Temporary Entry to Canada under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)
General Information
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 regarding trade in services.
GATS allows for an easier, faster procedure for business persons to establish a business in Canada, and to work in Canada on a temporary basis. It facilitates entry of applicants without requiring validation of their employment authorization.
There will be some similarities between GATS and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). To make comparisons between the two agreements easier, differences are noted throughout this section.
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.
General Requirements for Admission under the GATS (GATS)
You must be a citizen of, and be living in, a member country. (Please see Appendix A for a list of the signatory countries.) You may also qualify if you are a permanent resident of a member nation that has given formal notification that its permanent residents have the same rights as its citizens do. To date, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland have given notification. Therefore, if you are a permanent resident of Australia, New Zealand or Switzerland, you may qualify for entry under the GATS.
2 You must work in one of the following service sectors:

  •   Business
  •   Communications


  •   Construction


  •   Distribution


  •   Environment


  •   Finance


  •   Tourism and Travel


  •   Transport
For a complete list of the occupational services in each of these sectors, please see Appendix B.
You must qualify in one of three categories of business persons as defined in the GATS: business visitor, intra-company transferee or professional. These categories are discussed in Section 2.
You must be seeking temporary entry only. This means that you have no intention of remaining in Canada permanently. Your status will be that of “visitor”. If you wish to remain permanently, you must apply from outside Canada and go through the normal immigration procedures for permanent residence.
The provisions of the Immigration Act and Regulations remain in effect with respect to visitor visa requirements, to passports and identification, and to the protection of public health, safety and national security. The existence of certain medical conditions or a criminal record, for example, could mean that entry cannot be granted. To determine the specific requirements for your country, please contact the nearest Canadian consulate or embassy.
Advantages of Entry under GATS
As a business person, the most valuable feature of the GATS is that it permits temporary entry into Canada without going through the job validation process and without the need to obtain a foreign worker record from the Canada Employment Centre. In some cases (that is, people entering as business visitors) an employment authorization is not required.
If you are an American or Mexican citizen, you will find that, on the whole, the NAFTA offers more coverage than the GATS.
When you apply for entry, a Canadian immigration officer will determine whether it is more advantageous to you, as the client, to be admitted under the general provisions for temporary foreign workers, under the GATS or, for American and Mexican citizens, under the NAFTA.
a Business Visitors
a Intra-Company Transferees
a For business persons from the United States or Mexico
Business Visitors
The business visitor category facilitates the entry of business persons, representing service providers from other member nations who wish to market their services in Canada or establish a commercial presence to sell those services.
If you are seeking short-term entry to Canada to attend meetings, make contacts or participate in negotiations, you may qualify as a business visitor.
This category does not apply to individuals seeking to join the Canadian labour market — in other words, your primary source of remuneration must remain outside Canada — and your activities must not involve direct sales or service to the general public.
The GATS defines business visitors as individuals who “stay in Canada without acquiring remuneration from within Canada and without engaging in making direct sales to the general public or supplying services, for the purpose of participating in business meetings, business contacts including negotiations for the sale of services and/or similar activities including those to prepare for establishing a commercial presence in Canada”.
Documentation Required
As a business visitor you must meet the requirements listed in Section 1. Also you will be required to establish the purpose for entry and may be requested to produce supporting documentation.
You may submit your application at a port of entry if you come from a country that does not require a visitor visa to enter Canada. If you require a visitor visa you must apply at a visa office.
Because you are not entering the Canadian labour market, you do not require an employment authorization. If you do not require a visitor visa and are granted entry at a port of entry subject to certain terms and conditions, however, you will be issued a visitor record.
Intra-Company Transferees
This category permits foreign-based companies to transfer certain key personnel to their Canada-based operations to conduct specified duties for a limited period of time. The purpose of this category is to support Canada’s commitment to allow service providers in some sectors to establish a commercial presence in Canada.
To qualify as an intra-company transferee, you must meet the general requirements listed in Section 1 as well as those discussed below.
The GATS defines intra-company transferees as “…persons of another [member nation] who have been employed… for a period of not less than one year and who seek temporary entry in order to render services to (i) the same [company] which is engaged in substantive business operations in Canada or (ii) a [company] constituted in Canada and engaged in substantive business operations in Canada which is owned by or controlled by or affiliated with the aforementioned [company].”
Requiements for Applicants
To enter Canada as an intra-company transferee under the GATS, you must hold a position as an executive, manager or specialist in a qualifying company in a GATS member nation. You must also have been working for your current employer for at least one year immediately prior to applying for entry into Canada. Your position in both the Canadian and foreign locations must meet the definitions in the accompanying box.
As an executive or manager, you would not normally occupy a position in which you deliver a service. For example, an architect who incorporates a business and hires a secretary and draughtsman is not automatically considered to be holding an executive or managerial position. To qualify, the architect must be conducting managerial or executive duties rather than purely architectural ones. First-line supervisors are considered to be acting in a managerial capacity if they are supervising professional employees.
Executives direct the management of the company, establish goals and policies for the company or for one of its major components or functions, and have wide decision-making powers with little senior supervision.Managers direct the company or one of its departments or subdivisions; supervise the work of other supervisory, professional or managerial employees; have discretionary control of the company’s daily affairs and can make employment decisions.Specialists (or persons with specialized knowledge) possess advanced levels of expertise and proprietary knowledge of the company’s product, service, research equipment, techniques or management.

To qualify as a specialist, you must have advanced or specialized knowledge that is not readily available in Canada regarding the company’s product, service, research equipment, techniques or management. You would usually be in a position that is critical to the well being of the enterprise.
To enter the country as an intra-company transferee, you must have an employment authorization. You can apply for this at a visa office or, if you are coming from a country for which Canada does not require a visitor’s visa, at a port of entry. The employment authorization you receive at the time of entry will be valid for one year. You may apply for an extension of up to two years. Three years altogether is the maximum allowed in this category.
Requirements for the Employer
The Canadian company and the employing company must have a parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate relationship (please see the accompanying box for definitions).They must also be engaged in substantive business operations — that is, they must be large enough in both locations to support executive or managerial functions.
Affiliate: common ownership of the home-based company and the Canadian operation by a third entity or group of companies.Branch is an operating division or office of the same organization housed in a different location.Parent means a firm, corporation or other legal entity which has subsidiaries.

Subsidiary refers to a firm, corporation or other legal entity owned, directly or indirectly, by a parent.

If the Canadian operation is new, it must be able to show proof that it has already been established and can reasonably be expected to grow large enough to support a level of expertise commensurate with your current position. A new operation must also show that it can reasonably be expected to be substantive and to be doing business (“doing business” means regularly, systematically and continuously providing services in both the home country and in Canada and not simply an agent or office in either location).
Documentation Required
In addition to the immigration documentation required for any visitor from your country to Canada, you must provide the following documentation:
a letter from your employer confirming:
a that you have worked for that entity continuously for at least one year immediately preceding the date of application;
a details of your current position (title, place in the organization, job description)
a type of service delivered by the Canadian employer
a the work you will be doing in Canada (position, title, place in the organization, job description)
a intended length of stay
a the relationship between the Canadian and foreign employer
a if applying as a specialist, an explanation as to why you and the duties you conduct are crucial to the well being of the Canadian operation
a if you are applying as a specialist and require professional credentials to discharge your duties, you must provide evidence of those credentials (copies of degrees or diplomas, professional accreditation, etc.)
For business persons from the United States or Mexico
This category is similar to the NAFTA intra-company category except that the Canadian company must be in a service sector covered by the GATS (the NAFTA category is not sector specific); the applicant must have worked for at least one year for his or her current employer outside of Canada (NAFTA requirement: one year in the previous three); and, a three-year cap exists on the total duration of employment (NAFTA time cap: seven years for executives and managers; five years for specialists).
If you are a professional working in a specified area of expertise and are seeking short-term admission (up to three months) to Canada to provide a pre-arranged service, you may qualify under the GATS professional category.
The GATS defines a professional as “a person who seeks to engage, as part of a services contract obtained by [a company in another member nation] in an activity at a professional level in a profession set out in Appendix [C] 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”.
This category applies for a maximum of 90 consecutive days in any 12-month period and no extensions are granted. It divides into two groups of professions, with those in Group 2 subject to additional requirements and restrictions.
Group 1 Group 2

Forestry Professionals
Geomatics Professionals
Land surveyors.

  Legal consultants
Urban planners
Senior computer
Appendix C lists the educational and other requirements for each profession. In addition to the general requirements listed in Section 1, you and your employer must meet the requirements discussed below.
Requirements for Applicants
To enter as a professional under the GATS, you must be delivering a service under a signed contract between companies in Canada and the member country. In the case of Group 2 professions, the Canadian company must not be a personnel placement or personnel supply agency. You may receive remuneration from either the Canadian or foreign-based company.
You must have an employment authorization to enter as a professional under the GATS and this can be obtained by applying through a visa office or, for citizens of member countries which do not require a visitor’s visa, from a port of entry. To obtain this authorization, you must have either a licence from the province in which you will be working or documentation from an appropriate professional association in Canada recognizing your academic credentials and professional qualifications. The professions that require licences and/or alternative requirements are indicated in Appendix C.
You may work on more than one contract at a time in Canada provided that all employers are listed on your employment authorization.
As there is no central body in Canada responsible for regulating computer specialists, people wishing to enter as professionals in this area of qualification are required to have a master degree in a related discipline as well as 10 years of documented experience in that field. Only 10 senior computer specialists are permitted entry for any given contract.
Requirements for the Employer
The employer in Canada must be engaged in substantive business. The foreign-based employer must have been in existence for a reasonable period of time and be actively doing business — that is, it is regularly, systematically and continuously providing services.
In the case of Group 2 professions, the Canadian employer must not be a personnel placement or supply agency, and the foreign entity must not have a commercial presence in Canada.
Documentation Required
In addition to the documentation required for any visitor from your country to Canada, you must provide the following documentation:
a copy of a signed contract between the foreign company providing the service and the Canadian entity purchasing it (the contract can also be signed by a foreign service provider located in any member nation or by a Canadian-based company established by that foreign provider to sell its services in Canada)
a documentation detailing
a    the profession for which entry is sought and the province of destination
a    details of the position (job description, duration of employment, payment arrangements)
a    your educational qualifications or alternative credentials to do the job
a evidence of your professional qualifications (copies of degrees, diplomas, professional licences, accreditation or registration, etc.)
a where required, a temporary or permanent licence issued by the appropriate provincial government
a if a licence is not required, you must provide documentation from the appropriate professional association in Canada recognizing your academic credentials and professional qualifications
For business persons from the United States or Mexico
Business persons from the United States and Mexico will find that the NAFTA’s provisions are more generous and cover more occupations than do the GATS. For example, the NAFTA sets no time limits on how long you can remain in Canada as a professional as long as the “temporariness” of the situation remains bona fide.
APPENDIX A – List of Member Nations
Antigua & Barbuda
Burkina Faso
Central African Republic
Costa Rica
Côte d’Ivoire
Czech Republic
Dominican Republic
El Salvador
Hong Kong
Republic of Kuwait
New Zealand
Saint Lucia
St. Kitts & Nevis
St.Vincent & the Grenadines
Sierra Leone
Slovak Republic
South Africa
Sri Lanka
Trinidad & Tobago
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
United States of America
List of Service Sectors in Which Canada has made Commitments with Respect to Temporary Entry
Sectors covered
1. Business Services
2. Communication Services
3. Construction Services
4. Distribution Services
6. Environmental Services
7. Financial Services
9. Tourism and Travel Related Services
11. Transport Services
[Note: numbering is not sequential because Canada did not make commitments in sector numbers 5, 8 and 10.]
1. Business Services
A. Professional Services
a Foreign legal consultants
a Accounting, auditing and book-keeping services
a Taxation services (excluding legal services)
a Architectural services
a Engineering services
a Integrated engineering services
a Urban planning and landscape architectural services
B. Computer and Related Services
a Consultancy services related to the installation of computer hardware
a Software implementation services, including systems and software
a consulting services, systems analysis, design, programming and
a maintenance services, excluding those listed under Financial Services
a Data processing services, including processing, tabulation and facilities
a management services, excluding Communication Services (2C below) and Financial Services (7B)
a Data base services, excluding those listed under Financial Services
a Maintenance and repair services of office machinery and equipment including computers
a Other computer services
C. Research and Development Services
a Research and experimental development services on social sciences and humanities, including law and economics (excluding linguistics and language)
D. Real Estate Services
a Real estate services involving own or leased property
a Real estate services on a fee or contract basis
E. Renta l / Leasing Services without Operators
a Leasing or rental services concerning machinery and equipment without operator, including computers
a Leasing or rental services concerning personal and household goods (excluding the rental of pre-recorded records, sound cassettes, CDs and rental services concerning video tapes)
F. Other Business Services
a Market research and public opinion polling services
a Management consulting services
  • General management consulting services
  • Financial management consulting services
  • Marketing management consulting services
  • Human resources management consulting services
  • Production management consulting services
  • Public relations services
  • Other management consulting services, including agrology, agronomy, farm management and related consulting services
a Services related to management consulting
a Technical testing and analysis services including quality control and inspection
a Rental of agricultural equipment with operator
a Services incidental to forestry and logging, including forest management
a Services incidental to mining, including drilling and field services and rental equipment with operator
  • Site preparation for mining
a Toll refining services – oil and basic metals
a Placement and supply services of personnel
a Investigation and security services
a Related scientific and technical consulting services
  • Geological, geophysical and other scientific prospecting services, including those related      to mining
  • Subsurface surveying services
  • Surface surveying services
  • Map making services
a Repair services of personal and household goods
a Repair services incidental to metal products, machinery and equipment including computers and communications equipment on a fee for contract basis
a Building-cleaning services
a Packaging services
a Other business services, including
  • Credit reporting services
  • Collection agency services
  • Telephone answering services
  • Duplicating services
  • Translation and interpretation services
  • Mailing list compilation and mailing services
  • Specialty design services
  • Patent services
2. Communication Services
B. Courier Services
a Commercial courier services, including by public transport or self-owned transport
C. Telecommunication Services
a Enhanced or value-added services, for the supply of which the underlying telecommunications transport facilities are leased from providers of public telecommunications transport networks; these include:
a Electronic mail
a Voice mail
a On-line information and database retrieval
a Electronic data interchange (EDI)
a Enhanced/value-added facsimile services, including store and forward, store and retrieve
a Code and protocol conversion
a On-line information and/or data processing (including transaction processing)
3. Construction Services
A. General Construction Work for Buildings
a Construction work for buildings, including for multi-dwelling buildings, warehouses and commercial buildings
B. General Construction Work for Civil Engineering
a Construction work for civil engineering, including for highways, airports, harbours, dams, bridges, construction for mining and manufacturing, rail, power and communications facilities, pipelines and stadia and other recreational facilities
C. Installation and Assembly Work
a Assembly and erection of prefabricated constructions
a Installation work
D. Building Completion and Finishing Work
E. Other
a Pre-erection work at construction sites, including excavation, earthmoving and site work except site preparation for mining
a Special trade construction work
a Renting services related to equipment for construction of demolition of buildings or civil engineering works, with operator
4. Distribution Services
A. Commission Agents’ Services
a Commission agents services (excluding sales on a fee or contract basis of food products, beverages and tobacco and sales on a fee or contract basis of pharmaceutical and medical goods)
B. Wholesale Trade Services
a Wholesale trade services (excepting agriculture and live animals; fisheries products; alcoholic beverages; musical scores, audio and video recordings; and books, magazines, newspapers, journals, periodicals and other printed matter; and pharmaceutical and medical goods, and surgical and orthopaedic instruments and devices)
C. Retailing Services
a Food retailing services (excluding liquor, wine and beer sales)
a Non-food retailing services (excluding music scores, audio and video records and tapes; books, magazines, newspapers and periodicals; and pharmaceutical, medical and orthopaedic goods and printed music)
a Sale of motor vehicles including automobiles and other road vehicles
a Sale of parts and accessories of motor vehicles
a Sales of motorcycles and snowmobiles and of related parts and accessories
D. Franchising
a Franchising related to non-financial intangible assets
E. Other
a Retail sales of motor fuel
6. Environmental Services
A. Sewage Services
B. Refuse Disposal Services
C. Sanitation and Similar Services
D. Other
a Cleaning services of exhaust gases
a Noise abatement services
a Nature and landscape protection services
a Other environmental services n.e.c.
7. Financial Services
A. Insurance and Insurance-Related Services
a Life, accident and health insurance services
a Non-life insurance services (except deposit insurance and similar compensation schemes
a Reinsurance and retrocession
a Services auxiliary to insurance (including broking and agency services)
B. Banking and Other Financial Services (excluding insurance)
a Acceptance of deposits and other repayable funds from the public
a Lending of all types, including, inter alia, consumer credit, mortgage credit, factoring and financing of commercial transactions
a Financial leasing
a All payment and money transmission services
a Guarantees and commitments
a Trading for own account or for account of customers, whether on an exchange, in an over-the-counter market or otherwise, the following:
  • money market instruments (cheques, bills, certificates of deposit, etc.)
  • foreign exchange
  • derivative products including but not limited to, futures and options
  • exchange rate and interest rate instruments, including products such as swaps, forward rate agreements, etc.
  • transferable securities
  • other negotiable instruments and financial assets, including bullion
a Participation in issues of all kinds of securities, including underwriting and placement as agent (whether publicly or privately) and provision of service related to such issues
a Money broking
a Asset management, such as cash or portfolio management, all forms of collective investment management, pension fund management, custodial depository and trust services
a Settlement and clearing services for financial assets, including securities, derivative products, and other negotiable instruments
a Advisory and other auxiliary financial services on activities including credit reference and analysis, investment and portfolio research and advice, advice on acquisitions and on corporate restructuring and strategy
a Provision and transfer of financial information, and financial data processing and related software by providers of other financial services
9. Tourism and Travel Related Services
A. Hotels and Restaurants (including catering)
a Hotel and other lodging services
a Food and beverage serving services
a B. Travel Agencies and Tour Operators Services
a Travel agency and tour operator services
11. Transport Services
A. Maritime Transport Services
C. Air Transport Services
a Maintenance and repair of aircraft and aircraft engines
a Computer reservations system
E. Rail Transport Services
a Railway passenger and freight transport
a Maintenance and repair of rail transport equipment
F. Road Transport Services
a Passenger transportation
  • Interurban scheduled bus passenger transportation
  • Taxis
  • Rental services of cars with drivers
  • Nonscheduled motor buses, chartered buses and tour and sightseeing buses
a Freight transportation
  • Highway freight transportation
a Rental of commercial vehicle with operator
  • Rental services of commercial road vehicles with operators
  • Maintenance of road transport equipment
  • Maintenance and repair services of motor vehicles
  • Maintenance and repair services of motorcycles and snowmobiles
  • Repair services n.e.c. of motor vehicles, trailers, semi-trailers on a fee or contract basis
H. Services Auxiliary to All Modes of Transport Other than Maritime Auxiliary Services
a Container handling services
  • Other cargo handling services
a Storage and warehouse services
a Freight transport agency services
a Other supporting and auxiliary transport services, including freight forwarding
  • Storage and warehousing services
  • Customs clearance services (as defined)
  • Container station and depot services (as defined)
  • Maritime agency services
  • Maritime freight forwarding services (as defined)
GATS Professional Occupations with Educational Requirements/Alternative Credentials and Licensing Requirements
Minimum Educational Requirements/Alternative Credentials
Other Requirements
Engineers Baccalaureate degree* Provincial licence**
Agrologists Baccalaureate degree in agriculture or related science plus four years’ of related experience Licensing is required in New Brunswick, Alberta, Quebec. Temporary licensing is required in British Columbia
Architects Baccalaureate degree in architecture Provincial licence and certificate
Forestry Professionals Baccalaureate degree in forestry or forestry engineering, or a provincial licence Licensing as a forester or forestry engineer is required in Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec
Geomatics Professionals*** Baccalaureate degree in surveying, geography or environmental sciences plus three years’ related experience
Land Surveyors Baccalaureate degree Provincial licence
Foreign Legal Consultants Baccalaureate degree in law Provincial licence
Urban Planners Baccalaureate degree in urban planning Provincial licence
Senior Computer Specialists Graduate degree**** in computer sciences or related discipline, plus 10 years’ experience in computer sciences
* a degree from an accredited academic institution in Canada or equivalent
** any document issued by a provincial government, or under its authority, which permits a person to engage in regulated activity or profession
*** geomatic professionals must be working in aerial surveying or aerial photography
**** a graduate degree must be at least a Masters degree from an accredited academic institution in Canada or equivalent. Academic equivalencies will be determined by the relevant equivalency services in Canada