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Doing Business in Canada

Short-term Business Travel

You may qualify as a business visitor seeking temporary entry to Canada provided:

  • You are seeking entry for business purposes.
  • The proposed business activity is international in scope.
  • You have no intention of entering the Canadian labor market.
  • Your primary source of remuneration is outside of Canada.
  • The principal place of business and the accrual of profits remains outside of Canada.

A business visitor may temporarily import certain goods duty-free. Goods that qualify are professional equipment (tools of the trade), equipment for the press or for radio or television broadcasters, cinematographic equipment, goods for sports purposes, and goods for display.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has established certain criteria for the duty-free importation and possible GST remission of certain qualifying convention materials by U.S. business people who are crossing into Canada for a meeting, trade show, convention or exhibition. For further information, visit the CBSA Convention Services Program web page.

For general inquiries relating to visiting Canada, please call the CBSA's Border Information Service (BIS), a computerized, 24-hour telephone service that automatically answers all incoming calls and provides general border services information. To speak to an agent, call during regular business hours, Monday to Friday (except holidays) from 8am to 4pm local time, and press 0. Within Canada, call 1-800-461-9999 (toll-free). From outside Canada, call either (204) 983-3500 or (506) 636-5064 (long-distance charges apply).

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) allows business persons to engage in certain business activities without an employment authorization, provided they otherwise comply with existing immigration requirements applicable to temporary entry. Examples are conducting market research, marketing products, negotiating contracts, or taking orders.

Long-Term Business Activities in Canada

North American Free Trade Agreement

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) facilitates the cross border movement of business persons who are citizens of member countries. The provisions of NAFTA do not replace Canada's provisions for temporary entry or for immigration. A U.S. citizen can enter Canada under NAFTA provisions as a business visitor, professional, intra-company transferee, trader or investor.

Prior to seeking entry into Canada under NAFTA, it is advisable to call Canada's Trade Information Line at (613) 944-4000. Their fax number is (613) 996-9709. The Canadian government provides more information at this web site.

Professionals

Professionals are exempt from the job-validation process normally required of individuals seeking to enter Canada's labor market. To qualify as a professional under NAFTA you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must be a citizen of a member country.
  • The occupation you are to be engaged in must be listed in Appendix 1603.D.1 of NAFTA.
  • You must be qualified to work in the occupation.
  • You must have pre-arranged employment or a contracted agreement.

You will need to provide documentation indicating the professional-level activity to be carried out, including:

  • Your job title.
  • A summary of your job duties
  • The expected length of stay.
  • The arrangement for remuneration.

U.S. professionals entering Canada may apply for an Employment Authorization at any Canadian embassy or consulate, or at a U.S. Port of Entry.

When applying at a U.S. Port of Entry, no written application is required and determination can be made at the time of application. The processing fee for issuing employment authorization is CA$125. After admittance into Canada, a Social Insurance Number can be obtained from a local Canada Employment Centre.

Self-employed Professionals

Self-employed business persons may not enter Canada for the purpose of either being self-employed or to establish a professional practice. Professionals must have a contract with an enterprise in the member country. Business persons seeking to establish a business in a foreign member country may wish to investigate applying for temporary entry in either the intra-company transferee, or trader and investor categories.

Intra-Company Transferees

Intracompany transferees are business persons employed by an enterprise who are seeking to render services to a branch, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of that enterprise, in a managerial or executive capacity, or in a manner that involves specialized knowledge. The total period of stay for a person employed in an executive or managerial capacity cannot exceed seven years. The total period of stay for a person employed in a capacity that requires specialized knowledge cannot exceed five years.

To qualify as an intra-company transferee you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must be a citizen of a member country.
  • You must be seeking employment in an executive or managerial capacity, or one involving specialized knowledge. In the case of specialized knowledge, provide evidence that you possess such knowledge, and that such knowledge is required for the proposed employment.
  • You must have been engaged in a similar position within the enterprise for at least one year within the previous three years.
  • You must be transferring to an enterprise that has a clear relationship with the enterprise in which you are currently employed.
  • You must comply with existing immigration requirements for temporary entry.

You will be required to provide the following documentation:

  • You must provide a detailed outline of the purpose and length of stay for which entry is being sought,
  • You must provide a detailed outline of your current job description, position title and place in the organizational structure of the enterprise.

Traders and Investors

An Application for an Employment Authorization Form (Form IMM1295) must be completed at a Canadian embassy or consulate prior to seeking entry. You will also be required to provide information on your business by completing an Application for Trader/Investor Status. There is a CA$125 processing fee for the issuance of employment authorizations. Upon arrival, traders and investors should obtain a Social Insurance Number from a local Canada Employment Centre.

When applying for trader status:

  • You must be a citizen of a member country.
  • The enterprise must have the nationality of a member country.
  • Your predominant activity is to carry on substantial trade in goods or services, principally between Canada and the U.S.
  • The capacity in which you will be acting is executive or supervisory in nature or involves essential skills.
  • You otherwise meet existing immigration requirements for temporary entry.

When applying for investor status:

  • You must be a citizen of a member country.
  • The enterprise must have the nationality of a member country.
  • Substantial investment has or is being made.
  • The investment is more than a marginal one.
  • The enterprise is a real and operating commercial enterprise which operates continuously to produce some service or commodity for profit.
  • You are in a position to "develop and direct" the enterprise; or if an employee of an investor, you are in a position that is executive, supervisory or involves essential skills.
  • You comply with existing immigration requirements for temporary entry.