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The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) took effect on January 1, 1995. It sets out the benefits and obligations of more than 120 member countries (see Appendix 1) regarding trade in services.
Under the GATS, each nation has made individual commitments regarding access to its domestic market in agreed upon service sectors. One of Canada's most important commitments is to allow qualifying individuals to establish a business in Canada. Another is easier, faster procedures for some business persons who wish to work in Canada on a temporary basis.
Residents of the United States and Mexico will note several similarities with and some differences from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). For example, both agreements facilitate entry for some types of applicants without requiring validation of their employment authorization. However, NAFTA offers more coverage (for instance, it has a Trader and Investor category while GATS does not) and might therefore be more advantageous to some clients. To make comparisons between the two agreements easier, some differences are noted throughout this page in the relevant sections.
The GATS divides business persons into three categories: business visitors, intra company transferees and professionals. In each case, specific requirements apply. However, five general requirements apply to all three categories. These are, in essence, the criteria you should start with to determine if you qualify for temporary entry into Canada under the GATS.
Gats Business Visitors are persons who: "stay in Canada without acquiring remuneration from within Canada and without making direct sales to the general public or supplying services, for the purpose of participating in business meetings, business contracts including negotiations for the sale of services and/or other similar activities including those to prepare for establishing a commercial presence in Canada". Therefore, activities that can be undertaken by a GATS Business Visitor are limited to business meetings, negotiations or other types of business contact that are not remunerated from within Canada. In other words, the business person must not be entering the Canadian labour market.
The following are the requirements for Business Visitors under GATS:
Intra Company transferees are defined as persons of another Member nation who have been employed for period of not less than one year and who seek temporary entry in order to render services to:
Executives, described as persons who:
Managers, described as persons who:
Specialists, described as persons who:
Substantive company. Both the foreign based company and the Canadian company must be substantive. Company is defined as any legal entity duly constituted or otherwise organized under applicable law, whether for profit or otherwise, and whether privately owned or governmentally owned, including any corporation, trust, partnership, joint venture, sole proprietorship or association. Substantive means that they are large enough to support executive or managerial functions.
The Canadian operation may be a newly established operation. Before issuing an employment authorization to an Intra Company Transferee in this circumstance, you must be confirmed that the enterprise in Canada has already been established, that it is expected to be substantive enough to support a managerial or executive position, and it is expected to be "doing business"
Doing business means regularly, systematically and continuously providing services. The mere presence of an agent or office in either the Member nation or Canada does not constitute "doing business". For instance, a company with no employees which exists in name only an is established for the express purpose of facilitating the entry of Intra Company Transferees would not qualify.
Affiliate means one of two subsidiaries, both of which are owned and controlled by the same parent or individual; or one of two legal entities, owned and controlled by the same group of individuals, each individual owning and controlling approximately the same share or proportion of each company.
Branch is an operating division or office of the same organization housed in a different location.
Parent means firm, corporation or other legal entity which has subsidiaries.
Subsidiary refers to a firm, a corporation, or other legal entity of which a parent:
Specialized knowledge. A person who possesses the advanced level of knowledge or expertise required to qualify in this category would usually be in a position critical to the well being of the enterprise.
Note: Applicant must be advised that admittance under the GATS does not discharge the applicant or the Canadian employer from the responsibility of ensuring that any Canadian licensing, registration or certification requirements are met before employment can commence.
Professional include nine professions: Engineers, Agrologists, Architects, Forestry, Geomatics, Land Surveyors, Legal Consultants, Urban Planners and Senior Computer Specialists. A GATS Professional is a Person who seeks to engage as part of services contract obtained by a company in another Member nation, in an activity at a professional level in a profession set out in Appendix 3 provided that the person possesses the necessary academic credentials and professional qualifications, which have been duly recognized, where appropriate, by the professional association in Canada. The Professional category is designed to facilitate the short term entry of a limited list of professionals employed by service providers of Member nations, in those service sectors to which Canada has made commitments.
Group 1 includes six occupations: Engineers, Agrologists, Architects, Fores