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In 2017, one of the hot topics has been the future of NAFTA under the Trump Administration. Our Chair of the Canadian Law Group participated on several panel discussions on this topic, including the well-attended “Trump –Trudeau” discussion of the Canadian Bar Association’s Annual Conference in Toronto on June 8, 2017.

So what do employers think of NAFTA after all? In August 2017, a survey conducted by the Canadian Employee Relocation Council (CERC) and the Council for Global Immigration (CFGI), showed a flagrant wave of frustration among employers utilizing the North-American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to send workers to and from the United States and Canada. The survey touched upon many challenging areas of the Agreement, and employers, encouraged to give their comments on the situation, urged IRCC to look into these issues.

By way of background, the trade market established by NAFTA is significant to the bilateral economy of the USA and Canada: In 2016, over $1.7 billion in trades and services passed between the U.S. and Canada. Due to this, multi-national employers count on the agreement for reliability and effectiveness; unfortunately, there are many downfalls to the agreement.

In terms of transferring employees to Canada, employers appear dissatisfied with the amount of public information available to them when beginning an application for a work permit. In fact, only 46% of the surveyed group report access to reliable information on immigration requirements. Moreover, a certain employer claimed that they found it quite difficult to even obtain any information without legal help. It is therefore clear that available public information, which does not contain much immigration jargon, is lacking.

Furthermore, the survey shows a significant disdain towards border officers, as many employers believe that immigration training is lacking at both U.S. and Canadian borders. In fact, many employers report having to constantly remodel work permit packages to bring to the border, as they find that different officers demanded different requirements. This lack of cohesiveness is causing annoyance among employers, as well as the “commuter” employees with positions which require them to travel back and forth from the two countries several times a year.

Finally, the survey found the most irritation regarding the NAFTA professionals list, proposing the claim that the list is outdated, and that this causes many issues with cross-border economic mobility. Indeed, employers are limited to the eligible NAFTA professions listed by IRCC, although 56% of employers reported that they employ professionals that are not listed in the inventory provided by IRCC. The survey highlights that, with recent crucial changes in technological advancements, the list should mirror professions in technology, artificial intelligence, mobile development, and more. Moreover, employers state that the education criteria listed under each profession often give a false portrait of the position; many employees do not fit under the education criteria, yet still perform the exact same duties mentioned in the title.

With current talks of renegotiating the terms of NAFTA, both U.S. and Canadian governments should aim to address these concerns thoroughly. It is, in fact, a great opportunity to aim for a more cohesive, user-friendly, and inclusive immigration stream, in order to facilitate the crucial trade system between the two countries.

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