Trump pulls out of NAFTA: what changes in Canadian Immigration?
In the last few days, the Trump administration has been heavily criticizing the NAFTA agreement with Canada and Mexico. Some sources state that Trump is threatening to completely withdraw the USA from the agreement while others report he is only pressuring (in his own way) for renegotiations.
The NAFTA agreement not only regulates trade between the three nations, it also provides clauses that facilitate the movement of professionals, investors and businesses in the north American continent. For example, when a Canadian company wishes to hire a foreigner, it must prove to the government that this foreigner will provide unique skills or will fill a labour shortage in order to protect Canadian and Residents’ job opportunities. This process is called a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). However, if a job is offered to a citizen of the USA or Mexico that falls in the list of NAFTA Professionals, this requirement is waved and a work permit can be issued on the premises that the applicant qualifies for the job, without the need to apply for an LMIA and protect the Canadian labour force.
Another benefit for USA and Mexican citizens is the opportunity to invest in Canada through the NAFTA Investor Program. This program allows these citizens to receive a work permit in Canada to start their businesses and contribute to the Canadian economy. The process is much faster and has less regulations than the traditional government regulated investor immigration programs. This allows capital to easily flow in the Canadian economy and welcomes USA and Mexican entrepreneurs in the Canadian society.
For Mexican and USA companies, the Intracompany Transferee program is extremely beneficial as it allows them to move their employees to Canada when they open a subsidiary in the northern country. Again, the work permits issued to these employees necessitate a much simpler application, do not require an LMIA and have faster processing times.
These NAFTA programs also often facilitate permanent immigration to Canada for the professionals, investors or company transferees as they find themselves immersed in the Canadian society, having worked in the country for one or more years, contributing immensely to the market, often training the Canadian labour force on new skills and creating new jobs through investment.
What will happen to these programs if the USA withdraws from the agreement?
It is too soon to provide a definite answer, as none of the Canadian ministers have spoken in detail on the issue, but the following observations can be made:
1. Most of Trump Administration’s criticism of the NAFTA revolves around trade of goods, not on the immigration programs discussed above.
2. The most probable outcome is that the NAFTA is renegotiated, not destroyed. As the focus seems to be on trade, immigration programs will probably be kept close to intact.
3. If an immigration program is altered, it is most likely to be between Mexico and USA, as Canada has not expressed any specific desire to keep out or any hostility towards citizens of neither countries.
4. Should the USA withdraw, Canada and Mexico would still have the option of continuing their own bilateral relationship with similar terms as the current NAFTA. Therefore, the movement of professionals, investors and company transferees could persist between the two nations (leaving out USA citizens).
5. For anyone who’s current work permit has been issued under a NAFTA agreement, it is most likely that the permit will remain valid until its expiration date. Work permit renewal regulations will be decided and announced once the NAFTA is officially terminated or modified.
If any investor, professional or company wants to apply for a work permit to Canada through a NAFTA program, it is better to do it soon, before the agreement is put on hold. Although there is no guarantee as to what or when changes will take place, the current programs are still following normal procedures and once a work permit is issued, it is most likely to remain valid for one or more years.
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