Temporary entry into the United States under the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA)
This guide is for a Canadian business person temporarily travelling to the United States (U.S.) to do business. It provides general information about temporary entry requirements for business people under CUSMA and under U.S. law.
This guide aims to facilitate the entry of Canadian business people into the U.S. for the purposes of exploring, entering and/or expanding operations in the U.S. market. You will find relevant links and summaries of the main steps for visa applications for the categories of business people covered in CUSMA.
There are 4 types of business people covered under CUSMA:
In order to be eligible for temporary entry into the U.S. under any of these categories under CUSMA, you need to be a Canadian citizen.
- Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) – Chapter 16 – Temporary entry for business persons
- For any questions regarding the U.S. or Mexico’s temporary entry commitments under CUSMA, please contact: enquiry-demande.TE@international.gc.ca
Before you travel
This guide is for information only. It is not the official text of CUSMA or U.S. or Mexican law. Always verify information using the text of the Agreement and official government sources of the country you wish to do business in. You may also seek advice from licensed or authorised individuals like an immigration lawyer or immigration consultant.
Do I qualify as a business visitor under CUSMA?
Under CUSMA, a business visitor is a Canadian traveling to the U.S. for one of the following activities:
- research and design
- growth, manufacturing and production
- general service
- after-sales service
A detailed description of each activity can be found under Appendix 1 Section B of Chapter 16 of CUSMA.
If you are a business visitor performing one of these activities to qualify for temporary entry under CUSMA, you must also meet the following requirements:
- the business activity is international in scope
- you are not seeking to enter the U.S. labour market
- the primary source of payment for the business activity is outside the U.S.
- your main place of business and the actual source of profits is outside the U.S.
Do I need a visa for temporary entry as a business visitor?
CUSMA business visitors can temporarily enter the U.S. under the B-1 classification. Normally, business visitors can stay in the U.S. for the time required to conduct business, but not longer than six months. However, the length of your stay is at the discretion of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials. For more information, please visit the USCIS website for business visitors.
Business visitors entering the U.S. can also request an I-94 (record of entry document) for their passport if they are involved in activities that require frequent cross-border movement or extended stays. If you are a frequent business visitor, but the purpose of entry is different for each visit, you will not be issued an I-94 document. I-94 documents are issued for periods of up to 6 months. You cannot apply for an I-94 before seeking temporary entry into the U.S.. Please keep in mind that there is a nominal fee for issuing this document.
How do I apply for the B-1 classification?
You can apply for entry to the U.S. as a business visitor under the B-1 classification at a land border port of entry or at an international airport pre-flight inspection station.
There is no written application or prior petition required. However, you will need to provide evidence that you meet the requirements of the category outlined above.
Do I qualify as a trader/investor under CUSMA?
A trader or investor is a Canadian business person:
- who is carrying on substantial trade in goods or services between Canada and the U.S.; or
- that has committed or are committing a substantial amount of capital, or whose enterprise has committed or are committing a substantial amount of capital; and
- who is establishing, developing, administering or providing advice or key technical services for the operation of that investment.
Their role must be supervisory, executive or involve essential skills.
Do I need a visa for temporary entry as a trader/investor?
A Canadian trader/investor will need an E-1 (trader) or E-2 (investor) visa for temporary entry into the U.S.
How do I apply for an E-1 (trader) or E-2 (Investor) visa?
Step 1: Complete a nonimmigrant visa application (DS-160) form and the DS-156 and the DS-156E forms, available online (PDF), and pay the processing fee.
The application includes documents to prove that you meet the qualifying criteria as a CUSMA trader or investor.
Requests for trader (E-1) and investor (E-2) status are processed at the U.S. Consulate General in Toronto. For information on how to submit an application, please refer to the U.S. Consulate web site.
Step 2: Once your application is approved, you will be contacted to arrange an interview at the Consulate in Toronto before your visa is issued. A fee is required for the visa.
Step 3: Receive your I-94 document at a U.S. port of entry. This is your employment authorization. Upon entry, present the I-94 to the U.S. Social Security Administration to receive a social security number.
Am I eligible as an intra-company transferee under CUSMA?
Under CUSMA, an intra-company transferee is a Canadian business person employed by a Canadian enterprise transferred to a subsidiary, affiliated branch, or other enterprises with a clear relationship with the Canadian enterprise located in the U.S.
Their role must be managerial, executive or involve specialized knowledge.
Under CUSMA, a Canadian intra-company transferee must have been employed continuously by the Canadian enterprise for 1 year within the 3-year period immediately before the date of the application for admission into the U.S.
Do I need a visa for temporary entry as an intra-company transferee?
An intra-company transferee will need an approved I-129 in the L-1 classification to be admitted to the U.S.
How do I apply for an I-129 as an intra-company transferee?
Step 1: Your U.S. employer submits an I-129 (petition for a non-immigrant worker) before your entry. You may also be asked to provide supporting documents to prove you meet the eligibility requirements of an intra-company transferee. This includes proof that you have been working for a qualifying organization in Canada for 1 continuous year within the 3 years immediately before your admission to the U.S.
CUSMA intra-company transferees are admitted by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the L-1 classification.
Step 2: At a U.S. port of entry, establish that you qualify as a CUSMA intra-company transferee.
You should bring:
- proof of Canadian citizenship (ideally, your Canadian passport)
- a letter outlining the details of your transfer
- a job offer or contract for the position
This will assist in your inspection by U.S. immigration officials.
The letter should include:
- a detailed description of the purpose and length of your stay as a transferee
- a detailed outline of your current job description, position title and place in the organizational structure of the enterprise
- in the case of “specialized knowledge”, evidence that the person has such knowledge and that the position in Canada requires such knowledge
- a description of the position to which you will be transferring
- evidence that you have worked at least 1 year out of the previous 3 for the Canadian-based enterprise
- evidence of a qualifying relationship between the two enterprises (e.g. annual report, financial statements, or articles of incorporation of the Canadian company and foreign affiliate)
What if I want to expand my business into the U.S.?
If you currently own and operate a business, and are considering expanding into the U.S., you can apply in advance as an intra-company transferee at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
When applying for L-1 status to open or to be employed in a new office, you should submit your petition well before your expected date of entry. You must provide a detailed business plan showing that you meet the qualifying criteria:
- there is a physical location for the new office
- the employee has been employed as an executive or manager for 1 continuous year in the 3 years before filing the petition
- the new office will support an executive or managerial position within 1 year of the approval of the petition
Do I qualify as a professional under CUSMA?
A professional is a Canadian citizen at the professional level providing services or performing training functions in the U.S. in one of the 63 professions listed under Appendix 2 of Chapter 16 of CUSMA.
Please note, in order to qualify as a professional, you must also have the credentials indicated in parenthesis beside the profession.
Do I need a visa for temporary entry as a professional?
A professional will need an approved TN classification to be admitted to the U.S.
How do I apply for temporary entry as a professional?
You may apply for entry to the U.S. as a CUSMA Professional by presenting required documentation to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at certain CBP-designated U.S. ports of entry or at a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station.
There is no written application, and no prior petition or prior approval required for Canadians applying for admission to the U.S. under the TN classification status. However, you will need to provide evidence that you meet the requirements of the category, including proof of Canadian citizenship (ideally, your Canadian passport) and a letter from your prospective employer, or signed contract, outlining the purpose of your entry. This will assist in your inspection by U.S. immigration officials.
The letter or contract should include:
- your job title and detailed summary of duties
- starting date and anticipated length of stay
- payment arrangements
- proof that you meet the necessary education and experience requirements to work in the profession, including all applicable degrees, and licenses
- original or certified copies of your diploma or credentials
You will be issued an I-94 (record of entry document) indicating the TN classification code, which is your employment authorization. Upon entry, present the I-94 to the U.S. Social Security Administration to receive a social security number. Please note that there is a processing fee for the TN employment authorization.
Alternatively, a prospective TN employer may choose to file on behalf of a Canadian citizen who is outside the U.S. by submitting Form I-129, petition for non-immigrant worker to USCIS. If USCIS approves Form I-129, you, the prospective worker, may then apply to CBP for admission to the U.S. as a TN non-immigrant by providing the requested documentation to a CBP Officer at certain CBP-designated U.S. ports of entry or at a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station.
Professionals must comply with all applicable state and local certification, registration or licensing requirements before starting work. You should contact the state where you wish to work for additional information on certification requirements.
Self-employed business persons may not enter the U.S. to be self-employed or to establish a professional practice. Professionals must have a pre-arranged contract with a U.S. enterprise. Business people looking to establish a business in the U.S. may wish to apply for temporary entry in either the intra-company transferee or trader and investor category.
For more information about temporary entry as a professional, please consult the USCIS website for CUSMA professionals.
Can my family accompany me?
CUSMA does not cover spouses or dependants of covered business people. Spouses and dependents must meet the U.S.’ existing temporary entry immigration regulations in order to accompany a Canadian business visitor. In order to perform work in the U.S., spouses and dependents must also comply with its regular job validation process for temporary foreign workers.
Spouses of intra-company transferees,traders or investors may benefit from general U.S. immigration provisions allowing spouses to work while in the U.S. They must, however, first obtain an employment authorization before beginning work by submitting Form I-765.
What if I don’t qualify for temporary entry under the CUSMA?
If you have a job offer or signed contract from an employer in the U.S., but you do not qualify under the four categories of CUSMA business persons, you may still qualify for entry under U.S. general immigration provisions. Information on the various processes for temporary entry into the U.S. is available on the USCIS website.
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