On October 1, 2018, the Office of the United States Trade Representative published the text of the proposed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (“USMCA”), which is meant to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”). Since it went into effect in 1994, Chapter 16 of NAFTA, has been used for Business Visitors, Traders and Investors, Intra-Company Transferees and Professionals who are citizens of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to enter the member countries for temporary business purposes. Importantly, Chapter 16 of NAFTA includes provisions allowing citizens of the members countries to perform after-sale services (including on computer software) in other member countries and for Professionals to enter the member countries using a special status (called “TN Status” in the United States) if they are going to be performing services in a list of approved occupations.
The proposed text of Chapter 16 of the USMCA appears to leave the existing framework mostly untouched. The USMCA will still allow business people to perform after sales services, and will have a special classification for Professionals with an identical list of acceptable occupations as is currently allowed under NAFTA. The Toronto Star has reported that the intention was to leave the TN Professional Worker classification unchanged, so barring any new developments it appears that the three countries intended for there to be no major changes to the current agreements related to temporary business workers.
This should be of great relief to companies and workers who currently rely on Chapter 16 of NAFTA. However, we must caution that the USMCA is still in the process of being negotiated. Additionally, after negotiations end, the legislatures of the three countries must ratify the treaty, so changes may still be introduced or the deal may be scrapped in its entirety and a new one proposed.
In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out to our team of immigration attorneys should you have any questions or concerns.