Dear Miss Powell,
I am a Jamaica-born accountant with United States (US) citizenship and would like to work in Canada. Do I need a work permit? I heard that US citizens can work in Canada under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Is this so? Please advise.
Under the NAFTA Agreement certain North American professionals are permitted to work in Canada on a short-term basis without a work permit. The Agreement allows for temporary cross-border movement of business travellers between Canada, the United States and Mexico. That means that individuals may enter Canada to carry out professional activities for their employer or on contract with a Canadian company. Such activities may include performing training functions or conducting seminars related to your profession.
If you are a chartered accountant you will be able to travel more easily between the NAFTA countries in order to conduct legitimate business or become engaged in investment activities. If you intend to spend an extended period of time as a full-time employee in Canada, you will be required to make the usual application for a work permit. As an American citizen, the advantage is that your application will be processed more quickly.
On the other hand, a Jamaican citizen would need to ensure that before a prospective Canadian employer send a job offer; they would need to do a labour market opinion to see how the job would affect Canadian jobs. As a US citizen, employers can provide work for American and Mexican citizens without having job offers approved by Human Resources Department, provided that job falls with the stated list of permitted professionals. To benefit under NAFTA, you must be qualified to work in one of over 60 professions that are listed in Chapter 16. Accountants, doctors, engineers are some of the professionals included in this list. Additionally, you must have pre-arranged employment with a Canadian enterprise and the written offer of employment should match your qualifications.
Please note that you will also need to satisfy an immigration officer that you intend to leave Canada at the end of your employment contract. Additionally, you should prove that you have no criminal record, that you are in good health and have enough money or will earn enough money to support yourself during your stay in Canada.
You may submit your application from the US or upon your arrival in Canada. However, you should ensure that you have a written job offer and able to satisfy the requirements for a work permit, before you submit your application to avoid rejection or delay.
If you have doubts or concerns about your application consult with a lawyer or a certified immigration consultant to assist you.
Deidre S. Powell is a lawyer, mediator and notary public who is a member of the Jamaican and Ontario, Canada bars, with main office located in Ottawa, Ontario. Her areas of practice are in immigration, personal injury, family and administration of estates. She is on the roster of mediators for Ottawa, Toronto and the Dispute Resolution Foundation of Jamaica. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Subject line: Immigration