CUSMA: Your Fast Track To Life in Canada

Canada is a famously friendly and peaceful country. One of the ways they show this is by having significant trade agreements with major nations worldwide. One of Canada's most significant agreements is the Canada United States Mexico Agreement (CUSMA).

CUSMA was specifically designed by the Canadian, Mexican and United States governments to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Both agreements are engineered to support trade between Canada, the United States and Mexico by abolishing tariffs and other trade barriers. This ultimately applies to many aspects of Canadian trade, including immigration and skilled foreign workers.

What does CUSMA do?

For many American and Mexican citizens, CUSMA is a means of getting a Canada temporary work permit without the need for a Labour Market Impact Assessment. However, specific requirements and a process must be adhered to for this program to come into effect.

What doesn't CUSMA do?

CUSMA is not a means of getting permanent residency in Canada. Suppose you're looking to gain Canadian permanent residency with CUSMA. In that case, you may be able to via the Canadian experience class, an Express entry program that requires applicants to live and work in Canada for at least one year, but you have to work in Canada for at least a year.

If you aren't a citizen but a permanent resident of Mexico or the United States, CUSMA doesn't apply to you either. You have to be a citizen.

CUSMA doesn't replace the local workforce with foreigners from the U.S. or Mexico, nor does it supersede the requirements for entry to Canada for the applicant or their dependents.

CUSMA has five primary programs, each designed for the different types of professionals the program applies to most.

CUSMA Business Visitors

CUSMA business visitors are foreign workers temporarily working in Canada for an existing enterprise. The primary reasons for business visitors to work in Canada are generally related to the business cycle, focusing on areas such as research and design; growth, manufacture and production; marketing; sales; distribution; after-sales service; and general service. To see if your occupation falls on the eligible list of jobs, look at this handy guide.

What are the application requirements?

To be eligible for the CUSMA business visitors program, an applicant must:

  • be the US or Mexican citizen
  • be in Canada to conduct CUSMA-approved business activities, as specified on the government of Canada's website
  • be undertaking activities that are international in scope
  • have no intention to enter into the Canadian labour market

What documents do you need?

Each applicant must provide documentation to prove they meet all eligibility requirements. As a business visitor, you do not require a work permit, valid Canada job offer letter or a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to work in Canada. However, the documents you need to submit are:

  • proof of American or Mexican citizenship via a travel document like a passport
  • documentation to support the purpose for entry, such as a letter of employment or from your employer validating and justifying your need to work in Canada
  • proof that the business activity you've undertaken in Canada is international in scope and that you aren't attempting to enter Canada's labour market. To do this, you must include documents showing:
    • your primary source of remuneration is outside Canada, and
    • your company's place of business is outside Canada, and most company turnover is accumulated outside Canada.


You must ensure all your application forms and documents are complete and correct. Any incorrect or missing information can cause you to be rejected from your CUSMA program.

Where do you apply as a Business Visitor?

The primary reason it's imperative is that you have all your documents in check before leaving for Canada. You can only apply for the CUSMA business visitor program at the Port of Entry (POE) to Canada. You cannot apply before you arrive in Canada.

A POE refers to where you've entered Canada, such as an airport or border. At the POE, business visitors can be authorized to enter Canada at the POE's Primary Inspection Line. However, certain professions may need a secondary inspection.

If you're unsure if you fulfill the eligibility requirements, click the button below to talk to a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant who can help you determine which program you're most eligible for and help you both ensure your eligibility and help you gather all of the necessary documentation to ensure there isn't a problem or mistake once you arrive in Canada.

CUSMA Professionals

CUSMA Professionals refer to anyone from the 60 occupations deemed eligible by the Government of Canada. You can find a full list of these occupations here.

What are the requirements?

To qualify for the CUSMA Professionals program, you must fulfill the following criteria:

  • You must be an American or Mexican citizen.
  • You must work in one of the listed professions.
  • You must be qualified to work in that profession.
  • Your work in Canada must be pre-arranged for a Canadian employer.
  • You must provide the services outlined under your listed job title.
  • You must also comply with all the requirements for temporary entry to Canada.

The requirements for temporary entry to Canada are as follows. To be eligible, you must:

  • possess a valid job offer letter
  • prove that you meet the requirements of the Canada job offer
  • possess a copy of a positive LMIA or LMIA number
    • Note: this is NOT required on CUSMA programs
  • prove your English or French language abilities via testing;
  • Submit a medical examination (if necessary)
  • possess a valid passport
  • provide a police clearance certificate (if necessary)
  • have sufficient funds to provide for both yourself and any dependents while in Canada

What documentation do you need?

To prove you fulfill all of the requirements for the CUSMA Professionals program, you need to provide the following documents:

  • proof of American or Mexican citizenship via a travel document like a passport
  • documentation which provides the following information:
    • your proposed Canadian employer
    • the profession under which you're applying
  • confirmation of pre-arranged employment in Canada via:
    • a signed contract with a Canadian enterprise, or
    • a job offer letter from a Canadian employer, or
    • a job offer letter from the American or Mexican employer who you will be representing when working for Canadian businesses.
  • details of the proposed occupation such as the job title, duties, the length of employment, payment arrangements; and
  • the educational qualifications or credentials required for the proposed occupation and to prove you have met the Minimum Education Requirements for CUSMA. This includes but is not limited to:
    • copies of degrees
    • diplomas
    • professional licences
    • accreditation
    • official registrations

How to apply for the CUSMA Professional program

Like the Business Visitor program, those in the professional program can apply at their POE to Canada.

However, under this program, applicants are also allowed to apply for the Professional program from a visa office before they leave for Canada.

You can also apply for this program within Canada after entering Canada with a temporary residence permit. Click here to see how to apply for a Canadian temporary residence permit.

CUSMA Intra-Company Transfers

This program is specifically for a manager, executive, or highly specialized individual who is moving to Canada to work for a Canadian branch, subsidiary or affiliate of a company they already work for in the United States or Mexico.

What are the requirements?

To be eligible as an intra-company transferee, you must be:

  • a U.S. or Mexican citizen
  • working in an executive or managerial role or one involving "specialized knowledge";
  • transferring to an enterprise with a qualified relationship with their current employer, or
  • working for an enterprise in the U.S. or Mexico and Canada have a parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate relationship in one of the other countries
  • continuously employed, in a similar, full-time position in their current country, for at least one year out of the three-years previous from the initial application date
  • fulfill the eligibility requirements for temporary entry to Canada.

What documents do you need?

To prove you're eligible for the program, you must provide:

  • proof of American or Mexican citizenship via a travel document like a passport
  • confirmation that an enterprise currently employs you outside of Canada;
  • confirmation that you've been continuously employed by the enterprise outside of Canada for at least one year out of the previous three-year period as specified above
  • a letter of introduction from the employer that specifies:
    • the applicant’s current position is one of management, executive, or highly specialized capacity
    • if specialized knowledge is required, that you have such knowledge
    • the position you will undertake in Canada, including:
      • position
      • title
      • place in the organization
      • job description
      • length of stay
    • A full description of the relationship between the U.S. or Mexican and Canadian businesses

Where can I apply?

Like the CUSMA professional program, intra-company transferees can apply at the POE and at their local Canadian visa office or from within Canada after entering Canada as a visitor. If you qualify, you will be issued a Canada work permit, so you can live and work in Canada for the duration of your transfer.

CUSMA Traders

This program is for people working in substantial trade between the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

What are the requirements?

To be eligible for this program, you must:

  • Be a Mexican or US citizen
  • Work for a Mexican or US company
  • Work in a position that involves substantial trade in goods or services between either Mexico or the U.S. and Canada.
  • Be in a supervisory or executive position or possess essential skills
  • Comply with all of the requirements for temporary entry.

What documentation do you need?

The primary document of importance for this program is a completed Application for Trader/ Investor status form, which you can find on the government of Canada's website. The other documents required are:

  • proof of American or Mexican citizenship via a travel document like a passport
  • completed sales contracts calling for the immediate exchange of goods or services.
  • validation of proven expertise of the applicant in their specialized areas such as a degree or a record of full-time work experience and a record of the period of training required for the position
  • documentation proving the uniqueness of the specialized skills.
    • Note: This is not an LMIA, but rather a declaration of the uniqueness of the applicant's skills
  • the function of the job in the company
  • a salary that matches the specialized expertise.


The documents required differ depending on your occupation and position, so please ensure you know exactly what documents you need before you apply. If you need help finding your list or validating your documents, click the button below to talk to an RCIC who will ensure you're as ready as you can be before applying.

Where can a trader apply for a work permit?

While it is possible to apply at a POE, the government of Canada strongly recommends applicants apply from their local visa office as this application is far more complex than its predecessors and requires more time to process.

CUSMA Investors

This is for applicants who plan to invest in Canada in a substantial capacity, either personally or via a Mexican or US-based enterprise, to build or extend their enterprise in Canada.

What are the requirements?

To be eligible for this program, you have to fulfill the following criteria:

  • You must be an American or Mexican citizen.
  • Your enterprise must be based in the USA or Mexico.
  • You are planning to invest in Canada or have already invested.
  • You're going to Canada solely to develop and direct the enterprise you've invested in.
  • If you're an employee, you must be in an executive, managerial or extremely specialized capacity.
  • You comply with the requirements for temporary entry to Canada.

What documents do you need?

A Canadian officer will evaluate your application based on the size and scope of your investment and your industry and seniority. This will ultimately determine which detailed documentation you need to validate your investment and intentions in Canada.

However, you are required to fill out the  Application for Trader/Investor status form as well as the documents required for temporary entry to Canada, which you can find above.

If you're looking to invest in Canada but aren't sure where or what you should invest in, this video can give you a good idea.

Where do you apply?

Like the trader program, while you can apply for the CUSMA investor program at the POE, you'll be far better off applying via a local visa office before you arrive in Canada. However, also like the trader program, you may enter Canada as a visitor and join the investor program while in Canada. However, if to ensure that every step is done correctly ahead of time, you can apply with an RCIC who can not only help you find which program is best for you but also submit your application to the Canadian government to take much of the effort and stress out of the process.


What's the difference between USMCA and CUSMA?

None. The USMCA is what the U.S. calls CUSMA, but they are the same program. The program in Mexico is called T-MEC, but it is the same as USMCA and CUSMA.

Does CUSMA allow you to have a temporary appointment in a permanent position?

Yes. Often CUSMA workers come to Canada to cover a vacancy in a Canadian company until that vacancy is filled. These are often permanent positions, but the applicant only works for a temporary period.

Can a CUSMA work permit be extended?

Yes. While a CUSMA work permit can have a maximum duration of three years, it can be extended, provided the need for the worker still exists and they have continued to meet the program's requirements.

Take Your Business Up North With CUSMA

Whether you're looking to work, trade, or invest, CUSMA will ensure you can live and work in Canada for as long as you need.

If you want to get started with your CUSMA process but want to ensure you follow the process exactly, click the button below to talk to an RCIC who can ensure everything goes to plan. If you're unsure how an RCIC can help you, have a look at this full breakdown.