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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.