Professionals under GATS

The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)

Canada is a signatory to the General Agreement on Trade in Services.   This is yet another avenue to facility professionals and working wishing to enter Canada for lawful purposes.   Canadian work permits under GATS are comprised of three categories:

  1. Business Visitors to Canada;
  2. Intra-Company Transferees;
  3. Professionals.

Similar to NAFTA, foreign workers who meet the requirements of GATS are exempted from the Service Canada validation requirement and may eligible to obtain a Canadian work permit.   Applicants under GATS may seek a work permit upon entry to Canada at a Port of Entry, if they are nationals of a country whose citizens are visa exempt, or at a Canadian visa office located outside of Canada.

Business Visitors

Although GATS Business Visitors fall under section 204 of the Regulations, defined as a work permit, these cases will be addressed by Canadian immigration officials under those provisions governing Business Visitors (R186) as a matter of policy. This has the advantage that Service Canada validation and a work permit does not have to be sought by the applicant. However, the disadvantage is that initial Business visitor visas are limited to six months (extensions of up to one year are possible), and certain benefits of a Canadian work permit are not earned.

Intra-Company Transferees

Like NAFTA, GATS provisions apply in those cases in which an executive, managerial, or specialist employee of a company seeks to transfer to a parent, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate to work in the same capacity. However, under GATS, there is a critical difference in that the individual is required to have been employed by that organization for a period of no less than one year prior to the submission of the application, whereas under NAFTA, the employment can be one year within the preceding 3 years prior to the submission of the application.

The provisions of Significant Benefit to Canada contain very similar guidelines, and allow for employment of one year in the three years prior to the application, similar to NAFTA.   For these reasons, we may consider it to be more beneficial to deflect applicants under this GATS category to the provisions of Significant Benefit to Canada (IRPA). However, we must examine each situation on a case by case basis, anticipating how CBSA/CIC officials will likely view those circumstances.

Professionals

A GATS Professional is a person who seeks to engage, for a short period of service under contract obtained by a company in another member nation, in an activity at a professional level in a designated profession, provided that the person possesses the necessary academic credentials and professional qualifications.   In certain circumstance, those qualifications must be duly recognized by a professional association in Canada. The individual claiming a GATS benefit must be a citizen of, and/or resident in, a GATS member nation. The location at which the individual is remunerated is not a factor.

Applicants in this category must fall within the definition of an eligible occupation, and are limited to contracts between a foreign service provider and a Canadian consumer. Unlike NAFTA and the favourable conditions contained therein, a GATS permit under this category can be sought for a maximum of only 90 days, and cannot be renewed by extension within Canada. Applicants under GATS may seek a work permit upon entry to Canada at a Port of Entry, if they are nationals of a country whose citizens are visa exempt, or at a Canadian visa office located outside of Canada.

For more information concerning the minimum educational or alternative credential requirements for GATS permit eligibility, please contact us for a comprehensive review of your circumstances.

The following are the eligible occupations under the GATS Professional category and the requirements of eligibility:

Group 1

Occupation Minimum Educational Requirements Other Requirements
Engineer Baccalaureate degree Provincial licence
Agrologist Baccalaureate degree in agriculture or related science plus four years of related experience Licensing required in New Brunswick, Alberta & Quebec. Temporary licensing required in British Columbia
Architect Baccalaureate degree in architecture Provincial licence and certificate required to practice
Forestry Professional Baccalaureate degree in forestry management or forestry engineering, or a provincial licence Licensing as a forester or forestry engineer is required in Alberta, British Columbia & Quebec
Geomatics Professional Baccalaureate degree in surveying, geography or environmental sciences plus three years related experience. None
Land Surveyor Baccalaureate degree Provincial licence

Group 2

Occupation Minimum Educational Requirements Other Requirements
Foreign Legal Consultant Baccalaureate degree in law Provincial licence;
Employer in Canada must be engaged in substantive business;
Foreign service provider may not have a commercial presence in Canada.
Urban Planner Baccalaureate degree in urban planning Provincial licence;
Employer in Canada must be engaged in substantive business;
Foreign service provider may not have a commercial presence in Canada.
Senior Computer Specialist Graduate degree in computer sciences or related discipline and ten years experience in computer sciences. A limit of ten entrants is imposed;
Employer in Canada must be engaged in substantive business;
Foreign service provider may not have a commercial presence in Canada.

Definitions

Baccalaureate means a degree from an accredited academic institution in Canada or equivalent.

Provincial license means any document issued by a provincial government or under its authority which permits a person to engage in a regulated activity or profession.

Geomatics Professionals must be working in aerial surveying or aerial photography.

Graduate degree means at least a Master’s degree from an accredited academic institution in Canada or equivalent. Academic equivalencies will be determined by the relevant equivalency services in Canada.   In order to qualify for a GATS Permit in any of the occupations listed above certain minimal educational requirements and/or alternative credentials must be met by the applicant. Alternative credentials may include a certified work experience or education credentials evaluation from a licensed evaluation service. For more information concerning the minimum educational or alternative credential requirements for GATS Permit eligibility, please contact us for a comprehensive review of your circumstances.