Will renewed NAFTA negotiations benefit U.S. immigration?

As the Canadian government prepares for negotiations with the United States to renew the North American Free Trade Agreement, there is concern that not much would come from the need for greater labour mobility. One of the purposes of NAFTA is to benefit U.S. immigration and the labour flow between Canada, including British Columbia, and the United States. However, the fact that it has been more than 20 years since the original agreement was negotiated makes the current list of professions outdated because it includes only about 60 occupations.

Under NAFTA, employers can freely employ workers from across the border without first determining whether local workers can fill those positions. It allows business visits between the countries without work permits, and work visas for intra-company transfers are expedited. However, many professions that are in high demand are not included in the list of applicable occupations. This affects the high-tech industry that has developed extensively over the past 20 years.

Another industry that is hoping for greater labour mobility is manufacturing. Specialized tool and dye makers and welders cannot fill shortages or take care of installations, repairs and maintenance of equipment sold to customers across the border. Interested parties also hope to see more consistency in the application of NAFTA provisions. Reportedly, one CEO of a U.S. company crossed the border without problems 19 times but was refused entry on his next trip.

It was said that the U.S. business executive was exploring a Canadian location for investment when the agent at the border told him she had to protect jobs for Canadians -- unaware that he planned to create at least 300 jobs. It is unsure what will transpire at the NAFTA negotiations, and no one knows how it will impact on current U.S. immigration and employment agreements. Consulting with a British Columbia lawyer who focuses on cross-border immigration issues may benefit companies on both sides of the border.

Source: Joan Bryden, "Canada hopes new NAFTA eases cross-border movement for workers", Joan Bryden, July 27, 2017

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