Thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), American and Mexican citizens have unique opportunities to immigrate to Canada via the International Mobility Program. While the acronym NAFTA was recently changed to Canada-United States- Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), the old term is still used to describe these immigration streams.

In this article, we will be exploring two different non-immigrant visa categories under this umbrella: Traders and Investors.

What is a NAFTA Trader or Investor?

As a NAFTA trader, the candidate must have the intention and ability to engage in substantial trade (whether it be related to goods or services) between their country of citizenship and Canada. Given that this is a NAFTA program, they must be a citizen of the United States or Mexico.

As a NAFTA investor, the candidate must have invested – or be in the process of investing – a substantial amount of money into an existing or new Canadian business, and without the possibility of recovering the invested funds. Please note that passive investment, such as real estate, does not qualify.

Both streams require that the applicant occupies an executive or supervisory role at their current company, or one that requires a set of specialized skills. It’s important to note that while applicants can apply to both streams if they are unsure of which one suits them best, they can only be accepted into one. There is no such thing as a “NAFTA Trader and Investor” visa – it’s one or the other.

Upon acceptance into either category, the applicant will receive an initial work permit that is valid for one year. If they continue to meet all of the necessary requirements, they will typically be granted an extension for two more years. This visa can be extended as many times as the trader or investor desires, provided that they express a definite intention to return to their country of citizenship when their status expires, and that they continue to meet all eligibility criteria.

How is “substantial” evaluated?

For traders, “substantial” is evaluated based on the volume and monetary value of the trades being conducted. For investors, it is related to the total value of the business receiving the investment, and the amount normally required to establish a viable business in the given industry or sector. It will be important to detail the investment with solid documentation, such as contract signed, source of funds, invoices issued, etc.

NAFTA Trader eligibility requirements

Applicants for this International Mobility Program must be:

  • An American or Mexican citizen
  • An executive or supervisor or specialized employee (for subsequent applications)
  • Employed by an American or Mexican company whose primary trade partner is Canada (more than 50% of total trade volume)
  • Conducting business activities that involve substantial trade of goods or services
  • Maintaining an ongoing trade relationship, as opposed to starting a new one
  • Able to meet any other requirements regarding their temporary entry into Canada

NAFTA Investor eligibility requirements

Applicants for this International Mobility Program must be:

  • An American or Mexican citizen
  • An executive or supervisor or specialized worker
  • Employed by an American or Mexican company that has made, or is currently making, a substantial investment in a Canadian business
  • Seeking to enter Canada for the sole purpose of “developing and directing” the enterprise in which the American or Mexican company has invested (i.e. own at least 50% of its shares)
  • Able to meet any other requirements regarding their temporary entry into Canada

Work in Canada as a trader or investor

The NAFTA agreement has opened countless doors for Canadians, Mexicans, and Americans who wish to live and conduct business in another NAFTA country. If you are ready to embark on your own immigration journey, nothing beats having a professional on your side: the attorneys at Exeo can help you compile a compelling, complete, error-free application, while providing guidance and advice at every step of the process. Get in touch today and one of our experts will get back to you shortly.

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