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Pathways to Becoming a Business Owner in Canada

Do you run your own business?  Would you like to run your own business in Canada?  If you do, there are several immigration pathways open for you to immigrate to Canada. 

Whichever one you choose involved an investment in time, money, and energy, and as with anything to do with immigration carries a certain degree of risk, so it is important to understand all aspects of a pathway before investing into the application process. 

Permanent Residency Options

1) Express Entry

Express Entry is a popular choice for those wanting to permanently reside in Canada. One of the main qualifications is a satisfactory score on the Comprehensive Ranking System (“CSR”).  The CSR system assesses an applicant based on various factors such as age, language abilities, education, and work experience, and awards applicants’ points based on their unique profile.  Generally, the system favours applicants who are younger, have more education, are highly skilled in English or French, and have work or educational experience in Canada. 

If this profile does not fit yours, not to worry, contact a qualified immigration professional to learn what strategies you can use to increase your score (some are listed below in the temporary options section).  For example, if you are able to obtain a certificate of nomination through an entrepreneur-focused provincial nominee program, you will automatically obtain 600 points! With these additional points it is likely you will qualify for an invitation to apply through Express Entry. Once you apply, you can obtain permanent residence in as little as 6 months from submitting your application.

2) Start-Up Visa Program

Want to create a new business in Canada? The Start-Up Visa program is a permanent residence stream designed for individuals wanting to build an innovative business in Canada that will create jobs for Canadians, and that will be competitive on a global scale.

You are eligible to apply for the Start-Up Visa Program if you have:  

1) a letter of support from a Designated Organization (i.e., an approved Canadian incubator, angel investor, or venture capitalist);

2) a qualifying incorporated business (i.e., a corporation in which each applicant holds at least 10% or more of the shares with voting rights, and that the applicant(s) and the designated organization jointly hold more than 50% shares with voting rights);

3) proof each applicant meets the minimum Canadian Language Benchmark of 5 in all four skill areas tested by an approved language agency; and

4) proof you have enough money for you and your dependents to settle in Canada.

The Start-Up Visa program is a popular choice for entrepreneurs and a great way to launch your business (and life) in Canada.  It can be a tricky one though, and we recommend getting the advice of an independent immigration professional before submitting your application.

3) Self-Employed Program

Last on the list of permanent resident options is a program made for those self-employed in cultural activities or athletics. To be eligible for this program, you must have a minimum 2-years of experience in these areas at a world-class level and be able to make a significant contribution to the cultural or athletic industry in Canada. Applicants must also meet specific selection criteria, which are based on 5 factors: education, experience, age, ability to communicate in English and/or French, and adaptability. Somewhat similar to the Express Entry points system, you must score 35 points out of a possible 100 to qualify for this program. 

Temporary Residency Options

If you don’t yet have a CRS score high enough to qualify for Express Entry or are only looking to move to Canada to work in your business temporarily, the options below may the right fit for you. 

4) International Agreements

First things first: What is your country (or countries) of citizenship? Canada has negotiated trade agreements with several countries, under which exist various avenues for obtaining a Canadian temporary work permit.  These work permits can be used to let you work in Canada temporarily as you set up your business, bring in key employees needed for your business, or quickly fill positions in your business for which there are no qualified or willing Canadian citizens or permanent residents.  One option in this category frequently used by European or American citizens is the Investor Work Permit.  This work permit is designed for individuals who have invested a significant amount into a Canadian business, which they will then directly manage and oversee.  These international investors may be eligible for a work permit of up to 1 year, with the possibility of renewal.  Other options exist for service providers, certain categories of professionals, and traders as well.

5) Intra-Company Transfer – Start-Up Option

Already own a company and looking to expand the business into Canada? If your company is looking to start an office in Canada you may be able to get a temporary work permit to manage the establishment and development of your company’s presence in Canada.  To qualify, the applicant must have been working with the non-Canadian company for at least 1 year in a role similar to the future position in Canadian.  Additionally, the relationship between the Canadian office and the non-Canadian company must be one that qualifies as an affiliate (examples include parent, subsidiary, or sister corporations).  This type of work permit can last for up to 1 year, with conditional renewals.  Any time spent outside of Canada under the work permit can be recovered from the work permit’s authorization period. 

6) Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)

Aside from the two options listed above, most other work permits require a positive labour market impact assessment (an “LMIA”) from Social and Economic Development Canada. An LMIA application involves a few steps, the lengthiest is the requirement to advertise the vacant job for a minimum of 4-6 weeks, to ensure no other qualified Canadian citizens or permanent residents are available to fill the position.

The applicant must also be able to demonstrate that the company is a legitimate business, which includes evidence it can fulfill the terms of the job offer to the foreign worker and that it is actively engaged in providing a good or service. The LMIA process is a bit more complex than other applications but is a useful route for many business owners looking to establish their business in Canada.

For more information on which immigration option is best for you and your business, or for assistance designing your longer-term immigration strategy, reach out to me directly through my CONTACT page.  We can set up a consultation to find the immigration option that works best for your specific needs.

Disclaimer: The contents of this blog post were accurate at the time of publication. Changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact the accuracy of the information provided above. This blog post is not updated on a regular basis.

Co-written by Emily Lukaweski and Rebecca Tripp

Originally posted on January 12, 2022

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