Eligible cities for the BC EI Regional Pilot program must have a population of less than 75,000
Posted on - Aug 12, 2019

By Catherine Sas Q.C and Preet Gill

Catherine Sas Q.C.

With the elimination of Canada’s federal Investor and Entrepreneur programs in 2014, prospective business immigrants have had to turn to the Provincial Nominee Programs (“PNPs”) as a means of obtaining Canadian Permanent Residence. Most business immigrants tend to establish their businesses in larger urban centers.

British Columbia has recently introduced a new program to encourage prospective business immigrants to branch out in regions throughout the province to foster outside the urban core of major cities. The BC PNP Entrepreneur Immigration – Regional Pilot (“BC EI Regional”) program was created to support economic development through immigration.

The pilot program is a community-driven initiative that leverages local resources and expertise so that immigrant entrepreneurs can flourish and succeed in Canada. It was introduced in March 2019, the BC EI Regional Pilot program invited communities to register to participate in this two-year pilot program. Eligible communities must have a population of less than 75,000 and be located more than 30km from a community with a population of greater than 75,000. The communities also have to identify three specific business sectors, as defined in the North American Industry Classification System (“NAICS”).

At the introduction, in March, there were 29 communities registered having identified 26 NAIC sectors for potential businesses. As of the end of July 2019, there are a total of 56 communities registered with the province seeking prospective businesses in 30 different NAIC sectors. It is anticipated that by late August there will be an additional 10-15 communities participating in the program and further sectors available for prospective business applicants to consider.

BC has had an entrepreneur immigration program for many years – the BC PNP Entrepreneur Immigration Base program. However, the BC EI Regional Pilot provides for both lower net worth and investment thresholds for prospective immigrants and is designed to attract investment and create jobs in BC’s smaller communities.

Preparation Stage

A prospective immigrant must first identify a participating community and research their business needs. The applicant must contact the community directly to arrange an exploratory visit, during which, the applicant will meet with designated community representatives to discuss their business proposal to obtain a referral from the BC PNP office.

A prospective entrepreneur immigrant must be able to demonstrate:

  1. A personal net worth of a minimum of $300,000;
  2. The ability to make a minimum investment of $100,000;
  3. That he or she has past business experience in either owning/managing their own business for at least 3 years or have been a senior manager of a business for at least 4 years (or a combination of both of these) within the past 5 years; and
  4. English or French language proficiency at Canadian Benchmark Level 4 from an approved language testing center.

Registration Stage

Following the exploration stage, the prospective immigrant must request a referral from the community. If the designated community representative endorses a suitable candidate, then the community will make a referral to the BC PNP office for an assessment under the BC PNP EI Regional Pilot program. After receiving a referral from the community, the entrepreneur immigrant can then register their profile with the BC PNP EI Regional program for assessment. An applicant’s registration will be assessed according to the program requirements applicable at the time of submission of their registration.

The registration will result in candidates being scored out of a maximum of 200 points. Prospective business immigrants should strive to surpass minimum program requirements, such as the amount of financial investment to be made, as well as demonstrate that they have long-term intentions to reside and integrate into their community and have an active ongoing management role in the business.

As Vancouver immigration lawyers, we have found registrations are assessed within 4 months of receipt and successful applicants will receive an Invitation to Apply (“ITA”) for a provincial nomination. At this point an applicant will have up to 120 days from the date of the invitation to submit a complete application to be assessed as a Provincial Nominee.

Post Registration

If the prospective immigrant’s application is approved, they will be asked to sign a performance agreement with the Province of British Columbia. After the applicant signs the agreement, BC PNP will issue them a letter of confirmation which will enable the applicant to apply for a two-year work permit.

After an applicant arrives in B.C with their work permit, they have approximately 12 to 20 months to fulfill the terms of their business plan by establishing and operating their business. The EI Regional Pilot program requires entrepreneur applicants to establish a new business in the referring community, maintain a minimum of 51% ownership, create at least one full-time job for a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and, as mentioned above, have an active ongoing day to a day management role in the business. Alternatively, prospective business immigrants to BC who wish to purchase an existing business must apply under the BC PNP EI Base program.

Upon demonstrating to BC PNP officers that the applicant has satisfied all the terms of the performance agreement, an approved applicant will be issued a nomination certificate from the Province of BC which will be the basis for being able to apply for permanent residence to Canada.

The BC PNP EI Regional Pilot is a unique and attractive opportunity for a potential entrepreneur immigrant who is willing to settle and start a business in one of the BC’s smaller regional communities.


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 6 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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