USMCA a missed opportunity to modernize immigration provisions

By Staff

Canada, the United States and Mexico missed a chance to revamp the list of professions covered in their new free trade agreement, Toronto immigration lawyer Robin Seligman tells

Before negotiators revealed the details of the U.S.–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), the deal that will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Seligman, principal of Seligman Immigration Law, says some immigration practitioners worried it might dismantle the visa system.

However, the USMCA leaves NAFTA’s Chapter 16 — dealing with Trade National visas — largely unchanged. That means immigration lawyers will notice little difference when the new agreement takes over following ratification by lawmakers and implementation in each country, currently expected sometime before 2020.

“I'm glad that the agreement was largely preserved, but at the same time this was a great opportunity to update some seriously outdated provisions,” Seligman says. “It’s unfortunate that they didn’t grasp it.”

For example, she says the list of professional occupations covered by Chapter 16 is more reflective of the world in the 1980s when the original deal was negotiated. That means there’s no room for newer professions that have evolved in the meantime, particularly in the information technology sector, such as software developers.

“The occupation list is really outdated and needs modernizing,” Seligman says.

Still, she’s relieved that only minor changes appear to have been made to NAFTA’s Chapter 16, such as removing limits on professionals, and tweaks to the visa requirements for traders and investors.

Otherwise, Canadian companies will still be able to hire skilled American and Mexican workers in many categories on renewable three-year temporary work permits.

Workers in the designated professions are also able to enter the country without a Labour Market Impact Assessment, a requirement which normally applies to show no Canadian citizens or permanent residents are able to fill the positions.

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