED), to rebuild those nations’ economies in a post-COVID-19 world and push through strategic initiatives deemed to be of benefit to both countries. 

In a joint statement in August, Canada’s International Trade Minister Mary Ng and Mexico’s Secretary of the Economy Tatiana Clouthier said those initiatives would include the promotion of inclusive trade strategies in favour of underrepresented groups, such as women, youth, and Indigenous peoples.

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“These efforts will allow us to create jobs, increase competition, and achieve a resilient and inclusive economy,” they stated.

In Canada, the immigration-related provisions of CUSMA are covered under the International Mobility Program (IMP).

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IMP Provides Access To Canada For Workers Under CUSMA

Business people who are citizens of the U.S. and Mexico are exempt from LMIA requirements when entering Canada for activities related to the trade of goods or services or to invest.

And Canadians entering the U.S. or Mexico receive similar treatment under the agreement.

The trade deal breaks down business people into four categories.

There are:

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

Business visitors are those who engage in international business activities related to:

  • research and design;
  • growth, manufacture and production;
  • marketing;
  • sales;
  • distribution;
  • after-sales service, and;
  • general service.

These people are allowed to enter Canada and carry out their activities without the need for a work permit.

Professionals, the second of the four groups of business people, are defined under the trade agreement as those who enter the country to provide pre-arranged professional services, including:

  • as salaried employees of Canadian companies;
  • through contracts between business people and Canadian employers, or;
  • through contracts between the American or Mexican employers of these business people and Canadian enterprises.

Professional Occupations Exempt From LMIAs Under The IMP

Professionals are LMIA-exempt but require a work permit and include the following 63 occupations deemed to be professional:

General Occupations

  • accountant
  • architect
  • computer systems analyst
  • disaster relief insurance claims adjuster
  • economist
  • engineer
  • forester
  • graphic designer
  • hotel manager (see note below for further details.)
  • industrial designer
  • interior designer
  • land surveyor
  • landscape architect
  • lawyer (including notary in the province of Quebec)
  • librarian
  • management consultant
  • mathematician (including statistician and actuary)
  • range manager/range conservationist
  • research assistant (working in a post-secondary educational institution)
  • scientific technician/ technologist
  • social worker
  • silviculturist (including forestry specialist)
  • technical publications writer
  • urban planner (including geographer)
  • vocational counsellor

Medical/Allied Professionals

  • dentist
  • dietitian
  • medical laboratory technologist (Canada)/ medical technologist (Mexico and the U.S.)
  • nutritionist
  • occupational therapist
  • pharmacist
  • physician (teaching or research only)
  • physiotherapist/physical therapist
  • psychologist
  • recreational therapist
  • registered nurse
  • veterinarian


  • agriculturist (including agronomist)
  • animal breeder
  • animal scientist
  • apiculturist
  • astronomer
  • biochemist
  • biologist (including plant pathologist)
  • chemist
  • dairy scientist
  • entomologist
  • epidemiologist
  • geneticist
  • geologist
  • geochemist
  • geophysicist (including oceanographer in Mexico and the U.S.)
  • horticulturist
  • meteorologist
  • pharmacologist
  • physicist (including oceanographer in canada)
  • plant breeder
  • poultry scientist
  • soil scientist
  • zoologist


  • college
  • seminary
  • university

The third group of business people are intra-company transferees, managers, executives, or employees with specialized knowledge from American or Mexican companies being transferred to a linked Canadian business.

They are LMIA-exempt but need a work permit.

The final group of business people, traders and investors, are those who carry on substantial trade in goods or services between the U.S. or Mexico and Canada or commit a substantial amount of capital in Canada. They must be supervisors or executives or have essential skills.

Traders and investors are LMIA-exempt but also require a work permit.

Employers Need To Create A Profile On The IRCC’s Employer Portal To Hire Through The IMP

The IMP, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) program through which all of this activity is allowed under CUSMA, is an economic immigration program that allows Canadian employers to hire foreign workers on work permits without requiring an LMIA.

Here’s how it works.

Employers looking to hire a foreign worker through the IMP normally pay a $230 employer compliance fee. When an employer is hiring through an open work permit holder, the fee is not required. 

Other fee-exempt positions include those covered by a non-trade agreement, certain research positions and charitable or religious work.

The job offers themselves must be made through the IRCC’s Employer Portal once the employer has created an employer profile.

Getting into the Employer Portal can be done in one of two ways. The employer can:

  • sign in with a GCKey user ID, an account created with the Government of Canada that provides secure access, with a password. (Those employers who do not have a GCKey can register and get a user ID and password), or;
  • sign in with the same information the employer uses for another online service recognized as a Sign-In Partner by the Government of Canada, such as an online bank account.

The offer of employment on the Employer Portal must then include information about:

  • the business;
  • the foreign worker to be hired;
  • job details, and;
  • wage and benefits.

The information entered could be used in federal government employer compliance audits.

Employers can also sometimes be exempt from the fee and the need to go through the Employer Portal because of the nature of the work done by the business.

Among those that are exempt from employer compliance fees are:

  • international missions or consular posts, and;
  • international organizations recognized under the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act, including foreign governments or owners or operators of an international bridge or tunnel.

When these employers hire a temporary worker, they select “No, I am exempt from paying fees for this Offer of Employment” when prompted in the Employer Portal.

Foreign Nationals Outside Of Canada With Approved Work Permits Are Advised By Letter

Employers submitting a job offer will receive an offer of employment number. The foreign worker requires this number to complete their work permit application.

Once the work permit application is approved, the foreign worker receives:

  • A letter of introduction if they are outside Canada, or
  • A new work permit if they are already in Canada, or applying at the time of entry.

The letter of introduction is exchanged for a work permit at the port of entry, provided all the requirements are still met.

The IMP is primarily administered by the IRCC but other federal government departments are involved in the program, including the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).

IMP is separate from the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), which is primarily administered by ESDC with help from the IRCC and CBSA.

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