Rules for this immigration program will be tightened as of April 1, 2021
Posted on - Mar 02, 2021

By Catherine Sas Q.C.

Catherine Sas Q.C.

A popular pathway for immigration to Canada for business people is the Owner/Operator (“O/O”) Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”) category. Business persons seeking to purchase or establish a business under the O/O program could apply to Service Canada for an LMIA which would entitle them to apply for a work permit of up to two years. At the introduction of Canada’s Express Entry (“EE”) immigration selection program in January of 2015, the O/O LMIA became a popular immigration strategy for many business persons as it would qualify as Arranged Employment and garner 600 points in the EE scoring process and often lead to permanent residence for the O/O LMIA work permit holder.

As in most new and popular immigration programs, changes often result as a means of reducing intake. In November of 2016, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) reduced the arranged employment points to 200 for a Senior Manager (NOC 00) and 50 for all other NOC codes. However, O/O LMIA applications remained popular for many business people given the scarcity of other business immigration options in Canada’s economic immigration program. The upcoming changes are to be implemented on April 1, 2021 and further remove some of the more beneficial aspects of the O/O LMIA application process. Prospective business people to Canada need to take action quickly to benefit from the current O/O LMIA criteria.

For several years, prospective business immigrants used the O/O LMIA as a means to either purchase or establish a business. In recent months Service Canada has clarified that it will not approve an O/O LMIA for a business that is not up and running and in ordinary business operations. This means that start up operations or franchises for new operations will not be considered for an O/O LMIA. In addition, applicants will only be eligible to apply as a Senior Manager in a NOC 00 occupation, if there is already someone in the business employed in this capacity.

One of the most beneficial aspects of the O/O LMIA application process was an exemption from the minimum advertising requirements. As of April 1, 2021, this will no longer apply. A prospective O/O applicant will need to demonstrate reasonable and documented efforts to hire a Canadian or permanent resident for the position which they themselves intend to perform. In addition, the recruitment efforts will need to post the prevailing wage for the position and, if there are no Canadians to fill the position, will have to actually pay themselves this wage once they assume the position in Canada.

As in all compliance requirements with Service Canada and IRCC, detailed record keeping of all advertising efforts, payroll and accounting records need to be maintained for a period of 6 years. Finally, in order to be eligible for the O/O LMIA the business needs to be both active and operating for a period of one year prior to the submission of the application.

As with the EE immigration selection program, the O/O LMIA process has evolved over the years and, and continues to do so with these further changes taking place on April 1, 2021. What started out as a pretty secure pathway to permanent residence in 2015, is no longer the case. While the O/O LMIA is a good way for business people to secure a foothold in Canada to establish their businesses, prospective immigrants need to be aware of the other necessary criteria to qualify for immigration under Express Entry. Business immigrants will generally need to have a high level of education and strong proficiency in either or both English or French. Qualified individuals should take advantage of the current O/O stream before the clock runs out!

Catherine Sas, Q.C. is a Vancouver immigration lawyer at Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre in Vancouver, BC Canada. Catherine has been practicing law for over 30 years, and has been voted Vancouver’s Best Immigration Lawyer by the Georgia Straight newspaper for 9 consecutive years.

To learn more about immigrating to Canada, becoming a permanent Canadian resident or bringing your family to Canada, email Catherine Sas or call her at 1-604-689-5444.

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