Work Permits Pursuant to International Free Trade Agreements


A founding partner of Abramovich & Tchern, Ksenia started her legal career at one of Canada’s top immigration firms, where she operated her own immigration law practice, with a focus on corporate and individual immigration applications.
trade agreements

Work Permits Pursuant to International Free Trade Agreements

Early in 2021, the Government of Canada invited around 27,300 skilled workers to stay under the Canadian Experience Class of the Express Entry pool. The government considers immigration “essential” to the economy, both in the short- and long-term.

But the process of entering Canada as a worker can appear incredibly complex to the uninitiated. While International Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) grant temporary entry to foreign workers, their eligibility requirements are somewhat dense.

So, you may have in-demand skills and experience of living or working in Canada, but still have no idea whether you qualify for temporary entry.

In this post, you’ll learn what International FTAs are, what FTAs are available, and who is eligible for different FTAs.

What are International Free Trade Agreements?

FTAs enable business persons from outside Canada to apply for temporary entry. Anyone eligible for an FTA will usually need a work permit, though they’re exempt from Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIA).

A LMIA is a document that Canadian employers may need before they hire a non-Canadian employee. A positive LMIA demonstrates that a non-Canadian worker is necessary to fill the current vacancy, and that no one currently residing in the country (Canadian or permanent resident) is available.

As employers don’t need an LMIA to take on a foreign worker under FTAs, you may find securing temporary entry easier than through alternative pathways.

New arrivals can also request a work permit at the port of entry, such as when arriving at an airport or crossing the land border into Canada. Applicants must be a citizen of one of the relevant countries in the FTA, except for the Canada-Peru FTA (see below).

What Agreements Exist?

Foreign workers seeking temporary entry on a work permit may be eligible to apply under one of the following FTAs:

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA)

CUSMA superseded the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as of July 1st, 2020.

CUSMA was created to:

  • Allow temporary entry for citizens of the United States, Mexico, or Canada involved in specific business activities.
  • Eliminate the need for LMIA for all eligible persons.
  • Free some business visitors from a work permit requirement.
  • Enable workers to apply at the port of entry.

CUSMA covers:

Business visitors:

Individuals engaged in international activities in specific areas (e.g., research and design, marketing). No work permit is required.


Salaried employees of a Canadian company or bound by a contract. A work permit is required.

Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)

CETA allows foreign workers to apply for temporary entry into Canada at the port of arrival or abroad in some cases.

This FTA applies to:

Contractual service suppliers and independent professionals:

Both types of applicants must be a citizen of an EU member state, providing a service for no longer than 12 months, and hired to perform a service that aligns to the Annex 10-E concordance table.

Engineering technologists and scientific technologists:

Both types of applicants require proof that they’re citizens of an EU member state, a copy of a signed contract, evidence of the role’s details, and proof of necessary qualifications.

Canada-Chile FTA

Immigrants applying for temporary entry under the Canada-Chile FTA must meet specific education requirements and/or have additional credentials.


Skilled workers applying for dozens of job types may be eligible for a Canada-Chile FTA. Here are some examples:

  • Accountant
  • Architect engineer
  • Management consultant;
  • Dentist
  • Pharmacist
  • Geologist

You can find the exhaustive list of roles and requirements at the Government of Canada website.

Canada-Peru FTA

The Canada-Peru FTA came into effect on August 1st, 2009. Applicants may be permanent residents of each country in the FTA, unlike with NAFTA and CUSMA. Evidence of permanent resident status is acceptable to support an application.

The Canada-Peru FTA uses a negative list to identify eligible professionals by mentioning those NOT covered.


Ineligible applicants for the Canada-Peru FTA include:

  • Pharmacists
  • Library managers
  • Construction managers
  • Managers working in telecommunication carriers
  • Performing artists

Many other professions are covered in the official list.

Canada-Colombia FTA

The Canada-Colombia FTA has been in effect since August 15th, 2011. Workers who are ineligible to apply for the Canada-Peru FTA are also unable to apply for the Canada-Colombia FTA.


Professions NOT covered by the Canada-Colombia FTA include:

  • University professors and assistants
  • Teachers and counsellors at secondary and elementary levels
  • Managers in motion pictures and broadcasting
  • Managers in utilities

If you believe you may be eligible for this FTA, check the list of excluded professions carefully to ensure that’s the case.

Canada-Korea FTA

The Canada-Korea FTA was introduced on January 1st, 2015. This applies to two types of professional: contract service suppliers and independent professionals.

Applicants in both categories must request entry for providing a pre-arranged service with the relevant education, or they must meet licensing or accreditation requirements suitable for the role.


Applicants classed as contract service suppliers are employed by an enterprise to perform a service, and said enterprise has a contract from the other Party, which will be the end-consumer of the service.

An independent professional is self-employed and has a service contract with an enterprise or consumer of the other Party in a professional capacity.

Eligible professions for contract service suppliers include:

  • Architect
  • Biologist
  • Landscape architect
  • Engineer
  • Software engineer and designer

Independent professionals may be:

  • Engineers
  • Management consultants
  • Architects
  • Veterinarians

You can find the complete list of eligible professions for the Canada-Korea FTA here.

How to Find Professional Immigration Help in Toronto

We hope this guide has helped to clarify how International Free Trade Agreements work and which may be suitable for you. The application process can be incredibly complicated, so we highly recommend that you seek professional assistance from immigration lawyers.

Abramovich & Tchern structure persuasive application packages that tell your story, demonstrate why you would be an asset to your employer and Canada, and convince decision-makers.

Your application is crucial to you — so it’s crucial to us too.

To learn more about how Abramovich & Tchern can help you apply for temporary entry to Canada, contact our Toronto office today.

Ksenia Tchern

A founding partner of Abramovich & Tchern, Ksenia started her legal career at one of Canada’s top immigration firms, where she operated her own immigration law practice, with a focus on corporate and individual immigration applications.