Permanent Residency Options for Entrepreneurs

There are a number of immigration strategies available to entrepreneurs seeking to immigrate, own or operate businesses in Canada. Some Canada immigration programs allow persons to apply directly for permanent residency. Other Canadian immigration programs require entrepreneurs to first establish their business and operate it in Canada on a temporary work permit for a period of time. Our lawyers are experts in Canadian immigration options for entrepreneurs. We have set out some of the common strategies below.

Start-Up Visa Program

The Start-Up Visa Program is a permanent residency program for individual entrepreneurs or a group of up to 5 entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs must have the support from a business group that has been approved by the Canadian immigration department to invest in or support start-ups in Canada. These designated organizations include venture capital funds, angel investor groups, and business incubators/accelerators. To qualify, each foreign entrepreneur must own at least 10% of the shares and intend be actively involved in the business. Further, the foreign entrepreneurs and the designated organization must, together, own at least 50% of the shares in the start-up company. Eligible entrepreneurs can apply directly for permanent residency under this program. Eligible entrepreneurs can also apply for temporary work permits while awaiting a decision on their permanent residency application so that they can start developing their business while they wait for their permanent residency application to be approved.

Owner-Operator Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)

Owner-Operator LMIAs are available to persons who are acquiring an existing business in Canada, or who are starting a new business in Canada. Applicants should have a controlling interest in the business (i.e., own greater than 50% of the shares), occupy senior management/operator position in the business, and cannot be dismissed. LMIAs are typically granted for longer durations when the applicant can show job creation for Canadians.

For new businesses/start-ups, the LMIA can typically be issued to support a 1 year temporary work permit. These can be renewed in multiple-year increments. Upon obtaining a LMIA-based work permit as a senior manager/owner-operator, eligible entrepreneurs may be able to obtain 200 points toward their Express Entry permanent residency applications.

When an existing business is purchased, entrepreneurs may be able to apply for a “permanent” LMIA. Upon obtaining a LMIA as a senior manager/owner-operator, eligible entrepreneurs may be able to obtain 200 points toward their Express Entry permanent residency applications.

Investor Work Permit

Investor work permits are available to persons who are from countries with which Canada has an eligible trade agreement. These require an initial substantial investment by the investor, and a plan to actively manage the business in Canada. Eligible persons may be able to obtain an initial temporary work permit of up to 1 year. These can be renewed in multiple-year increments. After working continuously in Canada for the company for 1 year on these work permits, eligible senior management entrepreneurs may be able to obtain 200 points toward their Express Entry permanent residency applications.

Trader Work Permit

Trader work permits are available to persons who are from countries with which Canada has an eligible trade agreement.Trader work permits are available to persons who plan to engage in international trade with Canada, and a plan to actively manage the business in Canada. Eligible persons may be able to obtain an initial temporary work permit of up to 1 year. These can be renewed in multiple-year increments.After working continuously in Canada for the company for 1 year on these work permits, eligible senior management entrepreneurs may be able to obtain 200 points toward their Express Entry permanent residency applications.

Intra-Company Transfer – Start-Up Work Permit

Intra-company transfer – start-up work permits are available to senior management or executive level persons who work for, or own, an existing company oversees, and are looking to openan office in Canada. These persons must first have been employed with the business overseas in for at least 1 year in the last 3 year period. The Canadian office must be established as a parent, subsidiary, affiliate, or branch of the foreign office. Eligible persons may be able to obtain an initial temporary work permit of up to 1 year. These can be renewed in multiple-year increments. After working continuously in Canada for the company for 1 year on these work permits, eligible senior management entrepreneurs may be able to obtain 200 points toward their Express Entry permanent residency applications.

Significant Benefit Entrepreneur Work Permit

Significant Benefit Entrepreneur work permits are available to persons who are acquiring an existing business in Canada, or who are starting a new business in Canada. Applicants should own at least 50% of the shares of the business. Entrepreneurs should demonstrate that their admission to Canada to operate their business would generate significant economic activity, such as job creation, expansion of export trade, technological advancements, innovation or skills development of Canadians. Eligible persons may be able to obtain an initial temporary work permit of up to 2 years. These can be renewed in 2 year increments. After working continuously in Canada for the company for 1 year on these work permits, eligible senior management entrepreneurs may be able to obtain 200 points toward their Express Entry permanent residency applications.

Provincial Nominee Program (PNP)

Provincial Nominee Programs are unique immigration programs designed by Canada’s provinces or territories. PNPs are jointly administered by the provincial/territorial governments and the government of Canada. Every province or territory in Canada has the ability to design a program for nominating foreign entrepreneurs and investors to obtain work permits or permanent residency. Some provinces/territories offer multiple PNP streams. The features of each PNP are particular to every province/territory.

In general, most PNP set minimum investment amounts for individual entrepreneurs, groups of entrepreneurs or companies. Eligible entrepreneurs or corporate investors must also meet specified minimum net worth or revenue generation thresholds.

Some PNPs operate a competition for nominations. This means that entrepreneurs must meet minimum thresholds to enter a competition for a limited number of available nomination spots. Only the highest ranked entrepreneurs will be selected for nominations out of the competing entrepreneurs.

Applicants applying to PNPs must intend to immigrate to the province/territory administering that program. Persons who apply to one PNP, but intend to live in another province/territory, may be refused.

Some PNPs require applicants to demonstrate business success in Canada as a condition to nominating an entrepreneur for permanent residency. To execute this, the PNP and the entrepreneur will enter into a performance agreement. The PNP will then issue a support letter for a temporary Canadian work permit. After carrying out business activities in Canada on the work permit for an agreed-to period (typically, 1 to 2 years), the province will then evaluate the business’ success in achieving the commitments of the performance agreement. The PNP will then make a decision to issue or not to issue a permanent residency nomination. Upon receipt of the permanent residency nomination, entrepreneurs may then apply for permanent residency.

Why should you hire Mamann, Sandaluk & Kingwell to represent you?

If you need assistance finding the best option or applying to one of the entrepreneur programs for permanent residency, our team of immigration professionals can assist you. We have expertise in all types of entrepreneurial applications. From starting a new business to purchasing an existing one, we know how to meet the needs of modest to multi-million dollar businesses from all over the world.