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How to Come to Canada as a NAFTA Professional

Updated on November 9, 2014

NAFTA CAN make your Canadian Immigration Easier

Notice: This article is a summary of publicly available information regarding treaties, laws and policies. Individual situations vary and laws change, so your best bet is to contact an immigration attorney or an immigration consultant. Learn how to make sure your representative is authorized to provide assistance to you.

The Government of Canada has introduced new programs such as the Canadian Experience Class that allow you to apply for permanent residence (which is one of the requirements for Canadian citizenship) if you have one year of Canadian work experience. However, to work in Canada as a foreign worker, often a positive Labour Market Opinion (proof that the employer tried to recruit citizens or permanent residents for your job) is required from the Canadian government. This process can take a while and may turn employers off from hiring you.

For citizens of the United States and Mexico, however, there is a simpler way to come to Canada. The North American Free Trade Agreement (also known as NAFTA) has several rules that help facilitate the transfer of people and goods between each party country to the agreement. In this article, I will introduce you to Annex 1603, Section D of NAFTA which governs professionals in sixty professions that can enjoy facilitated, easy entry into Canada.

From the Peace Arch at the Canadian-US border in Washington

Licenced under Creative Commons BY-ND Licence
Licenced under Creative Commons BY-ND Licence | Source

The List of NAFTA-eligible Professions

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or C.P.A., C.A., C.G.A. or C.M.A.
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license
Computer Systems Analyst
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or PostSecondary Diploma 3 or PostSecondary Certificate 4 , and three years experience
Disaster Relief Insurance Claims Adjuster (claims Adjuster employed by an insurance company located in the territory of a Party, or an independent claims adjuster)
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree, and successful completion of training in the appropriate areas of insurance adjustment pertaining to disaster relief claims; or three years experience in claims adjustment and successful completion of training in the appropriate areas of insurance adjustment pertaining to disaster relief claims.
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license
2131-2134; 2141-2148
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license
2122 & 2223
Graphic Designer
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or PostSecondary Diploma or PostSecondary Certificate, and three years experience
Hotel Manager
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree in hotel/restaurant management; or PostSecondary Diploma or PostSecondary Certificate in hotel/restaurant management, and three years experience in hotel/restaurant management
Industrial Designer
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or PostSecondary Diploma or PostSecondary Certificate, and three years experience
Interior Designer
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or PostSecondary Diploma or PostSecondary Certificate, and three years experience
Land Surveyor
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial/federal license
Landscape Architect
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
LL.B., J.D., LL.L., B.C.L. or Licenciatura Degree (five years); or membership in a state/provincial bar
M.L.S. or B.L.S. (for which another Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree was a prerequisite)
Management Consultant
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or equivalent professional experience as established by statement or professional credential attesting to five years experience as a management consultant, or five years experience in a field of specialty related to the consulting agreement
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Range Manager/Range Conservationalist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Research Assistant (working in a post-secondary educational institution)
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree


Does your job title fit neatly into the NAFTA titles or do you need to use the NOC to make your title fit?

See results

Did You Find Your Title Exactly? Great! If Not...

According to the Foreign Worker Manual, CIC advises border officials that the title should match exactly. But do not despair if nothing matched exactly, for there is another option still - if your title is close enough, you may still be able to take advantage of the Professionals class.

Next to each profession, I included either a four digit code or a range of four digit codes. These are National Occupation Classification codes, corresponding to a matrix of different job titles. Find the title that sounds closest to yours or you can search for your title and see if you still qualify.

The National Occupation Classification is updated every five years by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and Statistics Canada. The next scheduled update is in 2016 and Statistics Canada has stated that they will not be moving job titles around the matrix in this next update.

A concern you may want to watch out for is that some jobs may list in two different areas on the NOC. If your job title is a variant of one of the NAFTA job titles, you need to make sure that your job title still falls under the eligible NOC code. For example, web designers can fall into 5241, which is the category for graphic designers. However, web designers also fall into 2175, which is not an eligible profession code. One strategy you may want to use to avoid this is using the Job Bank (run by the federal government) to make sure the jobs you are aiming for fall in the right NOC code. Print your listings, so that if you get the job, you can prove it is NAFTA eligible to Canadian Immigration authorities.

Time for the Canadian Job Hunt!

Now that you have determined that you are eligible, you have the right profession, the right degree and the right amount of training, you can now start looking for work. The Government of Canada makes it very easy to start searching for work, providing you with resources to conduct your search.

One of the best places to search for a job in Canada is the government website, Working in Canada. As I said above, this is a federal job database which also has the NOC code in the listing. What this does is it pulls job listings from other websites and provincial job banks (like WorkBC and Emplois-Qu├ębec).

One thing you may need to do is travel to Canada for either an interview or you may want to do your search in person. This is possible, but please remember that you need to be honest with border control. Make it clear to them when they ask that (a) you will honour your visa conditions for this entry and (b) you will apply for a valid visa once work is offered.

I have a dual intention, as authorized under Section 22 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, to come to Canada to look for work. I am a NAFTA-eligible individual under Annex 1603 of NAFTA and once I have found work, I will apply to Citizenship and Immigration Canada for the appropriate work authorization.

If you are a United States citizen, you can apply at the Point of Entry for a work permit.


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