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Intra-Company Work Permits and Job Transfers to the U.S. and Canada

Blog posted on by Evelyn Ackah in Canada Work Permits and Intra-Company Job Transfers

Intra-Company Work Permits and Job Transfers to the U.S. and Canada

Canada has a strong job market and is actively recruiting educated skilled foreign workers to help build the economy and create jobs. Many companies want to move skilled foreign workers to their operations in Canada when a local worker is not available to fill key jobs. NAFTA is an important cross-border business agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico that allows citizens of those countries to quickly and easily enter the member countries for temporary employment, investment or business reasons.

An intra-company transfer is when an employee is currently working for a company and that company wants to move the employee temporarily to a different country while they continue to work for the same company. Intra-company transferees will require a temporary work permit to work in either Canada or the United States.

Individuals and companies who want to apply for an intra-company transfer to Canada or the United States need to ascertain that both the employer and the employee qualify for a temporary work permit under NAFTA or non-NAFTA guidelines.

NAFTA and Non-NAFTA Intra-Company Work Permits

Companies who want to transfer employees to either the United States or Canada as intra-company transfers can apply for work permits under both NAFTA and non-NAFTA provisions. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has benefits for U.S. and Canadian citizens who want to cross borders for business, including intra-company transferees.

Note: Canada, the United States and Mexico signed a new North American Free Trade Agreement on November 30, 2018, commonly called NAFTA 2.0 or the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CU.S.MA) and the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (U.S.MCA). While not yet ratified, it is not anticipated the provisions discussed will change.

Intra-Company Transfer Work Permits to Canada

Work Permits under the provisions of NAFTA do not usually require a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), employers who hire qualifying foreign workers through International Mobility Programs do not require an LMIA. NAFTA is one of the mobility program trade agreements that Canada has signed with over 60 job categories where employees of the United States and Canada (as well as Mexico) do not require an LMIA work permit for an intra-company transfer between Canada and the U.S.

IRCC qualifications for an intra-company transfer to Canada include that applicants:

  • will need to obtain a work permit
  • must prove they are transferring from the same or a related company outside of Canada
  • have worked continuously for the company that plans to transfer them in a similar full-time position for at least one year in the most recent three-year period
  • have specialized knowledge or executive or senior management experience

How H-1B Visa Holders Can Get an Intra-Company Transfer to Canada

If their U.S. employer has a Canada location or office, United States H-1B visa holders may qualify for an intra-company transfer to Canada. Canada is actively recruiting highly educated and trained immigrants, especially in high technology fields, and wants to keep qualified applicants as permanent residents.

Canada is the U.S.'s largest trading partner and home to many subsidiaries, branches, and affiliates of companies that operate in the U.S. Often these businesses can bring foreign workers to Canada as an intra-company transferee without first having to offer the job to Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

H-1B visa holders and employers who an intra-company transfer to Canada must meet IRCC qualifications for an intra-company transfer.

Intracompany Transfer Work Permits to the United States: L-1A Visa and L-1B Visa

Executives, managers or workers with special knowledge who want to work in the United States can apply for a United States Citizen and Immigration Services (U.S.CIS) L-1 visa. An L-1 visa is a temporary non-immigrant visa that allows countries with reciprocal agreements to give employees outside the U.S. an intracompany transfer to work in the U.S. for 3 months - 5 years.

Both L-1A and L-1B visa classifications allow a foreign company without a U.S. office to send one of their executives or employees with specialized knowledge to the United States to open a new location.

L-1A Visa

An L-1A intracompany visa is for managers or executives who want to temporarily work in the United States. Qualifications for a U.S.CIS L-1A intra-company transfer to the U.S. include:

  • There must be a relationship between the employer and the foreign company
  • The employer must be or will be doing business as an employer in the U.S. and one other country, though they are not required to be engaged in international trade
  • The employee must have been working for the company for one year within the previous three years
  • The employee must be entering the U.S. to provide managerial or executive level work for the company

L-1B Visa

A U.S.CIS L-1B intracompany visa is for professionals with special knowledge who want to temporarily work in the United States. Qualifications for a U.S.CIS L-1B include:

  • There must be a relationship between the employer and the foreign company
  • The employer must be or will be doing business as an employer in the U.S. and one other country, though they are not required to be engaged in international trade
  • The employee must have been working for the company for one year within the previous three years
  • The employee must want to enter the United States to provide services in a specialized knowledge capacity to a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations.

TN NAFTA Professional Work Permits

Under NAFTA, a Trade National (TN) Visa allows professionals who are citizens of Canada or Mexico to get a United States temporary work permit to work for a U.S. employer in over 60 job categories.

If you are a Canadian citizen, you can apply for a non-immigrant TN visa at the U.S. border or port of entry by providing documentation to the U.S. Customs and Borders Protection agent. The required TN visa documentation required includes:

  • Proof of Canadian citizenship
  • A written U.S. job offer detailing the professional capacity in which the employee will work in the United States, the purpose of the employment, the length of stay, and the applicant's educational qualifications
  • Professional credentials (if applicable)
  • Any applicable fees

A U.S. TN visa is typically up to 3 years but can be renewed.

You have the best chance for a successful intracompany transfer to Canada or the U.S. with the help of an immigration lawyer to avoid mistakes and guide you through the application process.

Download our Free eBook How To Move To Canada Guide to Canadian Immigration Law and United States Cross Border Immigration Law Free eBook Calgary Immigration Lawyer Evelyn Ackah

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Do You Want an Intra-Company Transfer to Canada or the United States?

Individuals have many NAFTA and non-NAFTA opportunities for intra-company transfers to the United States or Canada. To determine if you qualify for a temporary work permit to Canada or the U.S. as an intra-company transferee, you may want to consult an immigration legal expert, under what visa program you are most likely to be approved, and help your unique circumstances.

Businesses who want to transfer employees to Canada or the United States have the best chance for a smooth intra-company transfer when they work with an immigration legal expert who understands complex immigration laws. Relocating international employees takes time and can be expensive.

Evelyn Ackah and the Ackah Business Immigration Law team will work closely with your business and human resources team to offer expert guidance throughout the entire relocation process.


Evelyn Ackah

Founder/Managing Lawyer

Ms. Ackah is passionate about immigration law because it focuses on people and relationships, which are at the core of her personal values. Starting her legal career as a corporate/commercial ...

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