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Canada-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (CKFTA)

The Canada-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (CKFTA) is Canada’s first free trade agreement (FTA) in the Asia-Pacific region. It increases Canada’s presence in the important South Korean market and expands Canada’s economic footprint in this dynamic and vibrant region of the world.

South Korea is a talent nest for Canadian companies facing labour shortages. Canada signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with this Asian country, which entered into force on January 1, 2015.  It is therefore for the last seven (7) years that employers here can take advantage of the opportunity it presents.

Under this agreement, Canada and South Korea have agreed to facilitate the reciprocal temporary entry of their citizens or residents. The objective is to expand the market for the marketing of products and services for each of them. Several categories of persons may benefit respectively from the facilities of working as a worker by an exemption from obtaining a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), whether they are intra-company transferees or certain categories of professionals.

1. Professionals

There are more than sixty professions for which employers can recruit in South Korea without worrying about postings or requesting LMIA. Click here to see the list.

A professional is defined as a South Korean national who otherwise meets the existing immigration requirements for temporary entry, upon presentation and engages in a specialized profession that requires:

(a) proof of citizenship or permanent resident status of the other party;

(b) documents attesting that the businessperson is applying for admission to provide predetermined professional services either as a contractual service provider or as an independent professional in the field in which he or she holds the appropriate credentials;

In short, immigration officers must be assured that the employment is still of “temporary” nature and that the applicant is not using the CKFTA to avoid the usual immigration formalities.

How long is a work permit valid for a professional? Can it be extended?

A first work permit issued upon entry into Canada may be valid for up to one year. Extensions of the same duration as the initial licence may be granted, provided that the person concerned still meets the requirements applicable to professionals. There is no limit to the number of extensions.


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

2. People in mutation within a company

Intra-company transferees are employees of a South Korean company 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 company or in a parent, branch, subsidiary or affiliate in Canada.

An intra-company transferee is not required to obtain an LMIA, but must have a work permit. This exemption benefits companies that are located in one of the other two countries quite well.

The following requirements apply:

  • possess South Korean 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 company must have a relationship with the South Korean company (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 the spouses of professionals and technicians 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 issued upon entry into Canada may be:

  • 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.

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.

3. Facilitated mutual recognition of professional qualifications

The CKFTA facilitates the creation of Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA) between the relevant bodies of each party. In particular, Canada and South Korea have agreed that the competent bodies in their respective jurisdictions will meet within 12 months of the entry into force of the CKFTA to establish MRA in the following areas: engineering, architectural and veterinary services. MRA in other professional sectors may be concluded, as required, and as determined by the respective competent bodies.

Do you want to recruit from South Korea? We are the right address for you. The only thing you have to do is contact us. We will entirely conduct the process for you with the efficiency that has characterized us for more than twenty years.

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