The Introduction of the USMCA
So, the deed is done. On September 30, 2018 the United States, Mexico and Canada agreed to the terms of a “new” free trade agreement. It is now referred to as the USMCA.
The immigration aspects of the agreement were never really in dispute and although the immigration community was hoping that the new agreement would expand the listing of professional occupations eligible for work permits and provide a bit more flexibility to the existing occupations, everything pretty much remains the same as the NAFTA agreement.
On a practical level, what does this all mean? NAFTA agreement remains in place until the USMCA goes into effect. This first requires that the participating countries sign the agreement, which needs to be done before December 1 (when the current Mexican president’s term ends), and then ratify the agreement. If all three countries ratify the agreement, it is anticipated that the agreement will go into effect sometime in the next year.
Once the agreement has gone into effect, from an immigration perspective not much will change. For me all my precedents will need to change from saying NAFTA to USMCA, (which is a bit annoying), but from the permit holder’s perspective the process should be the same as it was on their last work permit application or renewal. As there are no processing differences, only a change in agreement name, there should be no interruptions to work permit processing.
If you are interested in the specific terms of the USMCA you can find the draft agreement on the Office of the United States Trade Representative. Note that this is a draft agreement only and is subject to review for accuracy, clarity and consistency.