Canada - United States - Mexico Agreement (CUSMA)

Experience the benefits of free trade and increased economic opportunity through the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA)

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The Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), previously known as the North-American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), created unique economic and trade relationships for Canada, the United States, and Mexico. This type of work permit is available for American and Mexican citizens who wish to enter Canada. 

CUSMA Work Permit Types

If you are a professional or a business person who is a citizen of the United States or Mexico, the CUSMA allows you to sell, provide goods or services, trade, and invest in Canada.

Individuals who are permanent residents – but not citizens – of the United States and Mexico do not qualify under CUSMA, nor does the privilege of CUSMA extend to spouses and family members. Business persons are grouped under the following 4 categories:

Business persons under this category engage in international business activities related to research and design, growth, manufacture and production, marketing, sales, distribution, after-sales services and general service. They have no intent to enter the Canadian labour market. They are authorized to enter Canada for business purposes without the need of a work permit.

The CUSMA allows for the temporary entry of certain professionals, such as accountants, engineers, and scientists, to work or engage in business activities in Canada. 

Business persons under this category are employed by an American or Mexican enterprise in a managerial or executive capacity, or in one which involves specialized knowledge, and are being transferred to the Canadian enterprise, parent, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate, to provide services in the same capacity.They are exempt from LMIA but need a work permit.

Business persons under this category carry on substantial trade in goods or services, in a supervisory or executive capacity or one that involves essential skills, between the U.S. or Mexico and Canada or have committed, or are in the process of committing, a substantial amount of capital in Canada. They are exempt from LMIA but need a work permit. 

CUSMA Professionals

👨🏻‍💼 Accountants
👷🏽 Engineers
🧑‍💼 Lawyers
👨🏼‍⚕️ Pharmacists
🧑🏼‍🔬 Scientists
👩🏼‍🏫 Teachers
🧑‍💻 Computer Systems Analysts
👩‍🎨 Interior Designers
🩺 Doctors/Nurses
🧮 Mathematician

Below is a list of all the professions eligible under CUSMA, along with their requirements 

  • Accountant

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or C.P.A., C.A., C.G.A., or C.M.A.
  • Architect

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license. (2)
    (note 2) The terms "state/provincial license" and "state/provincial/federal license" mean any document issued by a state, provincial, or federal government, as the case may be, or under its authority, but not by a local government, that permits a person to engage in a regulated activity or profession.
  • Computer Systems Analyst

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma (3) or Post Secondary Certificate (4) and three years' experience.
    (note 3) "Post Secondary Diploma" means a credential issued, on completion of two or more years of post secondary education, by an accredited academic institution in Canada or the United States.
    (note 4) "Post Secondary Certificate" means a certificate issued, on completion of two or more years of post secondary education at an academic institution, by the federal government of Mexico or a state government in Mexico, an academic institution recognized by the federal government or a state government, or an academic institution created by federal or state law.
  • Disaster relief insurance claims adjuster

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree and successful completion of training in the appropriate areas of insurance adjustment pertaining to disaster relief claims; or three years experience in claims adjustment and successful completion of training in the appropriate areas of insurance adjustment pertaining to disaster relief claims.
  • Economist

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Engineer

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license.
  • Forester

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license.
  • Graphic Designer

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate and three years experience.
  • Hotel Manager

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree in hotel/restaurant management; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post Secondary Certificate in hotel/restaurant management and three years experience in hotel/restaurant management.
  • Industrial Designer

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post Secondary Certificate, and three years experience.
  • Interior Designer

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years experience.
  • Land Surveyor

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree or state/provincial/federal license.
  • Landscape Architect

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Lawyer (including Notary in the province of Quebec)

    Requirements

    L.L.B., J.D., L.L.L., B.C.L., or Licenciatura degree (five years); or membership in a state/provincial bar.
  • Librarian

    Requirements

    M.L.S., or B.L.S. (for which another Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree was a prerequisite).
  • Management Consultant

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or equivalent professional experience as established by statement or professional credential attesting to five years experience as a management consultant, or five years experience in a field of specialty related to the consulting agreement.
  • Mathematician (including Statistician)

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree. (5)
    (note 5) The term "Mathematician" includes the profession of Actuary. An Actuary must satisfy the necessary requirements to be recognized as an actuary by a professional actuarial association or society. A professional actuarial association or society means a professional actuarial association or society operating in the territory of at least one of the Parties.
  • Range Manager/Range Conservationist

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Research Assistant (working in a post-secondary educational institution)

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Scientific Technician/Technologist (6)

    Requirements

    Possession of (a) theoretical knowledge of any of the following disciplines: agricultural sciences, astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, forestry, geology, geophysics, meteorology, or physics; and (b) the ability to solve practical problems in any of those disciplines, or the ability to apply principles of any of those disciplines to basic or applied research.
    (note 6) A business person in this category must be seeking temporary entry for work in direct support of professionals in agricultural sciences, astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, forestry, geology, geophysics, meteorology or physics.
  • Social Worker

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
  • Sylviculturist (including Forestry Specialist)

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Technical Publications Writer

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree, or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years experience.
  • Urban Planner (including Geographer)

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Vocational Counselor

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.

  • Medical/Allied Professionals
  • Dentist

    Requirements

    D.D.S., D.M.D., Doctor en Odontologia or Doctor en Cirugia Dental or state/provincial license.
  • Dietitian

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license.
  • Medical Laboratory Technologist (Canada)/Medical Technologist (Mexico and the United States) (7)

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years experience.
    (note 7) A business person in this category must be seeking temporary entry to perform in a laboratory chemical, biological, hematological, immunologic, microscopic or bacteriological tests and analyses for diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of diseases.
  • Nutritionist

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Occupational Therapist

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license.
  • Pharmacist

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license.
  • Physician (teaching or research only)

    Requirements

    M.D. Doctor en Medicina; or state/provincial license.
  • Physiotherapist/Physical Therapist

    Requirements

  • Psychologist

    Requirements

    state/provincial license; or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Recreational Therapist

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Registered nurse

    Requirements

    state/provincial license or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Veterinarian

    Requirements

    D.V.M., D.M.V., or Doctor en Veterinaria; or state/provincial license.
  • Scientists
  • Agriculturist (including Agronomist)

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Animal Breeder

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Animal Scientist

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Apiculturist

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Astronomer

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Biochemist

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Biologist

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree. (8)
    (note 8) The term "Biologist" includes the profession of Plant Pathologist.
  • Chemist

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Dairy Scientist

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Entomologist

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Epidemiologist

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Geneticist

    requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Geochemist

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Geologist

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Geophysicist (including Oceanographer in Mexico and the United States)

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Horticulturist

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Meteorologist

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Pharmacologist

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Physicist (including Oceanographer in Canada)

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Plant Breeder

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Poultry Scientist

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Soil Scientist

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Zoologist

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Teachers
  • College Teacher/Professor

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • Seminary Teacher/Professor

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.
  • University Teacher/Professor

    Requirements

    Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.

There are several occupations covered by the CUSMA agreement with required minimum education requirements and alternative credentials (can be found on the CUSMA webpage – Appendix 2). They are exempt from LMIA but need a work permit.

CUSMA Primary Benefits

  • CUSMA permits qualified American and Mexican citizens to seek temporary entry into Canada to engage in business activities at a professional level.
  • Work permits under CUSMA are Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) Exempt, which makes them easier and faster to obtain.

CUSMA Basic Requirements

You may be eligible to enter as a business visitor under CUSMA, if: 

  • You have Proof of American or Mexican citizenship; 
  • You enter Canada to conduct international business activities, which are research and design, growth, manufacture and production, marketing, sales, distribution, after-sales services or general service; 
  • You have no intent to enter the Canadian labour market; 
  • You meet all other immigration and admissibility requirements. 

You may be eligible to enter as a professionals under CUSMA, if:

  • You have Proof of American or Mexican citizenship; 
  • Your profession qualifies under the 63 occupations covered under the CUSMA agreement with the required education credentials and qualifications to work in that field;
  • You have a prearranged full-time or part-time job in Canada;
  • You must provide professional-level services in the field of qualifications; 
  • You meet all other immigration and admissibility requirements. 

You may be eligible to enter as an intra-company transferee, if: 

  • You have proof of American or Mexican citizenship; 
  • You will be seeking employment in an executive or managerial capacity or one involving “specialized knowledge;”
  • You will be transferring to an enterprise that has a qualifying relationship with the enterprise in which you are currently employed;
  • There is a parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate relationship between enterprises in the U.S or Mexico and in Canada;
  • You have continuous employment, in a similar position outside Canada, for at least one year (full-time) in the previous three-year period from the date of initial application;
  • You meet all other immigration and admissibility requirements. 

You may be eligible to enter as a CUSMA treaty trader, if 

  • You have Proof of American or Mexican citizenship;
  • The employing enterprise has American or Mexican nationality;
  • The substantial trade in goods or services is involved in business activities;
  • Trade is principally between either the U.S. or Mexico, and Canada;
  • You hold supervisory or executive positions, or your position involves essential skills; 
  • You meet all other immigration and admissibility requirements. 

You may be eligible to enter as a CUSMA treaty investor, if: 

  • Proof of American or Mexican citizenship; 
  • The enterprise has American or Mexican nationality
  • There has been substantial investment made, or it is actively being made;
  • You are applying to enter Canada only to develop and direct the enterprise;
  • If you are an employee, you hold positions in executive or supervisory capacities, or if your positions involve essential skills; 
  • You meet all other immigration and admissibility requirements.

CUSMA Application Process

For Business Visitors

You must apply with all required documents at a Canadian port of entry. You may be authorized to enter at the Primary Inspection Line or referred to Immigration Secondary if you apply to enter under the after-sales service provision. A visitor record may be issued if necessary. 

For Professionals

You can apply at a Canadian port of entry, at a visa office before departing for Canada or apply within Canada after entering Canada as a temporary resident. An initial work permit of up to 3 years may be issued, and extensions of up to 3 years each may be allowed with no limit on the number of extensions given that all requirements are met.

For intra-company transferees

You can apply at a Canadian port of entry, at a visa office before departing for Canada or apply within Canada after entering Canada as a temporary resident. Work permits issued at the time of entry may be up to 3 years, but business persons authorized to enter Canada to open an office or to be employed in a new office should be issued an initial permit for a maximum period of one year. Please note that there are maximum years you can stay in Canada under this category for different positions. 

For traders and investors

U.S. and Mexican citizens can apply for a work permit at a Canadian port of entry, but it is recommended to apply at a visa office because of the complex nature of the application. If you are already in Canada as a temporary resident, you can also apply for a work permit from within Canada. The initial work permit is valid for up to 1 year and can be extended for 2 years if requirements are met.

CUSMA Work Permit Processing Times

CUSMA applications may be one of the fastest ways for qualified American or Mexican citizens to get Canadian work permits or business visitor status. In many cases, you may get approved for work permits in as fast as 15 minutes at Canadian ports of entry. 

Andrea Prunariu

If you have questions about a CUSMA Professional Work Permit or are ready to get started, don’t hesitate to contact us. We can provide you with the guidance and support you need to complete the process successfully.

Questions? Answers.

Got questions? We have answers.

The difference between the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is that CUSMA is the updated version of NAFTA. CUSMA was signed by the three North American countries on November 30, 2018, and came into effect on July 1, 2020. It replaces the 25-year-old NAFTA agreement and reflects the changing economic, technological, and political landscape in North America.

CUSMA seeks to further facilitate trade and investment between Canada, the United States, and Mexico, while also promoting economic growth, job creation, and competitiveness in the region.

No, self-employed is not allowed under the Professional category. Business persons under this category must be either employed as salaried employees of a Canadian enterprise, through a contract between the business person and a Canadian employer, or through a contract between the American or Mexican employer of the business person and a Canadian enterprise.

 Alternative job titles may be allowed if job duties are interchangeable. Your lawyer will assess your detailed job duties and compare them based on National Occupational Classification (NOC) in order to make a decision. 

No. Canada has imposed a “cap” on the total duration of employment. The total period of stay for an individual employed in an executive or managerial capacity may not exceed 7 years. For a position requiring specialized knowledge, the total period of stay may not exceed 5 years.

No. CUSMA only covers citizens of the United States and Mexico. 

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