Practice Areas
Global Outbound Immigration

NAFTA Employment for Canadians, Mexicans & United States Citizens

The United States, Canada and Mexico have special arrangements for the movement of international personnel through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This agreement facilitates the movement of professionals, executives, managers and investors between the three countries.

See the section on TN visas for information on NAFTA employment in the United States for business professionals.

NAFTA Business Visitors:

Under Chapter 16 of the NAFTA, business visitors are allowed to engage in certain commercial activities in any of the three NAFTA countries as long as such activities do not involve direct employment for remuneration. Canadian B-1 visitors may enter the U.S. without the need for a visa or passport. Mexican B-1 visitors must obtain a B-1 visa or border crossing card prior to entering the United States. Some of the permissible activities include:

  • Research and design including technical, scientific and statistical research;
  • Growth, manufacturing and production including supervising a harvesting crew admitted under applicable law (applies only to harvesting of agricultural crops);
  • Purchasing of goods and management of production personnel conducting commercial transactions for a business located in the territory of another NAFTA country;
  • Marketing and research including market researchers and analysts conducting independent research or analysis, or research or analysis for a business located in the territory of another NAFTA country;
  • Trade fair and promotional personnel attending a trade convention;
  • Sales representatives and agents taking orders or negotiating contracts for goods or services for a business located in the territory of another NAFTA country but not delivering goods or providing services. Buyers purchasing for an enterprise located in the territory of another NAFTA country;
  • Distribution and transportation including transportation operators transporting goods or passengers to the United States, or loading and transporting goods or passengers from the United States to the territory of another NAFTA country (as long as no intermediate loading or delivery within the United States);
  • Customs brokers performing brokerage duties associated with the export of goods from one NAFTA country to or through another NAFTA country;
  • After-sales service including installers, repair and maintenance personnel, and supervisors, possessing specialized knowledge essential to the seller’s contractual obligation, performing services or training workers to perform services, pursuant to a warranty or other service contract incidental to the sale of commercial or industrial equipment or machinery, including computer software, purchased from an enterprise located outside one of the NAFTA countries but being installed in another NAFTA country, during the life of the warranty or service agreement (The commercial or industrial equipment or machinery, including computer software, must have been manufactured outside of the NAFTA country in which it is being installed.);
  • Financial services, management, public relations and tourism personnel under a section called “general services.” Generally, a B-1 visa holder must be compensated from a source outside the NAFTA which he or she is visiting.

NAFTA Visa Requirements for Canada:

Canada makes no distinction between Mexican nationals and U.S. nationals with regard to entry into Canada. The United States implementation of the NAFTA provisions treats Canadians and Mexicans differently and requires a visa for entrants from Mexico whereas Canadians are visa exempt. For Canada, U.S. and Mexican applicants are treated the same for purposes of NAFTA entry.

Generally, the provisions for Canadian NAFTA entry in the Foreign Worker Manual mirror the provisions of the U.S. NAFTA provisions.

NAFTA Visa Requirements for Mexico:

United States and Canadian citizens may enter Mexico for tourism or non-business purposes for up to 72 hours within a 30 kilometer perimeter of the U.S. border without a Mexican visa. A Forma Migratoria Turista (FMT) visa is required for any stay of longer than 72 hours but fewer than 180 days or if travel will extend beyond the 30 kilometer perimeter of the border of the United States. FMT visas must be returned upon final departure from Mexico or a fee of $4.00 (US) per day will be assessed.

Mexican NAFTA provisions are quite different from the provisions employed by the United States and Canada and are discussed in other parts of the website.

NAFTA Professionals Entering Canada:

To enter Canada as a NAFTA professional, the individual must be entering to assume a position enumerated under the Canadian NAFTA agreement. These enumerated positions mirror the positions covered under the TN category for U.S. entry. The applicant may enter in a category that is not enumerated as long as the job duties for the category are interchangeable with one of the enumerated categories. The inspector will consult the National Occupations Classification manual to determine if the job is substantially similar.

The applicant entering as a professional must demonstrate that he or she possesses the minimum educational credentials required under NAFTA.

A pre-existing employment relationship with a Canadian employer must exist. Where an individual seeks entry in this category to perform services for a business located outside of a NAFTA territory, the applicant must show that the employer has a presence in the United States or Mexico to be allowed entry. Self-employment is not allowed and the employer must not be a sole proprietor or entity in which the applicant has substantial control.

Professionals may work for more than one employer at a time, but must include information on all of the employers and positions with the initial application.

The applicant must be entering to assume a professional position and to conduct the duties of that professional position.

Unlike U.S. requirements, there is no need for the applicant to prove that he or she possesses any licensure or registration to engage in the professional activity in Canada although it is recommended that the applicant be able to produce such documentation if requested. Registered nurses, however, must produce the essential licensure evidence.

If the applicable job requires a baccalaureate degree, the degree must be in the specific field in which employment is sought.

NAFTA Intracompany Transferees Entering Canada:

An individual may enter Canada as an intracompany transferee provided he or she:

  • Is a U.S. or Mexican national;
  • Is employed by an enterprise doing business in the United States or Mexico; and
  • Is seeking to enter Canada to provide services for the Canadian enterprise in a managerial, executive or specialized knowledge capacity.

The provisions of intracompany transferee entry are substantially similar to the L-1 category available for U.S. intracompany transferees.

NAFTA Investors and Traders Entering Canada:

Canada allows for individuals or corporations to obtain investor or trader status within Canada. Individual investors or traders must be natives and citizens of either the United States or Mexico. Corporate investor or traders must be at least 51% owned by U.S. or Mexican nationals.

For treaty trader status, the trade must be at least 51% between Canada and the United States and/or Mexico and the trade must be substantial trade in goods, services or both.

For treaty investor status, the investment must be in a real and active enterprise and the investment must be substantial enough to make the enterprise viable. The amount of investment necessary to obtain the visa is determined by the proportion of investment made compared to the total value of the enterprise.

NAFTA Temporary Business Visitors to Mexico:

Forma Migratoria Negoicios (FMN) visas are available to U.S. and Canadian business visitors who need to enter Mexico for business purposes of 30 days or less. The purpose of the FMN visa is to attend business meetings, provide training, conduct repair or maintenance services pursuant to a warrant or service contract or conduct an audit.

FMN visas may be reissued multiple times in a year, but for stays over 30 days or successive entries on the FMN visa, the applicant may be referred for issuance of an FM3 visa.

The FMN visa must be returned to an office of the Instituto Nacional de Migracion (INM) or Mexican port of entry upon final departure or to a Mexican Consulate or Embassy no later on or before the date of expiration of the visa or a fine of $4.00 per day will be assessed for each day the visa is not cancelled. Failure to surrender expired visas may result in additional fines determined by the daily Mexican minimum wage of the application region for each day beyond the validity of the visa.

Extended Stay NAFTA Business in Mexico:

For business visitors seeking to enter Mexico for over 30 days or for multiple visits to Mexico over a year, for investment or trade in Mexico or to assume a permanent position in a Mexican business, an individual must seek an FM-3 visa.

Approval for FM-3 status is generally a two step process. The individual or corporation seeking FM-3 status must submit the proper documentation to the Instituto Nacional de Migracion (INM) for adjudication and must update the corporate file maintained by INM every six months.

Once the INM approves the FM-3 status, the individual files the FM-3 paperwork with the consulate to obtain the FM-3 visa.

The FM-3 visa must be used within 90 days to be valid. It can be presented to any INM office to be stamped. Once validated, it can be used for a period of up to one year from the date of validation for entry to Mexico.

The FM-3 must be returned to an INM office or Mexican port of entry upon final departure or to a Mexican consulate or embassy no later tan 30 days following expiration of the visa to avoid fines. Failure to return the visa can result in costly fines which are the equivalent of the Mexican minimum wage for each day beyond the validity of the visa.