Skilled Workers and Professionals Keep Visa Rights under New USMCA Trade Deal

After months of negotiations following US President Donald Trump’s pledge to scrap NAFTA, the 24 year old trade agreement between Canada, the USA and Mexico, a new deal was reached minutes before a midnight deadline on September 30, 2018. Despite a number of changes, the new agreement – rechristened the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) – leaves NAFTA provisions for work visas untouched. The retention of the visa program is significant for workers in over 60 professional categories, and for employers across the continent, who will continue to have access to labour from all three countries.

The Original NAFTA text on work visas has been preserved in Chapter 16 of the USMCA.

Officially “Professionals Under the North American Free Trade Agreement”, the NAFTA visa category is known as a TN visa.

Roughly half of the researchers invited to a prestigious Montreal artificial intelligence (AI) conference will not attend due to denied or unprocessed visas, pointing to an uncertain future for AI and tech development in Canada. Future AI conferences may bypass Canada because of visa issues, raising doubts over the government’s goal of establishing Canada as leading destination in the tech industry.  

The conference, Black in AI, is taking place on December 7th, 2018, as part of the annual Neural Information Processing Systems Conference (NeurIPS). Black in AI is open to the entire AI community and will include presentations by distinguished researchers as well as networking opportunities aimed at increasing the participation of Black researchers in the field. Invitations were issued to 230 academics, many from Africa or of African descent. Of these, an estimated 55% were denied visas to Canada.

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