U.S. revokes NAFTA work permit from Windsor consultant
By David Lafreniere
A management consultant from Windsor, who has been working for a client in the southern part of the U.S. for more than two and a half years, has had her three-year NAFTA work permit revoked.
The woman does not want her name used out of fear of retribution while she is attempting to regain her status. After three attempts and about 20 hours of interrogation, she is now attempting to apply for an H1-B visa, which could take up to six months.
A NAFTA work permit is issued to skilled professionals who have an occupation listed in the free trade agreement between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. These professions are generally in short supply, according to the University of Windsor Cross-Border Institute Chair Bill Anderson.
“I think in general the interpretation is getting stricter,” said Anderson. “It may be because people working for CBP feel they need to be stricter.”
One recent example is that of a specialty nurse who was refused a TN-NAFTA work permit for registered nurse, because one Customs and Border Protection Officer interpreted that a specialty nurse was not a registered nurse. With the intervention of Henry Ford Health Systems and Canadian government officials, that decision was reversed.
The management consultant said she was not only refused a new permit but also had the remaining time on her existing permit revoked. She said on her first visit she was given a security pat-down and interrogated for close to five hours by up to four people at a time.
She said she was questioned extensively about whether she was having a sexual relationship with her client.
In the last two and a half years she said she has helped her client restructure and expand his business and was beginning to work on advising him on the start-up of two new business ventures.
Anderson said changes to interpretation of rules has led to a level of uncertainty and many people are not sure how they are going to be treated, so they do not go to the border.
He said more people are making sure their paperwork is in order.
There is also a deterrent effect that may skew numbers that suggest fewer Canadians are being turned away.
“This may be the case for people from the Middle East and other countries where people feel they may get a closer examination,” said Anderson. “So, if you are just planning to go shopping you may decide otherwise. Nobody wants to go the border and be singled out.”
He said there is potential for Windsor’s economy to be affected if there are disruptions to NAFTA. According to Anderson, if you take the 6000 people from Windsor who work in the Detroit area out of a labour force it could negatively affect the city’s economy.
“My client is still working with me because I’ve made a lot of difference in his companies,” said the management consultant. “What I’m working on now is two different startups. That is on hold now. He has been very patient and my value to him is great enough where he is going to hold off, but I don’t know how long he is going to hold off.
After three unsuccessful attempts over three months to get her TN-NAFTA work permit back, the management consultant has been granted a month’s stay in the U.S. to pack up her belongings, get out of her lease and move back to Canada.
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