Canada: Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA): Reducing Barriers To Labour Mobility

The Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) is a free-trade agreement between Canada, the European Union (EU), and its member states enacted to reduce trade barriers and strengthen mutually beneficial economic ties between Canada and the EU. The agreement received approval from all 28 EU member states, and was ratified by the European Parliament in February 2017. CETA was signed by Canada on October 30, 2016 and entered into force on September 21, 2017. 

CETA covers all aspect of Canada-EU trade, ranging from tariffs to investment, professional certification, product standards, and labour mobility among many others. In the immigration context, CETA will expand Canada's international mobility program and will facilitate entry for a broader group of workers and business visitors.

Recognizing the importance of facilitating the mobility of highly-skilled business people, there are three categories of business persons covered by the agreement:

  1. Key personnel: including intra-company transferees, investors, business visitors for investment purposes;
  2. Contractual service suppliers and independent professionals; and
  3. Short-term business visitors.

1. Intra-corporate (company) transferee

Intra-corporate (company) transferee provisions of CETA are similar to the current intra-company provisions with the addition of graduate trainees.

All intra-corporate (company) transferees must:

  • have been employed by an enterprise of, or have been partners in an enterprise of, an EU member state for at least one year
  • be temporarily transferred to an enterprise (that may be a subsidiary, branch, or head company of the enterprise) in Canada

The applicant must belong to one of the following categories:

  • Senior personnel
  • Specialists
  • Graduate trainees who possess a university degree and are being temporarily transferred to a Canadian enterprise for career development purposes or to obtain training on business techniques or methods.

Intra-corporate transferees under the senior personnel or specialist category may be granted work permits valid for three years or the length of the contract, whichever is less, with a possible 18-month extension. Graduate trainee intra-corporate transferees may be granted a work permit valid for 12 months or the length of the contract, whichever is lesser. 

2. Contractual Service Suppliers and independent professionals

CETA includes a list of service sectors applicable to contractual service suppliers and independent professionals eligible for work permits.  For example, those providing legal advisory services, accounting, architectural services, engineering, computer and related services (to name a few) with requisite educational or professional qualifications may work temporarily on both sides of the Atlantic for up to a 12 month period. The list of professionals eligible to obtain a work permit exempt from a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) is broader than the current list under the North America Free Trade Agreement.

A contractual service supplier must be engaged in the supply of a service on a temporary basis as an employee of an enterprise which has obtained a service contract. They must have been an employee of the EU-headquartered enterprise for at least one year and possess three years of professional experience in the sector of activity that is the subject of the contract.

A self-employed or independent professional who has a contract to supply a service to a Canadian consumer must be engaged in the supply of a service on a temporary basis as a self-employed person and possess at least six years of professional experience in the sector of activity which is the subject of the contract. 

3. Business Visitors

Under CETA, there are two categories of business visitors: short-term business visitors and business visitors for investment purposes. The maximum length of stay for short-term business visitors and business visitors for investment purposes is 90 days in any six month period, if the applicant does not qualify under R186(a) or R187. Permissible activities under CETA include: meetings and consultations, research and design, marketing research, training seminars, trade fairs and exhibitions, sales, purchasing, after-sales or after-lease service, commercial transactions, tourism personnel and translation and interpretation.

Short-term business visitors are not permitted to engage in selling a good or service to the general public, receive remuneration directly or indirectly from a Canadian source or engage in the supply of service.

CETA also includes a provision for the temporary entry of business visitors for investment purposes.  A business visitor for investment purposes is an employee in a managerial or specialist position who is responsible for setting up an enterprise but who does not engage in direct transactions with the general public and will not receive direct or indirect remuneration from a Canadian source.

For EU citizens, CETA creates new opportunities to work and invest in Canada through new work permit categories. Canadian businesses will also reap great benefits, as CETA will allow Canadian companies contracting foreign EU workers to bring them in more quickly. 

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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