Mobility Rights of Business Travelers Under the CETA

January 21st, 2016

This trade agreement involves Canada and the EU.

JULIE LESSARD, partner and lawyer & DIDIER CULAT, legal counsel

Some Europeans might think that the adoption of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union (EU) will be similar to the Maastricht Treaty, which allowed citizens of EU countries to travel to and sojourn freely in other EU countries without formality.

Although business travelers have greater mobility rights under CETA, we note that these rights are not as generous as those granted under the Maastricht Treaty. Canadians will not be allowed to sojourn without formality in Italy, or in any other EU country, for an indefinite period!

Moreover, CETA’s basic principle allows business travelers temporary entry, provided they satisfy the immigration laws of each country and the purpose of their visit is to conduct business.

CETA also confirms that the requirement for certain citizens to have a visa in order to sojourn in certain countries will not be deemed a breach of the undertakings made under the Agreement. This provision addresses situations where citizens of EU member-states, such as Bulgaria and Romania, currently need a visa to visit Canada.

CETA creates new classes of business traveler who, as the case may be, can sojourn in the territory of a country without holding a work permit for varying periods of time. These classes may also restrict the nature of the specific business activities a business traveler can conduct during his stay.

The classes are:

  • Business travelers for investment purposes;
  • Investors;
  • Intra-corporate transferees;
  • Senior personnel;
  • Specialists;
  • Graduate trainees;
  • Contract service suppliers; and
  • Independent professionals.

It is worth noting that the Agreement lists 11 types of business activity that qualify as business travel.

Those who think that these formalities can be ignored and that they can travel regularly to a country as a visitor should be aware that CETA provides for the exchange of information between EU countries and Canada. The EU countries will track how often you enter and how long you stay there.

Note also that each EU member-state has set some restrictions on mobility. A business traveler who wants to avail himself of the privileges granted under the Agreement to sojourn in a country should check the restrictions the relevant country puts on the length of the visit and on the nature of activity he plans to conduct there.

For example, if a Canadian business traveler wants to sojourn in Austria for more than 7 days to take part in a trade fair, or if, within a given calendar year, he has spent more than 30 days in Austria on a cumulative basis to take part in trade fairs, he must obtain a work permit before travelling to Austria and must also demonstrate the economic necessity of his commercial activity. In another EU country, the same traveler may be subject to other rules, or may face no restrictions at all.

The complexity of the Agreement lies in the fact that there are 11 commercial activities, 28 EU countries, and 8 types of business traveler.

Note as well that CETA provides that the rights of business travelers also extend to their spouses.

Before it comes into force, CETA must be ratified by the Council of the European Union and by the European Parliament. An implementing act must also be adopted by the Parliament of Canada. At this stage, it is not certain that ratification by the EU member-states will be required, and a debate on this question could arise when it comes time for the Council of the European Union to ratify the Agreement.

So, be a sophisticated business traveler and ascertain the terms of your mobility rights before you travel, and check whether you need to obtain a work permit.