Business Immigration To Canada

Entrepreneurs looking to build or expand businesses in Canada need immigration lawyers who understand business. At Abramovich & Tchern, we work with individuals, investors, established companies, new branches or affiliate offices, as well as start-ups. We understand the business side of the Canadian immigration experience.

Entrepreneur Immigration Services

Immigrant entrepreneurs planning to immigrate to Canada have several immigration programs available to them. Our immigration lawyers work with:

  • Immigrant entrepreneurs,
  • Immigrant investors, and
  • Self-employed owners/operators

to design paths to permanent residency that align the business and immigration objectives of our business immigration clients with current legislation and programs. 

We assist immigrant entrepreneurs with all aspects of  business immigration-related applications, including

  • Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIA),
  • Intra-company transfers,
  • Significant Benefit Applications (C11),
  • Trader and Investor applications under international trade agreements,
  • Reciprocal agreements,
  • Business visits, and
  • After-sales service agreements.

We help our business immigration clients apply for permanent residency under both the federal Express Entry and Provincial Nominee Program economic streams. We also assist with the start-up visa program, which targets immigrant entrepreneurs with the skills and potential to build businesses in Canada and requires a referral from designated organizations such as venture capital funds, angel investor groups, or business incubators.

Confused? We’re not. We know the business immigration landscape, and we understand how immigrant entrepreneurs and business people think.

Talk to us about Express Entry, provincial streams, the start-up visa program, investor programs for immigrants, options for self-employment immigrants and immigrant business investors, letters of support, challenges unique to owners/operators, and what an entrepreneur must do to ensure an application is approved.

Since the Federal Immigrant Investor and Immigrant Entrepreneur programs were shut down in 2014, the majority of our business immigration clients choose to apply for Canadian permanent residence via the Express Entry system.

The process typically starts with obtaining a work permit, and then using the entrepreneur’s arranged employment and, if necessary, their Canadian work experience to gain sufficient CRS points to receive an invitation to apply for permanent residence.

Given the interplay between business and immigration considerations, as well as the complex procedural framework, proper planning is crucial, as is correct completion of the required application forms.

We excel at guiding our clients through the often complex process. When necessary, we work with a team of professionals, including accountants, actuaries, corporate counsel, and business plan writers, to ensure we have the documents necessary for us to present the best possible case at each step of the process.

While most of our clients have fairly well-developed business plans before engaging our immigration law firm, we can introduce clients to business brokers (agents selling businesses) who work across a range of industries, and who can help our clients assess their business options from an immigration perspective.

Once we decide on the best pathway towards permanent residence for our business immigration clients, we prepare a detailed roadmap which sets out the key steps as well as the timelines for completion.

Owner/Operator LMIA Applications

We routinely assist with Owner/Operator LMIA applications, which allow foreign nationals who have a controlling share in a Canadian business (50.1% of share or more) to hire themselves without having to demonstrate a Canadian labour market shortage.

The majority of our Owner/Operator LMIA applications are in the NOC 00  category, Senior Management positions such as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer. This means that upon the LMIA being issued, the individual obtains 200 CRS points for arranged employment.

Intra-Company Transfers

We also assist with intra-company transfers in the start-up context. This stream allows foreign businessmen to transfer themselves to a newly formed Canadian entity. As with Owner/Operator LMIAs, this is typically done within NOC 00 position as the executive and owner is typically first transferring himself to the newly created office. Applications in the start-up context generally require a professionally prepared business plan setting out the key factors and projections with respect to the business, as well as proof of financials, details with respect to leasing or property acquisition plans (some companies start with virtual offices), as well as submissions with respect to the company’s as well as the executive’s qualification for an ICT work permit. One of the key differences between the O/O LMIA, ICT, and C11 applications is the timing of the arranged employment points receipt. With a positive LMIA, the applicant is immediately awarded 50 or 200 points (depending on the NOC code) arranged employment points. With a C11 or an ICT work permit, arranged employment points are awarded after a year of work in Canada provided that the applicant is working for the employer at the time of the application, and the offer of employment is for at least one year in duration.

Significant Benefit - C11 Work Permits

Another popular stream for self-employed business people is using Code C11, which is designed to allow foreign nationals who work for themselves or to operate their own business on a temporary basis and who can demonstrate that their admission to Canada to operate their business would generate significant economic, social or cultural benefits or opportunities for Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

Questions about the state of operations or degree of establishment the newly formed entity must reach for either an ICT, a LMIA, or C11 application be approved? Concerned about minimum investment amounts, dependent status, and percentage of ownership? Book a consultation to discuss your options with us. Also, consult the Business Immigration FAQ below.

Most Canadian provinces have created their own business immigration pathways that allow business owners to enter Canada to work for their Canadian company and then receive a provincial nomination to apply for permanent residence. These streams generally involve a multi-stage process that generally requires the applicant to receive an invitation to apply to the province and to go through several stages of approval before a permanent residence application can be submitted. The most popular and effective PNP streams for entrepreneurs are in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia, although opportunities may also exist in Saskatchewan and the other provinces and territories.

Entrepreneur Stream—Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program

The Entrepreneur Stream under the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) targets business people resident outside of Canada who are interested in starting a new business or buying an existing business in Ontario.

It allows a business owner and up to one additional business partner owner an opportunity to apply for and be nominated for permanent residence once their business has been established in Ontario.

In order to apply, the business owner and, if applicable, their business partner, needs to:

  • Have a 24 months of full-time business experience (managerial) in the 60 months preceding the application;
  • Demonstrate a minimum net-worth of $400,000 if the proposed business is outside the GTA and $800,000 inside the GTA;
  • Be able to make personal monetary investment of either $200,000 or $600,000 depending on business location (inside or outside the Greater Toronto Area); and,
  • Have an active role in the company.

The business purpose must be to make a profit from active income through the sale of goods and/or services. In other words, passive investments do not qualify.

The following businesses are excluded from consideration:

  • Automated car wash business
  • Laundromats
  • Pawnbrokers
  • Pay day loan and related businesses
  • Scrap metal recycling
  • Tire recycling
  • Businesses that have been previously owned/operated by current or former OINP business stream nominees

If your proposed business will be located in the Greater Toronto Area, the following types are also ineligible:

  • Existing franchises in Ontario (new foreign franchises expanding into Ontario are permitted);
  • Gas stations; and,
  • Bed and breakfasts.

Although purchasing an existing franchise inside the GTA is not an option, many applicants who use the OINP entrepreneur stream choose to purchase a franchise outside of the GTA. 

As noted above, the process involves several steps and begins with registering an Expression of Interest (EOI). No supporting documents are required at the EOI stage. The EOI is assessed in light of other applications in the pool. Top applicants are issued an invitation to apply for a PNP.

If invited to apply, the business owner(s) is issued a work permit support letter, submits an application for a work permit, is issued a work permit to complete the conditions of the nomination,  and signs a performance agreement that sets out the terms of the business plan and conditions of the nomination. Conditions of the nomination typically include actions such as hiring of staff and investing the complete designated amount of personal funds.

After 20 months, a final review is held to determine whether the applicant and business have met the terms of the performance agreement. Once the conditions of the program are satisfied, the Province of Ontario issues a Provincial Nomination Certificate, which the business owner(s) then uses to apply for permanent residency.

Entrepreneur Stream—British Columbia PNP

British Columbia’s Entrepreneur Immigration Stream is quite similar to the Ontario program.

A business owner and up to one business partner may apply under this program. The base requirements to qualify for the program include:

  • Residing 100 km within the business location,
  • Meeting a minimum score of 4 on the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB),
  • Maintaining an active role in the business,
  • Demonstrating a minimum net worth of $600,000, and
  •             Demonstrating a minimum personal investment amount of $200,000. 

If the application is approved, the business owner(s) need to sign a performance agreement with the Province of British Columbia. They are then able to apply for a work permit and enter British Columbia to operate the business. 

Once the business owner(s) satisfies all the conditions of their performance agreement, a nomination certificate is issued, which the business owner(s) may use to apply for permanent residence.

If you are interested in this program, we recommend that you review the BC Government’s Entrepreneur Immigration - Base Category Program Guide to see the complete business and investment requirements, including business eligibility and job requirements.

Another option for immigrant entrepreneurs interested in BC is the province’s Entrepreneur Immigrant - Regional Pilot program, in which participating communities are  actively involved in attracting foreign entrepreneurs to their community. These communities may refer foreign entrepreneurs whose business concept aligns with the community’s economic priorities to the BC PNP. The foreign entrepreneur must be invited by the community to conduct an exploratory visit and present their concept to the community’s designated contact person prior to receiving a referral. Foreign entrepreneurs who are referred by a participating community are placed in a separate registration pool dedicated to the pilot when they register. Regional pilot registrations and applications are prioritized.

The biggest advantage of this program for immigrant entrepreneurs is, in addition to the prioritization it offers, is that net worth and personal investment amounts are generally lower from those in the main Entrepreneur Stream.

For more information about this unique pilot program, review the BC Government’s Entrepreneur Immigrant - Regional Pilot page.

Or, book a consultation with us to discuss which of BC’s Entrepreneur programs is right for  you. If you are an entrepreneur looking to immigrate to Canada, you do have many options.

While the Ontario and British Columbia entrepreneur streams are the most robust and well-defined PNPs targeting business immigration to Canada, depending on your industry, experience, and type of business, additional opportunities may be available in other provinces. Let’s discuss how your business objectives can align with your personal immigration strategy.

The Self-Employed Artists and Athletes stream is a very unique program that allows those self-employed in athletics or in the arts/cultural fields to apply for Canadian permanent residence. This self-employed program is limited to NOC groups 51 and 52.

To be eligible for consideration in the self-employed category, the applicant must:

  • Demonstrate having relevant experience,
  • Demonstrate the intention and ability to be self–employed in Canada, and
  • Demonstrate their intention to make a significant contribution through either cultural or athletic, self-employed activities. 
Relevant Experience Requirement

For self-employed artists and athletes, “relevant experience” is defined as a minimum two years of experience in cultural or athletic activities during the period beginning five years before the date of application for a permanent resident visa and ending on the day a determination is made.

The minimum experience can be met in one of three way:

  1. Two one-year periods of experience of self-employment in cultural activities or athletics;
  2. Two one-year periods of experience in participation at a world-class level in cultural activities or athletics, or
  3. A combination of a one-year period of experience in self-employment in cultural activities or athletics and a one-year period of experience at a world-class level in cultural activities or athletics.
Significant Contribution

The purpose of the program is to encourage immigration of artists and athletes who may make a significant contribution to Canada who will be able to create their own employment in Canada.

The adjudicating officer may consider factors such as:

  • Self-employed experience in cultural activities or athletics;
  •             Management experience in the world of arts and culture;
  • Personal financial assets as a measure of intent and ability to establish economically in Canada.

This category captures individuals such as music teachers, painters, illustrators, film makers, freelance journalists, theatrical or musical directors, and impresarios, as well as those people who work behind the scenes, for example, choreographers, set designers, coaches and trainers.

The “participation at a world-class level in cultural activities or athletics” experience category intends to capture performers, both those who perform in the arts, and in the world of sport. “World class” identifies persons who are known internationally. People who may not be known internationally but perform at the highest levels in their discipline may also be covered by this category.

It is important to note the “significant contribution to cultural or artistic life or to athletics” part of the test is designed to ensure that the self-employed class enrich Canadian culture, arts, or sports.

Practically speaking, when an permanent residence applicant meets the test of experience, intent and ability, and there is a reasonable expectation they will be self-employed in culture or sport, the test of significant contribution becomes relative.

For example, a music teacher destined to a small town can be considered significant at the local level. Likewise, a freelance journalist who contributes to a Canadian publication will meet the test.

In the end, the definition of “significant contribution” is left to the discretion of the officer, but is not intended to bar qualified self-employed persons who are applying in good faith. Its inclusion in the definition is intended to bar frivolous applications.

No Minimum Investment Required

In this category, no minimum investment level is required. The capital required depends on the nature of the work. Applicants must have sufficient funds to create an employment opportunity for themselves and maintain themselves and their family members. They must show that they have been able to support themselves and their family through their talents and would be likely to continue to do so in Canada. This includes the ability to be self-supporting until the self- employment has been created.

Additional Options for Artists and Athletes

Those self-employed in arts and culture may choose to submit a C11 work permit application in conjunction with the permanent residence application. The timing of each application depends on its particular facts. For example, some applicants start with a work permit, establish themselves in Canada, and then proceed with a permanent residency application, other submit joint applications, or only a permanent residence application. There are several options open to self-employed athletes and artists, and our immigration lawyers are here to help you choose the path that’s right for you.

The Start-Up Visa business immigration stream is a relatively new but very successful business immigration program targeting entrepreneurs who want to come to Canada and start their own business.

Designed to attract dynamic entrepreneurs around the world who will build competitive businesses that create jobs for Canadians, the program fast-tracks qualified applicants. The goal is to get successful applicants into Canada within weeks.

Support of Designated Canadian Investors

To qualify, you must meet a minimum language requirement, demonstrate that you have enough money to settle and support yourself in Canada and, most importantly, show that your start up business  has the support of a designated Canadian investors.

These investors must be part of the group identified by the Canadian government as permitted to participate in the Entrepreneur Startup Visa program. They include Canadian venture funds, angel investor groups or business incubators. Find designated angel investor groups and/or venture capital funds here.

You may request and receive support from multiple investors. Once you receive this support, you must prepare and provide Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) with a Commitment Certificate and a Letter of Support.

Business Requirements

The business you are proposing to create must meet several conditions.

During the process that you are applying for letters of support and investment commitment from investors:

  • Each applicant must hold 10% or more of the voting rights attached to all shares of the corporation outstanding at that time (up to 5 people can apply as owners), and
  • Applicants and the designated organization jointly hold more than 50% of the total voting rights attached to all shares of the corporation outstanding at that time.

After this initial application and when you receive your permanent residence, you must:

  • Provide active and ongoing management of this business from within Canada;
  • Conduct an essential part of the operations of the business in Canada; and,
  • Incorporate the business in Canada.

There are several additional requirements and stages to this process. Our business immigration lawyers have considerable experience in successfully guiding clients through the application process. In addition to ensuring your application packages put the case forward, we can connect you with Canadian business consultants and advisors who can work with you to help your start-up business idea qualify for the required funding.

Think the Start-Up Visa program may be right for you? Let’s get the process started.

How much should one invest?

The amount of investment required is dependent on the program you choose to proceed with. Provincial nominee routes have strict minimum requirements for investment and net-worth. The Express Entry route described above does not have minimum requirements with respect to investment and net worth, there are also no strict conditions to meet, and the process is generally more streamlined.

What is the required state of operations of the business at the time of the application?

With the Express Entry pathway, sufficient steps should be taken to get the business either operational or ready to launch at the work permit stage.

In most cases, the business needs to be registered, commercial space should be secured (sometimes our clients start with virtual office space - and transition to an actual lease upon work permit approval), and a detailed business plan prepared outlining the company’s business goals and objectives should be submitted.

On LMIAs the general test for operations is whether the business is currently providing a “good or a service”.

The PNP route requires compliance with a performance agreement.

What percentage of the business should the business immigrant own?

This depends on the program and varies widely. For example, the C11 Significant Benefit pathway requires that the main applicant have a majority share (50.1%+) while most PNP Business Investor programs allow for one-third ownership. The Start-Up Visa program requirements vary according to the number of applicants.

Can I use financing to support my Canadian business?

Personal investment in the business is required. Most programs require a demonstration of existing funds and investment.

Can I include my spouse and children in my business immigration pathway?

Yes, you can. Spouses and dependent children under the age of 22 of the business owner applicant can be included in either an application for a work permit and/or for permanent residence. A spouse is eligible for an open work permit. Children under the age of 18 are generally issued study permits. Children over the age of 18 receive visitor status unless a separate study permit application is submitted.

How do I become a Canadian citizen?

The general rules for becoming a Canadian citizen are quite straightforward. The applicant must be a Canadian permanent resident who has lived in Canada for at least 3 out of the 5 years prior to the application being submitted, have filed taxes in Canada, and passed a citizenship test, and prove CLB level 4 (or higher) proficiency in either official language. This can be done by way of language test results or proof of completion of studies in Canada.

Ready to talk to an immigration lawyer about your options? You don’t need to have a fully developed business plan to start the conversation. We are here to help you explore your options and design an immigration pathway that aligns with your business objectives and economic goals.



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Business Immigration

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