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USMCA Investor Work Permit (NAFTA)

Citizens of the United States and Mexico may come to Canada as investors under the USCMA or NAFTA Investor work permit without needing to go through the extra step of obtaining a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). This page explains the requirements and process.

For assistance with obtaining a USMCA investor work permit or advice, contact Total Law’s Canadian immigration lawyers. Call us on +1 844 290 6312 or get in touch using our live chat.

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    What is the USMCA/NAFTA Investor Work Permit?

    The USMCA/NAFTA Investor Work Permit is a permit that allows some Americans and Mexicans to engage in international business activities if they have made a significant investment and have a controlling interest in an American or Mexican company in Canada without having to obtain a positive LMIA.

    Usually, investors and business people seeking entry into Canada must acquire a Labour Market Impact Assessment, formally known as a Labour Market Opinion. That document is issued by Economic and Social Development Canada (ESDC) as a negative or positive confirmation of the need for the individual in Canada.

    The USMCA Investor Work Permit is specifically for investors who have committed or intend to commit a substantial amount of investment capital in Canada in an American or Mexican enterprise in terms of ownership, meaning the owners have American or Mexican citizenship.

    For assistance or advice with acquiring a USMCA investor work permit, call our Canadian immigration lawyers on +1 844 290 6312

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    What is NAFTA?

    NAFTA is an acronym for the North American Free Trade Agreement. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect on January 1st 1994, to liberalize trade between the United States, Mexico, and Canada.

    NAFTA is an international mobility program that abolishes tariffs and other trade barriers between the three countries. It allows citizens of the countries to travel to and enter any of the three countries who are party to the agreement to temporarily provide goods or services, trade, or investment.

    With a NAFTA work permit, an American or Mexican citizen may seek entry into Canada with or without a permit. In cases where you need a permit, you may be eligible for the NAFTA Investor Work Permit, NAFTA Intra-Company Transfer, or NAFTA Professional (TN Visa).

    Before NAFTA, there was the FTA between the USA and Canada, but NAFTA expanded it to include Mexico.

    On July 1, 2020, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement – NAFTA. USMCA is sometimes called CUSMA or NAFTA 2.0. Although the USMCA changed some areas of NAFTA, it didn’t affect Canada’s requirements and process of acquiring a work permit.

    For assistance or advice with acquiring a USMCA investor work permit, call us at +1 844 290 6312

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    What is a Substantial Investment?

    Substantial investment refers to the value of the investment. There’s no exact Canadian dollar figure that is a minimum investment to qualify as a substantial investment, but immigration officers may weigh a NAFTA investor’s investment based on proportionality against:

    • The total value of the business receiving the investment or
    • The amount that is typically required to establish a viable enterprise in the business sector or industry

    To enable Canadian immigration to assess the substantial investment requirement, NAFTA investors must provide all the details on the investment, including information on the contract signed, total investment, source of funds, and any invoices issued as a result of investing.

    What Qualifies as an Investment?

    Canadian immigration does not count all acts of spending money or other capital assets on a business or venture as an investment. For your substantial investment to qualify, the invested funds should be:

    • Money held in a business account for routine business operations for the Canadian business
    • Mortgage debt or commercial loans secured by the investor’s personal assets taken for the business
    • Payment of lease or rent for property or business equipment
    • Purchase of equipment or inventory
    • Goods or equipment transferred to Canada for commercial purposes or use.

    For more information on the investment requirement or obtaining a NAFTA investor work permit, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Canadian immigration lawyers for assistance. Call us on +1 844 290 6312 or send an email to

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      Requirements for an American or Mexican citizen

      American and Mexican investors looking to obtain a NAFTA investor work permit must meet the following requirements:

      • They must be an American or Mexican citizen
      • They are irrevocably committed – have invested in a new or existing Canadian business without the possibility of returning the invested funds and it shouldn’t be passive (real estate, for example)
      • Their investment is substantial
      • The Canadian business must be an American or Mexican company by ownership (that is, at least 50% is owned by those with American or Mexican citizenship)
      • If they are an employee, they must hold an executive or supervisory position or one that involves essential skills
      • They are seeking entry into Canada to develop and direct (controlling interest) the enterprise in which they have invested, with at least 50% ownership of the Canadian business
      • They are able to comply with Canada’s existing immigration measures for temporary entry such as that they:
      • Intent to leave Canada when your investor permit expires
      • Have enough money to take care of themself during your stay in Canada and to return home;
      • Have no criminal record
      • Are not a danger to Canada’s security
      • Are in good health

      NAFTA Investor Work Permit for Employees

      NAFTA investor work permits may also be granted to employees of the American or Mexican company that invested if such employees are in a position that involves essential skills. These are the requirements to bring an employee to Canada with this NAFTA work permit:

      • The Canadian employer must be an American or Mexican citizen
      • The employer must have investor status
      • If the employer is a business entity, the entity must be majorly owned by American or Mexican citizens who already have investor status in Canada (if they do not reside in the US or Mexico)
      • The employee must be an American or Mexican citizen
      • The employee will work in a supervisory or executive capacity or has specialized knowledge or essential skills to the Canadian firm’s operations
      • The employee is able to meet the temporary entry requirements
      • The employer is not a permanent resident of Canada (or permanent resident by ownership if the employer is a corporation)

      If the Canadian enterprise is new, the worker with American or Mexican citizenship doesn’t need to have essential skills or specialized knowledge, but the permitted period for the work permit usually does not exceed one year because the Canadian government sees such immigration as only necessary to assist the new Canadian enterprise in establishing themselves in Canada and train a Canadian to take over that position after a reasonable time which to them is one year.

      How to apply for the USMCA Investor Work Permit?

      To begin the application process, a USMCA investor should submit an application to the Canadian visa office in their home country.

      U.S. citizens can apply for NAFTA work permits at a point of entry (POE) or the visa office. However, due to the complex nature of this type of visa or permit, client service, program consistency, and reciprocity, you should apply far ahead of when you need to be in Canada from a visa office in Mexico or the United State.

      Although applicants do not need to obtain an LMIA, they must apply for employment authorization and complete the Application for Trader/Investor Status form (IMM5321). You can visit the Canadian visa office for these forms and submit a filled one to the visa center. Along with the forms, you must also submit the following required documents:

      • Proof of American or Mexican citizenship (for example your certificate of citizenship)
      • Proof of the enterprise’s nationality, that is proof of American or Mexican citizenship of the owners of the enterprise
      • Evidence of investment
      • Valid U.S or Mexican passport

      Canadian immigration officials will review your documents and application. If they believe you meet the requirements and that your reasons are genuine, they may issue you a work permit in accordance with R204, T22 (International Free Trades Agreement for investor) for a maximum duration of one year.

      When you get to a port of entry into Canada, a Canadian immigration officer will review your approval and documents to decide if you should be issued a work permit and what duration to issue.

      Cost of the USMCA/NAFTA Investor Permit

      The entire costs for the NAFTA Investor permit may vary based on your location and circumstances. Canadian temporary work permits are $155 per individual. However, if you are applying as a group, the cost may differ. Also, if you are required to give your biometrics, the cost of that varies by the visa application center.

      Processing time for Investors

      When you apply at a Canadian visa office, the processing time for your investor work permit is based on the standard processing times at the Canadian visa office in the country from which you apply.

      Applications from the United States typically take five weeks on average while applications from Mexico take 14 weeks on average. Those times do not include the time it takes to send the application between a visa application centre and the office of the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), and the time for biometrics.

      NAFTA Investor Work Permit extension

      NAFTA investors may be issued a work permit that is valid for a maximum of one year. After that time, they may apply for an extension for a duration of two years provided you still meet the requirements.

      When you apply for an extension, the visa officer will compare the information provided in your first application to that in your extension request.

      Also, note that if you take another job in Canada or engage in an activity that’s not consistent with the investor work permit (like closing down the business), your investor status would end.

      Get in touch with our immigration lawyers for assistance with applying for the USMCA investor work permit Contact us

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        What is not covered by NAFTA 2.0?

        Unlike most work and immigrant visas that allow you to bring spouses and members of your family, NAFTA does not extend “dependent” privileges to your spouses and family members. If they must enter Canada, they can apply for the right permit as covered by Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

        The NAFTA program does not cover permanent residents. Until they have acquired American or Mexican citizenship, they cannot claim the benefits of the NAFTA program to enter Canada. It also does not assist with obtaining permanent residence in any of the countries.

        In addition, though NAFTA helps with admission to conduct business, it does not replace the need to meet licensing and certification requirements or general provisions around the admission of foreign workers into Canada.

        How can Total Law help?

        Total Law can help you obtain a USMCA investor work permit. Our Canadian immigration lawyers have expertise and years of experience in the Canadian visa and immigration system. We have helped several individuals and businesses to acquire work permits. When you decide to work with us, we will:

        • Assess your eligibility and let you know your options
        • Provide advice on the best actions to take to increase your chances of success
        • Advice on the documents that will boost your application
        • File your application with the highest standard
        • Liaise with the visa office and IRCC on your behalf
        • Assist with concierge and temporal move to Canada, such as arranging flight details and assistance with getting an apartment

        For more information on how we can help you, please call us on +1 844 290 6312 or contact us online.

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                    Frequently Asked Questions

                    The NAFTA program has no effect on permanent residence. NAFTA investor work permit is a temporary entry permit for select business persons who do not intend to establish permanent residence in Canada.

                    Mexican citizens need work permits before they can enter Canada for the purpose of working. There are different types of work permits for which Mexican citizens may apply.

                    Due to the trade agreement between the United States, Mexico, and Canada, Mexicans can apply for a USMCA work permit, which has fewer requirements than regular work permits. However, the intent of the USCMA work permit is for temporary entry.

                    If your intent is to acquire permanent residence, contact our Canadian immigration lawyer to get an assessment of your eligibility and advise on the best visa program or immigration route. Call us on +1 844 290 6312.


                    Those with American or Mexican citizenship that have acquired the right permits can work in Canada under USMCA, previously called NAFTA.

                    Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for an investor work permit, NAFTA intra-company transferee visa, or as NAFTA professionals. These NAFTA work permits are for American or Mexican nationals with essential skills, doing a substantial trade, or specialized knowledge looking to work with or trade from an American or Mexican company in Canada.

                    For more information about acquiring a work permit as a NAFTA investor, NAFTA trader, professional status, or intra-company transferee, please reach out to us.

                    USCMA facilitates business persons who have Canadian, American, or Mexican citizenship to seek entry into any of the countries for trade or investment.

                    Also, it removes the need for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) for some citizens and work permits for some business visitors. In addition, it fastens the process of applying to enter a member country at a port of entry if they do not need a temporary resident visa according to the law of that country.

                    Foreign nationals with American or Mexican citizenship will be able to enter Canada with investor work permits under the USMCA or CUSMA investor work permit category to manage their investments and conduct business.