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CETA: Canada Work Permits for High-Level Business People

High-level European Union business people will get easier access to Canada work permits after a major trade deal between Canada and the European Union came into effect on Thursday, September 21.

CETA: Canada Work Permits for High-Level Business People

The Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) gives Canada access to the world’s largest market outside the U.S., with 98 per cent of Canadian goods now entering the EU free of tariffs.

With uncertainty over trade with the U.S. – Canada’s largest trade partner – the deal giving Canadian companies access to a $20 trillion market could not have come at a better time.

CETA: Key Numbers

  • 98% of Canadian good to enter EU tariff-free
  • EU represents a $20 trillion market
  • Canada exported $42 billion in goods in 2016
  • Companies in Canada also sold $18 billion in services last year
  • Canadian companies can now bid for the EU government procurement market, worth $3.3 trillion
  • Federal government spent $350 million preparing dairy sector for increased competition
  • 20% increase in bilateral trade
  • Canada’s income to grow $12 billion annually
  • Study says deal will increase average Canadian household income by $1,000

The deal not only means access to markets, but also means key business people will be able to move more freely on a temporary basis between Canada and the EU.

Both sides agreed that the movement of high-level individuals was central to the success of CETA, facilitating the exchange of services, investment, market access for goods, and government procurement between Canada and the EU.

A central element of the agreement is that the personnel can only move on a temporary basis, depending on which category they fall into as specified in the deal.

For Canada, the immigration program which covers these individuals is the International Mobility Program (IMP), a spin-off from the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) that eliminates the need for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

Business people covered under the deal are split into three broad categories. Here, immigration.ca discusses each of those categories and analyses what they will mean on a practical level for Canadian immigration.

1. Key Personnel

This category covers a broad range of professionals divided into inter-corporate transferees, independent investors and investors on behalf of businesses. The terms of the deal broadly state that all categories will be allowed temporary entry without restriction by numbers or by economic need. Investors will be allowed into Canada without the need for a work permit or any other prior approval, while intra-corporate transferees will be allowed to work on a temporary basis.

Permitted lengths by sub-category

  1. Intra-corporate transferees: Specialists and senior professionals for the lesser of three years or length of contract. An 18-month discretionary extension is applicable. Graduate trainees for the lesser of one year or length of contract.

Canada has also stipulated that intra-corporate transferees also be entitled to an open spousal work permit, also covering common-law relationships that have co-habited for one year or more.

  1. Investors: One year with discretionary extensions.
  2. Business investors: 90 days in a six-month period.

2. Contractual Service Suppliers and Independent Professionals

Both contractors and independent professionals are limited to working as an employee of their firm or as a self-employed individual. Contractors must have three years of experience in their field, while independent professionals require six years of experience. As with the Key Personnel category, there can be no numerical or economic restrictions put on those authorized for entry.

Under both sub-categories, individuals cannot stay for longer than a year in any two-year period, or for the duration of their contract. Again, Canada may grant extensions as its discretion.

3. Short-Term Business Visitors

Individuals in this category must not engage in selling goods to the public, cannot be paid within Canada or provide any consumer service. They also do not require a work permit or any other prior approval to enter Canada. Temporary entry is only granted for a total of 90 days in a six-month period.

Allowable Activities of Short-Term Business Visitors

  1. Meetings and consultations
  2. Research and design
  3. Market research
  4. Training seminars
  5. Trade fairs and exhibitions
  6. Sales
  7. Purchasing
  8. After-sales or after-lease service
  9. Commercial transactions
  10. Tourism personnel
  11. Translation and interpretation

The focus of CETA when it comes to the movement of business people is to eliminate factors that might previously have caused delays and added costs. These factors include the need for labour market – in Canada’s case the LMIA – or economic needs tests.

The rules set out above are aimed at increasing transparency and predictability when it comes to temporary entry decisions.

There is no provision for general labour or unskilled labour under the agreement. Neither is there any coverage of permanent employment, pathways to permanent residency or citizenship, nor visa requirements.


Canada has listed several exemptions and stipulations pertaining to the above criteria.

First, in the engineering and scientific technologist field, Canada stipulates that candidates with a three-year post-secondary degree will be favoured as holding the equivalent of a Canadian university degree.

There are also several sector-specific exemptions requested by Canada. These are concentrated in the Independent Professional category, and include scientific and technical consulting, tax advisory services, accountancy and bookkeeping, advertising, plus technical testing and analysis. Several medical field exemptions also exist across all categories.

Meanwhile, there are also several specific stipulations from individual EU member states. They can be accessed here.

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