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Canada-Panama Free Trade Agreement (CPAFTA)

The Canada-Panama Free Trade Agreement (CPAFTA), which entered into force on April 1, 2013, has streamlined a cooperative relationship in the areas of trade, environment and even labour.

The advent of this important agreement allows Canadian employers to secure the services of skilled workers from this country located in southern Central America. The provisions on temporary entry extend not only to citizens but also to permanent residents. Therefore, proof of permanent residence may be submitted in support of an application.

The provisions related to the temporary entry of businesspersons are mentioned in Chapter 13 of the Agreement. The temporary admission they may enjoy implies that they do not intend to settle permanently. Four profiles are mentioned to benefit from the facilities provided. These are: visiting businessmen and women, traders and investors, intra-company transferees and people in a specialized profession. The last two profiles are of more interest to you as employers looking for a workforce. That is what we are going to develop.

1. Specialized professionals

A skilled occupation in Canada is defined as skilled occupations that fall under levels O and A of the National Occupational Classification (NOC).

A person in this category is engaged in a specialized occupation that requires both:

  • the theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge, and any appropriate certificates or licences;
  • obtaining a post-secondary degree in a specialty whose practice requires at least four years of study, these requirements being defined:
    • in the case of Canada, in the National Occupational Classification,
    • in the case of Panama, in the domestic law governing each profession. 

List of specialized occupations

Various occupations

  • Director of hosting services
  • Actuary
  • Forestry professional
  • Geomatics professional
  • Graphic designer and illustrator
  • Industrial designer
  • Land surveyor
  • Logistics professional/logistics expert
  • Management consultant
  • Mathematician
  • Director of primary production (with the exception of agricultural or agriculture-related occupations); directors of primary production include managers who plan, organize, direct, control and evaluate the activities of establishments in the following primary industries: forestry and logging, mining and quarrying, oil and gas drilling, oil and gas production and related services, and commercial fishing.
  • Statistician
  • Aeronautical engineer
  • Electronics engineer
  • Software engineer and software designer
  • Systems engineer

Computers and information systems

  • Database analyst and database administrator
  • Information and communications technology professional
  • Information systems analyst
  • Software developer
  • Web designer and developer
  • Programmer
  • Interactive media developer


  • Archaeologist
  • Anthropologist
  • Astronomer
  • Biologist (including ecologist, veterinary geneticist and food scientist)
  • Geochimist
  • Geologist
  • Geophysicist
  • Meteorologist
  • Paleontologist
  • Physicist

Documentation to be provided

  • proof of citizenship or permanent resident status in Panama;
  • documents demonstrating that the person wishes to enter Canada to practice a registered occupation (in accordance with Annex 13.04-D), under a predetermined service contract concluded by an entity or consumer of services in Canada.
  • a post-secondary diploma in a specialty requiring at least 4 years of study for entry into the profession.
  • proof that they have the professional qualifications necessary to carry on an activity in accordance with the laws or requirements of the province or territory where the service is provided.
  • proof that they meet all the requirements (at least 4 years of education, professional qualification and a minimum number of years of work experience in the field) described on the National Occupational Classification (NOC) code page for their occupation.

The procedure leading to obtaining a work permit granted to specialised professionals is exempted from carrying out the study of the labour market impact assessment (LMIA).

Length of stay

The applicant may be admitted as a professional under the CPAFTA for the shortest period of time:

  • a maximum period of 3 years;
  • the duration of their contract;
  • the expiry of their travel document.

Extensions may also be granted in increments of up to 3 years, with no limits on the number of extensions, provided that the person continues to comply with the requirements for professionals.

The officer must be satisfied that the employment is still temporary and that the applicant is not using the CPAFTA as a means of circumventing normal immigration procedures.


It should be noted that the spouses of professionals admitted to temporary residence can also benefit under well-defined conditions from an open work permit covering the period of the conjugal partner’s work permit.

2. Intra-company transferees

Intra-corporate transferees are a citizen or permanent resident of Panama who hold an executive or managerial position or a position that requires specialized knowledge and who are transferred to perform similar functions in the Canadian business or in a parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate in Canada.

Panamanian citizens seeking to enter Canada under this category must do the following:

  • apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA);
  • apply under the General Agreement on Trade in Services;
  • obtain access under Canada’s national regime.

The following requirements apply:

  • possess Panamanian citizenship;
  • hold an executive or managerial job or a job that requires “specialized knowledge”;
  • be transferred to a business that has an eligible relationship with the business in which they currently work;
  • the Canadian business must have a relationship with the Panamanian business  (parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate);
  • have held continuous employment in a position of the same nature outside Canada, for at least one year (full-time) in the three years preceding the date of the initial application; and
  • comply with existing immigration requirements governing temporary entry.


It should be noted that spouses of workers in this category admitted to temporary residence can also benefit under well-defined conditions from an open work permit covering the period of the conjugal partner’s work permit.

How long is a work permit valid for intra-company transferees? Can it be extended?

The validity period of a work permit initially issued upon entry into Canada can be up to three years.

Extensions may be granted for periods of up to two years, provided that the person concerned always meets the requirements applicable to intra-company transferees.

However, it is necessary to consider the maximum duration that can be reached during renewals. This is specific to each of the categories:

  • Up to seven years for executives and managers.
  • Up to five years for skilled workers.
  • Up to three years for management trainees.

However, persons authorized to enter Canada to establish an office or work in a new office should be issued an initial work permit for up to one year.

The recruitment of temporary foreign workers from Panama also responds to other subtleties that we master perfectly well. We are your best address to effectively solve anydifficulties due to labour shortages.

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