CUSMA Work Permit: The T36 Exemption Code for Professionals

CUSMA work permit for Professionals

A 39-year-old American hotel manager, Emily, just got a job offer in Saskatoon in the same position. Excited yet puzzled, she wonders about her work permit options. Specifically, she’s curious about the LMIA exemption code T36. She knows this could simplify her move. But does her profession qualify? And what steps should she follow? Emily dives into research, seeking clarity. She wants to make this transition as smooth as possible. Her journey begins with understanding the USMCA/CUSMA agreement and its benefits for professionals like her.

Introducing USMCA, CUSMA, T-Mech

The USMCA, known as CUSMA in Canada and T-MEC in Mexico, revamps NAFTA. The free trade agreement between the United States, Canada, and Mexico introduces new trade and labour agreements. Specifically, Annex 16-A targets labour mobility between the three countries and details who qualifies for streamlined work permits.

  1. What CUSMA Does in Canada
    • Covers citizens of the participating countries
    • Enables temporary business activities across the U.S., Mexico, and Canada without needing an LMIA.
    • Allows certain business visitors to enter without a work permit.
    • Streamlines the process for TRV-exempt professionals, allowing port-of-entry applications.
  2. What CUSMA Does Not Do
    • CUSMA is not for permanent residency.
    • It excludes permanent residents of the three countries from its provisions.
    • Does not override licensing/certification for professional practice.
    • Family members of the covered individuals are subject to the regular immigration process.
  3. Who is Covered by CUSMA?
    • Focuses on U.S., Mexican, and Canadian citizens, including those from the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
    • Excludes citizens of certain U.S. territories and permanent residents from the temporary entry benefits.

CUSMA Work Permit Categories in Canada

Canadian authorities have tailored special work permit options for Mexican and United States citizens based on the CUSMA agreement. These options exempt qualified applicants from an LMIA when applying for a work permit. Here are the existing exemption codes and their brief descriptions.

  • CUSMA Trader (T34): For individuals engaged in cross-border trade.
  • CUSMA Investor (T35): For investors managing substantial investments.
  • CUSMA Professional (T36): For qualified professionals practicing in reciprocal economies.
  • CUSMA ICT Executive or Senior Manager (T37): For high-level company transfers.
  • CUSMA ICT Specialized Knowledge (T38): For those with unique expertise beneficial to the company.

This article focuses on the LMIA exemption code T36 (IMP T36) for professionals.

Who is a professional?

Under CUSMA, professionals are business individuals who come to offer agreed-upon professional services. These services can be under a Canadian company’s salaried position. Alternatively, they might work through a contract. This contract could be directly with a Canadian employer or involve their American or Mexican employer and a Canadian company. Additionally, Appendix 2 of CUSMA details 63 specific occupations. These professionals deliver services in their areas of expertise.

List of CUSMA professions based on Appendix 2

The following tables reflect the professionals covered under CUSMA and show the minimum requirements for applying under LMIA exemption code T36. The immigration authorities usually require a minimum education. However, sometimes, the applicant needs to show work experience or other qualifications.

ProfessionMinimum Requirements
AccountantBachelor’s or CPA/C.A./C.G.A./C.M.A.
EconomistBachelor’s or CPA/C.A./C.G.A./C.M.A.
Lawyer (including Notary in Quebec)LL.B./J.D./LL.L./B.C.L./Licenciatura or Bar Membership

General: Design and Technology

ProfessionMinimum Requirements
ArchitectBachelor’s or State/Provincial License
Computer Systems AnalystBachelor’s or State/Provincial License
Graphic DesignerBachelor’s or Diploma/Certificate + 3 Years Experience
Industrial DesignerBachelor’s or Diploma/Certificate + 3 Years Experience
Interior DesignerBachelor’s or Diploma/Certificate + 3 Years Experience
Urban Planner (including Geographer)Bachelor’s or Diploma/Certificate + 3 Years Experience

General: Management and Administration

ProfessionMinimum Requirements
Disaster Relief Insurance Claims AdjusterBachelor’s + Training or 3 Years Experience + Training
Hotel ManagerBachelor’s + Training or 3 Years Experience + Training
Management ConsultantBachelor’s in Management or Diploma/Certificate + 3 Years Experience
Technical Publications WriterBachelor’s or 5 Years Experience
Vocational CounsellorBachelor’s or Diploma/Certificate + 3 Years Experience

General: Science and Engineering

ProfessionMinimum Requirements
EngineerBachelor’s or State/Provincial License
ForesterBachelor’s or State/Provincial License
Land SurveyorBachelor’s or State/Provincial License
Landscape ArchitectBachelor’s or State/Provincial/Federal License
LibrarianBachelor’s Degree
Mathematician (including Statistician)M.L.S. or B.L.S. (with prerequisite Bachelor’s)
Range Manager/Range ConservationalistBachelor’s Degree
Research Assistant (Post-Secondary Institution)Bachelor’s Degree
Scientific Technician/TechnologistTheoretical Knowledge + Problem Solving Ability
Social WorkerBachelor’s Degree
Sylviculturist (including Forestry Specialist)Bachelor’s Degree

Medical/Allied Professional

ProfessionMinimum Requirements
DentistD.D.S., D.M.D., Doctor en Odontologia, Doctor en Cirugia Dental; or State/Provincial License
DietitianBachelor’s or State/Provincial License
Medical Laboratory Technologist (Canada)/Medical Technologist (Mexico and the United States)Bachelor’s or State/Provincial License
NutritionistBachelor’s or Post-Secondary Diploma/Certificate + 3 Years Experience
Occupational TherapistBachelor’s Degree
PharmacistBachelor’s or State/Provincial License
Physician (teaching or research only)M.D. or Doctor en Medicina; or State/Provincial License
Physiotherapist/Physical TherapistBachelor’s or State/Provincial License
PsychologistState/Provincial License; or Licenciatura Degree
Recreational TherapistBachelor’s or State/Provincial License
Registered NurseState/Provincial License; or Licenciatura Degree
VeterinarianD.V.M., D.M.V., or Doctor en Veterinaria; or State/Provincial License

Scientist

ProfessionMinimum Requirements
Agriculturist (including Agronomist)Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Animal BreederBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Animal ScientistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
ApiculturistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
AstronomerBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
BiochemistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
BiologistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
ChemistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Dairy ScientistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
EntomologistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
EpidemiologistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
GeneticistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
GeologistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
GeochemistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Geophysicist (including Oceanographer in Mexico and the United States)Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
HorticulturistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
MeteorologistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
PharmacologistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Physicist (including Oceanographer in Canada)Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Plant BreederBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Poultry ScientistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Soil ScientistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
ZoologistBaccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Teacher

ProfessionMinimum Requirements
CollegeBachelor’s Degree
SeminaryBachelor’s Degree
UniversityBachelor’s Degree

Where can you apply for a professional CUSMA work permit?

All applicants may apply online before or after entry (practitioners see R197 and R199(h)). U.S. citizens may also apply at a port of entry. Those Mexican citizens who qualify for an eTA may also apply at a Canadian airport upon entry. However, this option is not available to the rest of Mexican citizens. Finally, flagpoling is another option for Mexican citizens.

Documentation for Professional Work Permit Application

Professionals must provide:

  • Proof of American or Mexican citizenship.
  • Confirmation of pre-arranged employment via:
    • A contract with a Canadian enterprise, or
    • An employment offer from a Canadian employer, or
    • A letter from an American or Mexican employer to a Canadian enterprise.
  • Documentation detailing:
    • The Canadian employer,
    • The profession and position details (title, duties, duration, payment arrangements),
    • The required educational qualifications or credentials.

Employment Conditions

Employment must be pre-arranged, and self-employment must not be allowed in Canada. Examples include:

  • An employee-employer relationship with a Canadian enterprise,
  • A contract between the professional and a Canadian enterprise,
  • A contract between the professional’s American or Mexican employer and a Canadian enterprise. The Canadian employer must be distinct from the applicant. Control or ownership by the applicant may disqualify entry under this category.

Renewal and Self-Employment Indicators

For renewal, indicators of self-employment in Canada include:

  • Incorporation of a company for self-employment,
  • “Job hunting” activities,
  • Establishing an office for advertisement. Activities not constituting self-employment:
  • Responding to unsolicited service inquiries,
  • Setting up an office for pre-arranged services.

Important points to consider while providing documents

  • Professionals must work in occupations they qualify for, as Appendix 2 of CUSMA describes.
  • Duties in Canada must align with the profession’s listed job duties.
  • Appendix 2 qualifications represent the minimum entry requirement, not necessarily the professional qualifications required in Canada.
  • Assessing professional licensing is not the officer’s role; compliance with Canadian standards is the responsibility of the employer and professional.
  • Nurses require a provincial license for Professional status; entry may be facilitated for licensing if they’ve initiated licensure steps.
  • Professionals with multiple contracts in Canada must include documentation for each employer on their work permit.

Work Permit Duration and Extensions for IMP T36

The officer makes the final decision. However, the following list gives you a hint about the duration of the work permit and subsequent extensions.

  • Initial work permits last up to three years.
  • Extensions follow in up to three-year increments.
  • There’s no limit on the number of extensions as long as professionals meet requirements.
  • Officers verify employment remains “temporary.”
  • They ensure that there is no misuse of CUSMA to bypass immigration rules.

Programs Similar to CUSMA for Professionals

Canada offers work permits to professionals from other countries under programs similar to IMP T36. However, the duration of the work permits and the list of professionals are different. The following list only lists the FTAs (Free Trade Agreements) and their associated IMP codes. Please book a consultation session to explore your options.

FTALMIA Exemption Code
Colombia – Professionals or TechniciansF12
Chile – ProfessionalsF22
South Korea – Contract Service Suppliers or Independent ProfessionalF32
Panama – Professionals or TechniciansF42
Peru – Professionals or TechniciansF52
GATS professional (for WTO members)T33
CETA Independent professional (for EU members)T43
CPTPP Professional or technician (the Trans-Pacific Partnership)T52
UK Independent professionalsF60

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    This article has been expertly crafted by Al Parsai, a distinguished Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (L3 RCIC-IRB – Unrestricted Practice) hailing from vibrant Toronto, Canada. Al's academic achievements include an esteemed role as an adjunct professor at prestigious Queen's University Law School and Ashton College, as well as a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from York University. A respected member of CICC and CAPIC organizations, Al's insights are further enriched by his experience as the dynamic CEO of Parsai Immigration Services. Guiding thousands of applicants from over 55 countries through the immigration process since 2011, Al's articles offer a wealth of invaluable knowledge for readers.