CETA and employee transitions to Canada

The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) was signed by the European Union countries and Canada in order to eliminate and reduce barriers between these countries. One of the main points of CETA is to facilitate the entry by removing the Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIA) requirements from the citizens of EU member states.

This agreement covers applicants in the following categories:

  • Short-term business visitors and business visitors for investment purposes
  • Intra-corporate transferees (ICT)
  • Contractual service suppliers and independent professionals
  • Investors


Business Visitors

The business visitor category facilitates entry to Canada for people who intend to engage in international business activities in Canada without directly entering the Canadian labour market. The example of activities is attendance at business meetings, trade conventions or exhibitions, procurement of Canadian goods and services, activities of people providing after sales services, etc.

Business visitors under this category are prohibited from selling goods or services to the general public, to receive remuneration from a Canadian source and to be engaged in the supply of services (exceptions apply).

The key for the applicants is to demonstrate that the activity is international in scope and there is no intent to enter the Canadian labour market. Also, the primary source of foreign worker’s remuneration, as well as the principal place of business, has to remain outside of Canada. Applicants qualified in this category can stay in Canada for a maximum of 90 days in any six-month period.



CETA also facilitates the transfer of employees to Canada by companies that operate both in an EU country and in Canada. For CETA purposes, ICT applicants are EU citizens that work for an international corporation and are being temporarily transferred from a European Union country enterprise to a Canadian enterprise of the same company. To qualify for this exemption the worker must:

  • Be a partner or an employee of the EU enterprise for at least one year at the time of the submission of the application and
  • Be part of the senior personnel, a specialist or a graduate trainee.

Duration of the work permit and extensions:

> Senior personnel and specialists’ work permits can have the duration of 3 years or the length of the contract (if duration is less than 3 years). These work permits can be extended for up to 18 months at the officer’s discretion.

> Graduate trainees’ work permits can have the duration of 1 year or the length of contract (if duration is less than 1 year). These work permits can’t be extended if the worker applies under the same category and exemption.

Spouses of ICT applicants under CETA are eligible for an open work permit for the same duration as their spouses’ work permit.


Contractual Service suppliers and Independent Professionals

CETA facilitates the exchange of services between EU countries and Canada. Under this category falls a service supplied by EU companies or individuals to Canadian customers. Note that this category differs from ICT in a sense that EU enterprise cannot have an establishment in Canada.

> Contractual Service Suppliers: Contractual service suppliers are employees of EU companies that are required to come to Canada to supply a service to a Canadian customer. The applicant must be engaged in a temporary supply of a service as an employee of a company that has obtained a service contract. The employee:

  • Must have worked on the EU enterprise for at least one year prior to the application;
  • Must have at least three years of professional experience in the field that is the subject of the contract.
  • Can’t receive any other remuneration for the services other than the one regarding the employment during their stay in Canada

> Independent Professionals: Independent professionals are self-employed individuals from EU who grant services to Canadian customers. The applicant must have on the date of the submission of the application at least six years of professional experience in the field that is the subject of the contract.

Both Contractual Service Suppliers and Independent Professionals are exempted from LMIA requirements. However, they should meet the following criteria:

  • Be citizens of the European Union
  • Supply a service temporarily for a maximum duration of 12 months and this service must be listed in an annex of the CETA, which covers mostly advisory and consulting positions in areas such as mining, architectural, computer, insurance, etc.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of an equivalent level by a university degree or a qualification and if the activity requires a specific professional qualification in that province or territory, this also must be demonstrated.
  • Contractual service suppliers and independent professionals work permits may be extended only up to 12 months from the start of the initial work permit and the extension must respect the maximum 24-month window permitted for these categories.



The investor category is focused on applicants who have a purpose to develop or administer an investment in a supervisory or executive capacity or are employees of enterprises that had committed or are in the process of committing a large amount of capital.

The maximum duration of initial work permit for investors is 1 year, with an opportunity to extend at the officer’s discretion given a satisfying documentation that proves their need to stay longer in Canada.

Applicants in any of the categories defined under CETA can apply at the port of entry to obtain their work permit. However, in specific circumstances where the applicant is not qualified to apply at POE, the Canadian Consulate or Visa office at the country the applicant is applying from will be responsible to review the file and issue authorization to travel to Canada.


** Please note that this is just an overview of the program. To discuss your situation, whether you are an employee or employer, please reach out to us either by the section below or by e-mail to sonia@smblaw.ca.

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