7 Keys To Getting A NAFTA Work Permit As a Professional

English: Map of the Tratado de Libre Comercio ...
English: Map of the Tratado de Libre Comercio (TLC or NAFTA in English) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Did you know that certain professionals can work in Canada under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)? They can do so without going through the normal requirement of obtaining a labour market opinion that most other temporary workers (and employers) must do.
In this post, I’ll discuss what I consider to be the seven keys to obtaining a work permit in the professional category under NAFTA.
1. You must be a citizen of the USA or Mexico
Only citizens of the USA and Mexico qualify as NAFTA applicants.  Individuals who are permanent residents of either country (e.g., green card holders in the USA) do not qualify under NAFTA.
Citizens of Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands are also excluded from NAFTA and can not obtain work permits through NAFTA.
However, citizens of the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico can apply through NAFTA.
2. Your profession or occupation must be listed in NAFTA
Not all professionals can qualify for a work permit under NAFTA.  There are 60 listed qualifying professions and occupations, and your training and experience must fall within one of them.
3. You must have a job or contract in Canada
As a professional, you can not obtain a work permit without first having a job offer in Canada, or a professional service contract with a Canadian firm.  You can be an employee of a US or Mexican firm who does business with a Canadian company.
4. You must apply for the correct length of work permit
NAFTA work permits are issued for a maximum of three years initially.  However, they are renewable for additional three periods if the applicant still qualifies.  In my experience, it is best to apply for the length of permit you need that reflects the employment or service contract you have, to a maximum of three years in the first application.
5.  You should apply to the correct visa office
As a NAFTA professional, you have the choice to apply at a port of entry (i.e., the border or airport), or at a visa office (currently either New York for US citizens, or Mexico City for Mexican citizens).
In my experience – if you have the time – it is best to apply at a visa office if at all possible.  It is far better to arrive at the border with work permit in hand rather than apply there.
I know of situations where the border officer was reluctant to issue a work permit (perhaps because the documentation wasn’t quite right), and told the applicant to leave and apply through a visa office.
If your time is tight, then by all means apply at a port of entry.  But be absolutely certain your supporting documentation is absolutely impeccable.
6. You must have the correct supporting documentation
I won’t go into detail regarding all of the supporting documentation required, as it will vary depending on the facts of each case.
Generally speaking, you first need to prove citizenship with a passport and/or birth certificate. You must have solid evidence that you actually qualify as a professional.  This would include official transcripts from the institution where you did your training, including a copy of your degree or diploma.  Certificates of membership in a professional organization (if applicable) would also be necessary.
As well, you should have letters of reference or employment contracts from previous employers to show your experience in the field.
Finally, you’ll need a copy of your employment agreement with a Canadian firm (or service contract), with a contact phone number and address in Canada.  The agreement must provide details of your duties in Canada (and those duties must match your NAFTA professional category), salary, length of employment, and so forth.
7. You must be entering Canada on a temporary basis
I suppose I should say that you must be able to show that you are entering Canada on a temporary basis. Just stating this fact to the visa officer is not good enough.
Bring evidence of your connections to the US or Mexico.  Evidence of assets held (including real estate, investments, bank accounts and vehicles) are crucial.
Provide evidence of family connections in the US or Mexico if you have them.  Showing your history of employment in the US or Mexico is always a very good idea as well, or any commitments that you have to return to (such as service contracts, clients or other employment in your home country).
As with all my posts, this post can not be considered legal advice, as your situation is unique and many factors will influence whether you are successful in obtaining a NAFTA work permit.
If you’ve found this blog post useful, please feel free to share it with your social network, or link to it from your blog or website.

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Canada hailed as one of five best G20 countries for entrepreneurs

Canadian entrepreneurs have much to smile about: Canada ranks as one of the best countries in the world to start a business, according to a report by EY.

The report applauded Canada’s low labour and startup costs, negligible insolvency rates, low tax burden, and said that the country has better access to funding than most other G20 countries. Yet, EY also noted three in four entrepreneurs cited that financing remains a hurdle in Canada, while 36% said business failure is a barrier to future venture opportunities.
The 2013 Entrepreneurship Barometer report, released by the consulting firm ahead of the G20 Leaders Summit next week, studied conditions for startups in the bloc. The second annual findings placed Canada among the top five in the G20, behind the United States and United Kingdom on conditions for entrepreneurs, but ahead of France and Germany.
“It’s a very positive story with respect to Canada in the world stage,” said Colleen McMorrow, EY director of Entrepreneur of the Year. The cost of starting a business has been cut in half in the past decade. Canada came second, bested only by Saudi Arabia, for its supportive regulatory and tax regime.
The top ranking quartile consisted of mature markets such as the U.S., U.K., Australia, South Korea, and Canada, but emerging markets are “nipping at our heels,” Ms. McMorrow said. “The job’s not done. There is lots of room for improvement.”

The notable levels of pessimism are attributable to entrepreneurs’ high expectations and lack of global context in realizing “how good [entrepreneurs] have it in Canada compared to other countries,” said Julia Deans, chief executive of the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF).

A national stigma for failure is also a barrier to entering the entrepreneurial class, Ms. Deans said.
Canada scores below average on perceptions of entrepreneurship as a viable career choice, a sentiment that doesn’t bode well for the general ecosystem with relatively low self-employment figures. “The challenge we have with the high youth unemployment rate is going to steer our youth toward entrepreneurship,” Ms. McMorrow said. Young adults need to start considering running a business as a feasible alternative to traditional career trajectories, such as medicine and engineering, she added.
Ms. McMorrow credited the federal government for trying to fuel the business climate, with initiatives such as the Startup Visa scheme that caters to innovative immigrants with 2,750 annual visas for at least five years.
The report surveyed more than 1,500 entrepreneurs on five areas: access to funding, co-ordinated support, education and training, tax and regulation, and entrepreneurial culture.
The job’s not done. There is lots of room for improvement
Canada’s weakest pillar, at 16th place, was “co-ordinated support” from mentors, incubators, and accelerators — “the glue that holds everything together,” described Ms. McMorrow. Public spending on education is high in the country, but informal training channels, especially corporate mentors, are limited.
While Canada ranks high for accessing domestic funding — primarily venture capital and private equity versus bank lending — the matchmaking of mentoring relationships between angel investors and startups are few and far between, she said. “It’s making sure that young entrepreneurs in particular understand that there are different sources of funding at different stages of growth along the entrepreneurial journey.”
Canadian entrepreneurs need to take advantage of incubating programs such as The Next 36 that conflate academic expertise, capital access, and mentoring, Ms. McMorrow said.
Many of these accelerators are concentrated in central and Western Canada, said Ms. Deans, which could account for lack of satisfaction with networking services.
“In some [provincial] markets, finance is much more readily available. In Saskatchewan, for instance, there are no accelerators. If you’re a young entrepreneur in Saskatchewan, your options for developing your business are way fewer than they are in southern Ontario,” she said.
Forty-five per cent of Canadian entrepreneurs said access to capital has improved in the past three years, compared to 35% G20 average.

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