After much anticipation CETA came into force on September 21, 2017. CETA, like NAFTA is a Trade Agreement, part of which allows for the labour mobility of member states. However, the labour mobility provisions of CETA are quite narrow which calls into question how much it will actually be used in the Canadian context.
CETA allows for the entry to Canada of three broad categories:
- Key personnel: including intra-corporate (company) transferees, investors, and business visitors for investment purposes;
- Contractual service suppliers and independent professionals; and
- Short-term business visitors.
Intra-Company Transferees (ICT)
The ICT provisions of CETA are similar the general ICT (C12) and NAFTA categories but for the addition of graduate trainees. CETA allows for ICTs in the following categories: Senior Personnel Specialists; and graduate trainees. The Senior Personnel Specialists parallels “Executives” and Specialists parallels “Specialized Knowledge” under the general ICT provisions.
In order to qualify under CETA, Graduate trainees be temporarily transferred to a Canadian company for career development purposes or to obtain training in business techniques or methods and must possess a university degree. Graduate trainees are eligible for CETA ICT work permits with a maximum duration of 1 year with no possibility of an extension.
In order to qualify under CETA, Specialized Knowledge workers must possess either “uncommon knowledge of the enterprise’s products or services and its application in international markets” or “an advanced level of expertise or knowledge of the enterprise’s processes and procedures such as its production, research equipment, techniques, or management.”
Senior Personnel and Specialists under CETA are eligible for work permits for the lesser of three year or the length of the contract. CETA allows for work permit extensions of up to 18 months at the officer’s discretion. Under the general ICT provisions Executives and Specialized Knowledge workers are also eligible for initial work permits of up to three years. However, under the general provisions Executives can extend their work permits in increments of 2 years for a maximum duration of 7 years, while Specialized Knowledge Workers can extend their work permits in increments of 2 years for a maximum duration of 5 years.
It should be noted that under the general ICT provisions Specialized Knowledge workers must be paid at a minimum the prevailing wage for the position. However, the requirement to pay the prevailing wage does not apply to Specialized Knowledge workers under NAFTA or other Free Trade Agreements. As such, it would appear that Specialized knowledge workers under CETA do not have to be paid the prevailing wage to qualify. However, wage is an important indicator of specialized knowledge and will be taken into account by officers as an important factor in their overall assessment.
Spouses of high skilled workers are eligible for open work permits.
Based on its similarity to the general ICT program the CETA ICT appears to primarily benefit the transfer of Specialized Knowledge workers who are paid less than the prevailing wage and graduate trainees. ICTs who are paid the prevailing wage would benefit more from the general ICT program based on the availability of work permit extensions.