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NAFTA and Job Search in Canada

By Daisy Wright

A researcher for a US television station was recently looking for an American who couldn't find work in the U.S. and decided to look abroad – particularly Ontario, Canada. Specifics of the request were:

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A researcher for a US television station was recently looking for an American who couldn't find work in the U.S. and decided to look abroad – particularly Ontario, Canada. Specifics of the request were:

"The person could have been unemployed or unable to keep a full time permanent job in the U.S. or could have either gotten a job offer from a Canadian employer while still in the U.S. or left the U.S. for Canada and successfully found employment."

The researcher's request coincided with a recentNAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) meeting in Washington of "The Three Amigos" (a name that fondly refers to the Presidents of United States & Mexico, and the Prime Minister of Canada).

NAFTA is an international agreement to facilitate freer trading relationships among the United States, Canada, and Mexico, a region of more than 400 million people. This agreement came into effect on January 1, 1994, and as a result, it became necessary to loosen immigration and trade restrictions among the countries.

What follows is a synopsis of NAFTA, as it relates to the movement of skilled labour. The article is for information purposes only and is not a discussion of the commercial or political merits of the agreement. Its intent is to shine a spotlight on a little known aspect of the Agreement that could be beneficial to professionals from member countries.

How NAFTA Impacts Job Hunting

Under NAFTA, certain professionals from Canada, Mexico, and the United States can gain quicker, easier temporary entry to conduct investment or business activities if they are employees of a company that does business for an employer in these countries.

Businesspeople and professionals may be admitted if they have:

  • Proof of citizenship of a NAFTA country
  • Evidence that the proposed business activity is international and that the businessperson does not seek to enter the host state's labour market
  • Profession is on the NAFTA list
  • Position requires a NAFTA professional
  • Applicant is to work in a prearranged full-time or part-time job, for a Canadian, Mexican, or U.S. employer

While these professionals must comply with each country's existing regulations on temporary entry immigration requirements, they are exempt from the job-validation process by their respective immigration departments, or in the case of Canada, Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC).

Where are the potential windows of opportunity for employment?

  1. The region is home to approximately 444 million people, with over $1 trillion in trilateral trade, and that trade includes the trading of skilled labour.
  2. The unemployment rate in all three countries averages 6.6% (United States 7.4%, Canada 7.2% and Mexico 5.1%).
  3. There's a considerable skills shortage in the region, and as Canada and the US face an aging population, Mexico will continue to be an important source of immigrants.
  4. Every year, over 150,000 foreign workers enter Canada to work temporarily in jobs that help Canadian employers address skill shortages. This may or may not include professionals employed through the NAFTA stream.

There are over 60 professions where job opportunities may exist as a result of NAFTA. Among these are accountants, architects, economists, engineers, teachers, management consultant, pharmacists, dieticians, and registered nurses. (The full list of professions can be found at the link below titled "Cross Border Movement of Business Persons.") Of course, these individuals must satisfy the minimum credential requirements for the proposed occupation and have the necessary professional license, certification, accreditation, or registration applicable to the practice of their profession.

Having said all of that, it is important to note that, in Canada, unless the profession is a specialized one, or there is a severe shortage of people to fill particular positions, obtaining a job offer for a permanent position is not as easy as it appears, with or without NAFTA. However, that should not prevent professionals from exploring other opportunities if their job search south of the border is proving unsuccessful.

As noted earlier, this article is for information purposes only, and not intended to offer legal advice. Readers should visit the information links, below, for specific requirements and seek legal advice before making a decision.

For More Information:


About this author...

A Certified Career Management Coach, Daisy Wright is Author of "No Canadian Experience, Eh? A Career Success Guide for New Immigrants."  She is also the founder of The Wright Career Solution, where she assists executives, managers, and other job-seeking professionals with their resumes, cover letters, social media profiles, and interview preparation. Daisy can be found blogging at Career Musings, hanging around in CareerTips2Go Cafe as the resident "Coach-on-Call," or tweeting as @CareerTips2Go and @NoCdnExperience.


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