Immigrate to Canada as a Self-Employed Artist or Athlete

August 3, 2021

Immigrate to Canada as a Self-Employed Artist or Athlete

Canada’s Self-Employed Persons Program is a unique initiative allowing you to apply for permanent residence if you’re a self-employed worker in the athletics or arts/cultural fields.

This program is designed to promote economic and cultural development and employment in Canada by attracting individuals with valuable entrepreneurial skills. It also aims to develop new commercial opportunities and improve access to growing foreign markets.

But how do you know if you’re eligible to apply for immigration via the Self-Employed Persons Program? What levels of experience and recognition are essential to qualify?

In this post, we’ll provide all the answers you need.

Who is Eligible for the Self-Employed Persons Program?

You may be eligible to immigrate to Canada if you’re self-employed in:

  • Art
  • Culture
  • Recreation
  • Sports

This covers an extensive range of occupations, including:

  • Journalists
  • Librarians
  • Editors
  • Producers
  • Directors
  • Musicians
  • Choreographers
  • Painters
  • Photographers
  • Graphic arts technicians
  • Announcers
  • Creative designers
  • Actors
  • Camera operators (for video and film)
  • South technicians
  • Athletes
  • Coaches
  • Referees

You may still be eligible if your occupation falls within the arts, culture, recreation, and sports but is not listed above.

While the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) takes the position that only those who fall under the National Occupation Classification (NOC) 51 and 52 qualify, there’s nothing in the Act or Regulations that restricts these programs strictly to these sub-groups.

An applicant must meet the below criteria to be recognized as a self-employed person:

  • Demonstrate having relevant experience
  • Demonstrate the intent and ability to be self-employed in Canada, and
  • Demonstrate their intention to make a significant contribution through cultural or athletic self-employed activities

Interested in living in Quebec? This has its own program and associated criteria. You can find more detailed information about this at Quebec’s official immigration website.

What Constitutes Relevant Experience for the Self-Employed Persons Program?

The “relevant experience” required to qualify for the Self-Employed Persons Program applies to the five-year period prior to your application (ending on the day a determination is made).

Different criteria applies to cultural and athletics activities:

Cultural activities

Your experience must consist of:

  • Two one-year periods being self-employed in cultural activities, or
  • Two one-year periods participating at a world-class level in cultural activities, or
  • A combination of a one-year period being self-employed in cultural activities AND a one-year period participating at a world-class level

Athletics activities

Your experience must consist of:

  • Two one-year periods being self-employed in athletics, or
  • Two one-year periods participating at a world-class level in athletics, or
  • A combination of a one-year period being self-employed in athletics AND a one-year period of participating at a world-class level

You can achieve more points if your experience in either field exceeds the two-year period.

So, you must have a provable history of self-employed work in arts/culture or athletics before you apply for immigration under this program. You may be a gifted painter with a strong portfolio, but if your only work experience is as a barista, you won’t have the relevant experience to be eligible (yet!).

The same applies if you’re a talented swimmer but have just a few months’ experience as a self-employed coach.

What Degree of Prominence or Recognition Do You Need in Your Field?

The degree of prominence or recognition required to qualify depends on your occupation and immigration destination. If you can prove that you have publicly recognized achievements in your field, you may be more eligible.

A world-class athlete like Novak Djokovic would be more likely to qualify as he has achieved immense success in a prominent sport. But determining your status can be complicated — for example, a table tennis player from China, with little to no recognition, might be ineligible.

Assessing Your Plan in Canada and Your Contributions

The Self-Employed Persons Program encourages artists and athletes to immigrate if they can make a significant contribution to Canada and create their own employment. But stringent assessments are in place to check this.

The officer responsible for your case will consider such factors as:

  • Your self-employment experience in cultural activities or athletics
  • Your management experience in arts and culture
  • Your personal financial assets, to measure your intent and ability to establish yourself as a self-employed person in Canada

One significant benefit of this program is its flexibility: the officer deciding on your application has a great deal of discretion. It’s up to you to build a strong case for yourself and demonstrate why Canada needs to offer you residence.

The significant contribution test becomes relative when an applicant passes the test of experience, intent and ability, and there’s a reasonable expectation that they will be self-employed in arts/culture or sport.

What is the Selection Criteria for This Program?

Applicants who meet the definition of “self-employed persons”, have relevant experience, and are expected to make a significant contribution will be assessed based on:

  • Education
  • Number of years’ experience
  • Age
  • Ability to speak English and/or French
  • Adaptability

You must achieve at least 35 points out of a possible 100 if you want to immigrate under the Self-Employed Persons Program.

And you can easily meet this minimum requirement: the program is under-utilized and our immigration experts can help you build a strong case.

Medical Exams, Security Risk Assessments, and Sufficient Funds

You need to undergo medical exams and security risk assessments when applying, as with other immigration programs. Any immediate family-members set to accompany you to Canada will need to do the same.

You should also show that you have sufficient funds to support yourself and any relatives upon arrival in Canada. But no minimum investment level is necessary under this program — the capital required depends on the nature of your work.

Canada’s fantastic Self-Employed Persons Program opens the door to permanent residence for artists and athletes without Canadian work experience, and helps self-employed persons avoid some of the challenges they often face under other immigration streams.

The requirements are closely aligned with those under the Significant Benefit Work Permit application (C10 or C11). Some applicants choose to apply for a temporary work permit along with (or after) their permanent residence application.

If you think you may fall under the self-employed category, contact one of our immigration lawyers today to help you choose the best path for immigrating to Canada.

Call us at 416-551-1757 or email us at info@atimmigrationlaw.com