The American government wants Ottawa to re-impose visa requirements on Mexicans visiting Canada to help reduce the flow of illegal migration into the United States, reports the CBC.

“We talk about this issue and many issues that impact the migration of people,” U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told CBC’s chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton in an interview.

“I think that’s a decision that the Canadian officials are going to make.

U.S. Homeland Security oversees border security and the enforcement of American immigration laws. During the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, the Americans have repeatedly asked  Canada to re-impose visa requirements for Mexican nationals.

Former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper created a visa requirement for Mexicans coming to Canada in 2009. But the Liberal government headed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is very bullish on immigration, relaxed that requirement in 2016.

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In an apparent quid pro quo, the Trudeau government nixed the visa requirement on Mexican nationals in exchange for the opening up of Mexico to Canadian beef products.

“I’m also happy to announce that Mexico has agreed to open their domestic market to all Canadian beef products,” said Trudeau in making that announcement in 2016. “This is a move that will support Canadian farmers and Canadian families.”

Now, American officials are suggesting that those who can’t immigrate to the United States legally have an incentive to travel to Canada and sneak across the border. The allegations are that human smuggling networks have cashed in on the desire of Mexicans escaping poverty and violence for better lives in the United States, using Canada as a backdoor into the country.


That’s supported by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data which shows there was a spike in migrants entering the U.S. from Canada after Trudeau nixed the visa requirement.

The CBC reports the number of arrests of Mexicans almost doubled, jumping to 2,245 in 2018 from only 1,169 the year before the visa requirement was removed.

Under the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), which came into effect on July 1, 2020, Canada and Mexico are working on initiatives to include women-owned businesses, youth and other underrepresented groups in the post-Covid economic recovery.

“Projects under this pillar will also promote the involvement of Indigenous peoples in the economy and will advance best practices to generate sustainable outcomes for their economic participation,” noted Canada International Trade Minister Mary Ng in a joint statement following CUSMA talks last year.

CUSMA Lets Business People Gain Temporary Access To Canada Without An LMIA

CUSMA, which is also called the United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) in the United States, also allows business people to gain temporary entry without having to get a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) due to work permit exemptions.

The latest promotion of inclusive trade strategies favour of underrepresented groups, such as women, youth, and Indigenous peoples, is intended to further integrate the Canadian and Mexican economies and encourage the free flow of workers to boost the countries’ economies.

“These efforts will allow us to create jobs, increase competition, and achieve a resilient and inclusive economy,” Ng has stated.

In Canada, the immigration-related provisions of CUSMA are covered under the International Mobility Program (IMP).

Business people who are citizens of the U.S. and Mexico are exempt from LMIA requirements when entering Canada for activities related to the trade of goods or services or to investment.

And Canadians entering the U.S. or Mexico receive similar treatment under the agreement.

The trade deal breaks down business people into four categories.

There are:

  • business visitors;
  • professionals;
  • intra-company transferees, and;
  • traders and investors.

Business visitors are those who engage in international business activities related to:

  • research and design;
  • growth, manufacture and production;
  • marketing;
  • sales;
  • distribution;
  • after-sales service, and;
  • general service.

These people are allowed to enter Canada and carry out their activities without the need for a work permit.

Professionals, the second of the four groups of business people, are defined under the trade agreement as those who enter the country to provide pre-arranged professional services, including:

  • as salaried employees of Canadian companies;
  • through contracts between business people and Canadian employers, or;
  • through contracts between the American or Mexican employers of these business people and Canadian enterprises.

The third group of business people are intra-company transferees, managers, executives, or employees with specialized knowledge from American or Mexican companies being transferred to a linked Canadian business.

They are LMIA-exempt but need a work permit.

The final group of business people, traders and investors, are those who carry on substantial trade in goods or services between the U.S. or Mexico and Canada or commit a substantial amount of capital in Canada. They must be supervisors or executives or have essential skills.

Traders and investors are LMIA-exempt but also require a work permit.

The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) program through which all of this activity is allowed under CUSMA, the IMP, is an economic immigration program that allows Canadian employers to hire foreign workers on work permits without requiring an LMIA.

Here’s how it works.

Employers Can Hire Foreign Workers Through The International Mobility Program

Employers looking to hire a foreign worker through the IMP normally pay a $230 employer compliance fee. When an employer is hiring through an open work permit holder, the fee is not required.

Other fee-exempt positions include those covered by a non-trade agreement, certain research positions and charitable or religious work.

The job offers themselves must be made through the IRCC’s Employer Portal once the employer has created an employer profile.

Getting into the Employer Portal can be done in one of two ways. The employer can:

  • sign in with a GCKey user ID, an account created with the Government of Canada that provides secure access, with a password. (Those employers who do not have a GCKey can register and get a user ID and password), or;
  • sign in with the same information the employer uses for another online service recognized as a Sign-In Partner by the Government of Canada, such as an online bank account.
  • The offer of employment on the Employer Portal must then include information about:
  • the business;
  • the foreign worker to be hired;
  • job details, and;
  • wage and benefits.

The information entered could be used in federal government employer compliance audits.

Employers can also sometimes be exempt from the fee and the need to go through the Employer Portal because of the nature of the work done by the business.

Among those that are exempt from employer compliance fees are:

  • international missions or consular posts, and;
  • international organizations recognized under the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act, including foreign governments or owners or operators of an international bridge or tunnel.

When these employers hire a temporary worker, they select “No, I am exempt from paying fees for this Offer of Employment” when prompted in the Employer Portal.

Employers submitting a job offer will receive an offer of employment number. The foreign worker requires this number to complete their work permit application.

Once the work permit application is approved, the foreign worker receives:

  • A letter of introduction if they are outside Canada, or
  • A new work permit if they are already in Canada, or applying at the time of entry.

The letter of introduction is exchanged for a work permit at the port of entry, provided all the requirements are still met.

The IMP is primarily administered by the IRCC but other federal government departments are involved in the program, including the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).

IMP is separate from the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), which is primarily administered by ESDC with help from the IRCC and CBSA.

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