Posted on - Sep 06, 2016

By Catherine A. Sas, Q.C.

We are frequently approached by self employed business people who are interested in establishing Canadian operations and would like to immigrate to Canada as well.  You would think that Canada would be welcoming of the entrepreneurial spirit that business self starters bring to the economy in terms of both tax revenue and job creation.  Yet Canada’s current immigration program is very limited in options for self-employed business people.  Let’s review what immigration options are available for the business person.

Canada does have a Self Employed (SE) immigrant category. However, the SE category is a defined application category and is only open to those applicants whose self employment is in arts and culture, athletics or farming.  These are very restrictive categories and not open to just any self employed individual.  An applicant must demonstrate that they have performed the self-employed activity for at least two of the past five years and that they have earned enough from that defined activity to support themselves and their family.  You can not combine income from within the defined category and from another occupation for the purpose of satisfying the SE application requirements.  There is a point scoring system and a successful applicant will need to score 35 points in order to qualify.  The most points are for experience and a SE applicant with five years of experience (and sufficient income for all of those years) will obtain the necessary 35 points based upon the experience criteria alone.  So while there is an immigration option for self-employed individuals, it is very restrictive in terms of eligible occupations.

Canada also has the Start Up visa and the Business incubator business immigration categories.  However, these require the financial investment of a Canadian venture capital fund, angel investor or business incubator.  There has been very little uptake in these programs either by the Canadian investors or the business immigrant community.

So what other options are there for the prospective business immigrant?  If you currently have a business overseas, one option is to establish a Canadian branch, subsidiary or affiliate and obtain an Inter-company transferee work permit.  This allows for a business person to come to Canada relatively quickly and commence Canadian operations.  Thereafter, you can apply to Service Canada for an “owner-operator” Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).  This is an endorsement from Service Canada that your business activity is beneficial to the Canadian labour market and may support and application for permanent residence under the Federal Skilled Worker category.  It is, however, essential that you meet the criteria of the Skilled Worker category in terms of education, age, language proficiency and work experience in addition to obtaining the LMIA. 


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 25 years, and has been voted Vancouver’s Best Immigration Lawyer by the Georgia Straight newspaper for 5 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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