Morgan Ollinger 0

Optometry and NAFTA

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Petition to the Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO), British Columbia Association of Optometrists, the Alberta Association of Optometrists, the Saskatchewan Association of Optometrists, the Manitoba Association of Optometrists, the Ontario Association of Optometrists, the New Brunswick Association of Optometrists, the Nova Scotia Association of Optometrists, the Prince Edward Island Association of Optometrists, the Canadian Optometric Regulatory Authorities (CORA), the University of Waterloo School of Optometry and Vison Science, and L'École d'optométrie de l'Université de Montréal in Support of Seeking an amendment to the provisions of Chapter 16 of the NAFTA for the addition of “Optometrist” to the list of Medical/Allied Professionals in Appendix 1603.D.1 of NAFTA.

WHEREAS, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created special economic and trade relationships for the United States, Canada and Mexico.

WHEREAS, the Trade NAFTA ("TN") non-immigrant visa classification provides a simplified avenue for qualified Canadian professionals to seek temporary entry into the United States to engage in business activities at a professional level; and

WHEREAS, Canadian optometrists are ineligible for a Trade NAFTA ("TN") non-immigrant visa because our occupation (Optometry) is not listed as a Medical/Allied Professional occupation in Appendix 1603.D.1 of NAFTA; and

WHEREAS, the Medical/Allied Professional occupations listed are: Dentist, Dietitian, Medical Technologist, Nutritionist, Occupational Therapist, Pharmacist, Physician, Physiotherapist/Physical Therapist, Psychologist, Recreational Therapist, Registered Nurse, and Veterinarian. The exclusion of Optometrist in this otherwise comprehensive listing of Medical/Allied Professional occupations is an egregious oversight that discredits the legitimacy and prominence of the optometric profession within the Medical/Allied Professional community; and

WHEREAS, a significant consequence for this exclusion is the inability of Canadian optometrists to engage in temporary professional business and/or training activities in the United States unless they are eligible for H-1B Status (Temporary Professional Worker); and

WHEREAS, H-1B (Temporary Professional Worker) visa applications are complex and expensive. They cost in excess of $3,500 and the outcome is uncertain. Approval takes 6 - 10 weeks, which is followed by a wait for the acceptance lottery; and

WHEREAS, all Canadian optometrists who wish to obtain an ACOE-accredited residency position in North America must obtain a temporary non-immigrant visa because these residencies are only available in the United States, and

WHEREAS, there is a growing demand for residency-credentialed optometrists in the Canadian profession and in Canadian academia. Most schools and colleges of optometry require residency training as a basic qualification for new clinical faculty positions. In addition, most institutional and group practice opportunities are seeking applicants with residency training as a prerequisite for employment; now, therefore, be it resolved:


THAT we, the undersigned, hereby request the Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO), British Columbia Association of Optometrists, the Alberta Association of Optometrists, the Saskatchewan Association of Optometrists, the Manitoba Association of Optometrists, the Ontario Association of Optometrists, the New Brunswick Association of Optometrists, the Nova Scotia Association of Optometrists, the Prince Edward Island Association of Optometrists, the Canadian Optometric Regulatory Authorities (CORA), the University of Waterloo School of Optometry and Vison Science, and L'École d'optométrie de l'Université de Montréal individually and collectively acknowledge the significance of this oversight and endorse its rectification as a matter of high priority for Canadian optometry; and

THAT the Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) take the necessary steps to join with its counterparts in the United States and Mexico to seek an amendment to the provisions of Chapter 16 of the NAFTA for the addition of “Optometrist” to the list of Medical/Allied Professionals in Appendix 1603.D.1 of NAFTA.

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