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Provincial Nominee Program Options for Entrepreneurs

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A founding partner of Abramovich & Tchern, Ksenia started her legal career at one of Canada’s top immigration firms, where she operated her own immigration law practice, with a focus on corporate and individual immigration applications.

Several Canadian provinces have economic immigration streams that specifically target entrepreneurs. Key among them are the Entrepreneur Stream of the BC PNP and the Entrepreneur Stream of the Ontario Immigration Nomination Program.

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 an opportunity to apply for and be nominated for permanent residence once their business has been established in Ontario.

Who Is Eligible To Apply for the OINP Entrepreneur Stream?

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

  • Have 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 for the OINP Entrepreneur Stream:

  • Automated car wash businesses
  • 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.

BC’s Entrepreneur Immigrant Regional Pilot Program

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, 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.

Deciding Which Province Is Best For Your Business

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.

We discuss the BC and Ontario programs, as well as other Canadian immigration programs that specifically target entrepreneurs, investors, and business people in our Business Immigration section. Our immigration lawyers have considerable experience in designing paths to permanent residency that align the business and immigration objectives of our business immigration clients with current legislation and programs. Book a consultation with us to discuss your business objectives and your immigration options.

Ksenia Tchern

A founding partner of Abramovich & Tchern, Ksenia started her legal career at one of Canada’s top immigration firms, where she operated her own immigration law practice, with a focus on corporate and individual immigration applications.