Business and Investor Immigration
What Business and Investor Immigration programs are available in Canada?
While immigration to Canada is mostly the jurisdiction of the Federal Government in Canada, each of Canada’s provinces has its own small immigration program whereby the provincial government can nominate individuals for immigration to their province based on their own specific criteria. Once nominated by a province, the individual can apply for permanent residence through the federal immigration program. These Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP’s) usually break down into a skilled worker category and a business immigration category.
This summary will describe the different Business Immigration programs currently available by each province:
Owner / Operator LMIA Work Permit
Business PNP Programs
Prince Edward Island
North West Territories
Owners/Operators and Canadian Work Permits
The government of Canada has created a special category of work permit that offers a facilitated route through which majority owners of a company can acquire the right to work in Canada legally.
For many businesspersons around the world, Canada is the logical choice to embark upon a new business venture or for expanding an existing business. The favorable economic climate, the work ethic of the people, and the diversity of the population are all factors that contribute to making Canada an ideal environment to operate a business.
If business owners had to go through the same work permit process as other foreign nationals they would most likely be dissuaded from considering Canada as a viable option for the location of their company.
Generally, to obtain a work permit, a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) must first be conducted and approved. As part of the LMIA process, Canadian employers must demonstrate that employing a foreign worker will have a positive or neutral impact on the Canadian labour market, and that there is currently no Canadian citizen or permanent resident available to fill the position, which is typically done by advertising the position on several venues. Because of the reluctance to hire a foreigner for a position that could presumably be performed by a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, these applications are heavily scrutinized and are often refused if they do not conform precisely with requirements set forth by the government.
However, majority business owners (over 50% ownership) may be eligible for a work permit under the Owner/Operator stream, and as such, exempt from the advertising requirements of the LMIA. This facilitates the process greatly, as this is usually the most difficult hurdle of a LMIA and its ancillary work permit application.
The main purpose of this LMIA stream is to provide a facilitated route through which foreign nationals can enter Canada to run their business. Quite understandably, most business owners are protective of their company and are adamant about personally overseeing its operation in order to ensure it is running according to their specifications. If entrepreneurs had to surrender the helm of their Canadian company due to a lengthy and convoluted work permit application process, most of them would look elsewhere to start or expand their business. Fortunately, the government of Canada understands this and has had the foresight effectively address these concerns with the Owner/Operator LMIA stream.
Quebec Investor Program
This program enables business persons to immigrate to Canada by providing the sum of $1,200,000 CAD to the Quebec government, which the Quebec government will invest for its own benefit, then refund to the investor immigrant after a period of five years, interest free.
To be eligible for this program, you must:
- Have, alone or with an accompanying spouse, net assets of at least $2,000,000 CAD obtained legally, excluding the amounts received by donation less than six months before the date on which the application was filed.
- Have *experience in management in a legal farming, commercial or industrial business, or in a legal professional business where the staff, excluding the investor, occupies at least the equivalent of two full-time jobs, or for an international agency or a government or one of its departments or agencies
*Quebec defines management experience as the exercise, for at least two years in the five years preceding the application for a selection certificate, of duties related to the planning, management and control of financial resources and of human or material resources under your authority; the experience does not include experience acquired in the context of an apprenticeship, training or specialization process attested to by a diploma.
- Intend to settle in Québec and sign an agreement to invest $1,200,000 CAD
- The investment of $1,200,000 CAD for a five year term is guaranteed by the Gouvernement du Québec
- Brokers and trust companies offer the possibility of financing the investment
- At the end of the five year term, Quebec will, within 30 days, reimburse the applicant $1,200,000 CAD without interest. However, the amount may vary if the applicant secured financing for the investment
The assessment of the application will also take into account other factors such as age, the nature and duration of any professional training and the applicant’s language skills.
British Columbia Nominee – Regional Entrepreneur
First, applicants must register with the Entrepreneur Immigration Registration. Applicants will be assigned a score based on experience, net worth, personal investment, jobs, adaptability, and business concept (the maximum score available is 200), and only the top applicants will receive an invitation to apply under the BCPNP Entrepreneur Immigration Stream.
To be eligible to register for the BCPNP-Entrepreneur Stream, an applicant must, at a minimum:
- Have $600,000 in personal net worth (which includes your spouse’s or common law partner’s assets)
- Have more than three years of experience as an owner/manager, or more than four years as a senior manager (there must be a minimum of 3 employees under your supervision to be considered a senior management role) of a business in the last ten years
- Demonstrate two years of post-secondary education, or have experience as a business owner-manager with 100% ownership for at least three of the past five years (100% ownership can be shared with a spouse of common law partner
In addition to the aforementioned personal requirements to apply to the nomination program, there are also requirements on the proposed business activities of the applicant. The BCPNP will only consider the applications for registration of applicants seeking to establish, or purchase and improve, a business that contributes to the economic growth of the province. An applicant must decide on the type of business they intend to establish, and once the application is filed, there is no opportunity to change the proposal. In reviewing an applicant’s business proposal for nomination, the BCPNP will consider the following factors:
- Does the business model demonstrate realistic potential for growth and profit?
- Does it meet the minimum ownership percentage of 33.3% (this criterion is waived if the applicant’s personal equity investment is greater than $1 million)?
- Does the applicant have a market entry strategy?
- Is the proposed product/service one that would succeed in the proposed market?
- Is the proposed investment and job creation reasonable (the proposal must account for at least one job being created or an applicant cannot register; the business must create three new jobs if the applicant proposes having a key staff member)?
- And finally, are the risk factors acceptable?
If the applicant has proposed to take over an existing business, there are two additional factors BCPNP will consider:
- Does the applicant have an expansion plan for the current business, and is it feasible?
- Is the purchase and expansion of the ongoing business financially stable?
The BCPNP will also examine whether an applicant’s skill set (ie. Past ownership or senior management experience) is transferable into their proposed business venture. Lastly, the BCPNP will examine the economic benefit of the business on the province and award it points accordingly.
Assuming that the applicant’s proposed business activities meet the BCPNP criteria, the applicant must demonstrate that they will be able to make a minimum eligible personal investment of $200,000. If an applicant proposes having a key staff member, they must make an eligible personal investment of at least $400,000.
If a registered applicant is invited to apply to the nomination program, they will have 4 months to complete and submit the required documentation. If the application is approved by the BCPNP, the applicant will then be required to sign a performance agreement and they will receive a letter supporting them for a two-year temporary work permit (Note: Performance agreements are unique for each applicant). After signing the performance agreement, the applicant must arrive in BC with a work permit within 12 months. The applicant must then file an arrival report within two months of arriving, and set up their business within 20 months of that time. At the end of the 20 months, the BCPNP will review the applicant’s file and decide whether it will nominate them for permanent residence.
Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program – Business Applicant
If an applicant is interested in operating a business in Manitoba, they must first file an Expression of Interest (EOI) in conjunction with an Exploratory Visit (the visit cannot be more than a year before the EOI is filed), and a summary of Business Intent. This step must be completed in order to then be invited to apply for nomination.
In order to be eligible for the Business Applicant program, a candidate must:
- Have a minimum, verifiable, personal net worth of $350,000
- Have a minimum of 3 years of successful business ownership and management experience (or, a minimum 3 years of executive level experience as a senior manager of a business)
- Obtain a score of at least 60 on the *Adaptability Assessment Matrix
*The Adaptability Matrix provides an applicant with a range of scores based on their age, business knowledge, business experience, net worth, English and/or French fluency (to verify language claims, an applicant must submit IELTS results from within the last 2 years), and lastly, enhanced settlement factors (these account for an applicant’s connection to the province and the skills of an applicant’s dependents
- Commit to make a $150,000 minimum investment.
- Commit to make a $100,000 good-faith Deposit Agreement that is refundable if the terms of the agreement are met by the applicant.
The province will identify top candidates from the EOI pool to apply for nomination and then select the top nomination applicants for nomination. There is no guarantee that an application will lead to a nomination, nor is there a guarantee that Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will approve a nominated applicant for permanent residency.
New Brunswick Provincial Nominee Program (NBPNP) – Business Applicant
The purpose of this program is to identify and nominate qualified business people from around the world who will own and actively manage a business that contributes to New Brunswick’s (NB) economy. The first step for any interested applicant is to file an Expression of Interest (EOI). Interested parties must be selected from the EOI pool to be eligible to apply to the nomination program. Applicants to the EOI pool are evaluated on the criteria listed below and assigned a score based on that evaluation. The minimum score that an applicant must achieve is 50, but that is not a guarantee for an invitation to apply to the nominee program; only the highest ranked candidates are invited to apply.
In order to be eligible for the Business Applicant program, a candidate should:
- be between 22 and 55
- Have sufficient English and/or French to manage a business (to prove this requirement a candidate may be asked to produce an IELTS from within the last two years)
- Have, at a minimum, been awarded a high school diploma
- Be able to demonstrate that they will live in and operate their business in New Brunswick
- Demonstrate that they have ownership or senior management experience in at least 3 of the last 5 years
- and have an understanding of the business climate in New Brunswick
- Have a minimum net worth of $300,000 and commit to a minimum of $125,000 investment in their business. Furthermore, they must provide evidence they can make a $75,000 deposit in accordance with the province’s Deposit Agreement (refunded if the candidate meets the provinces requirements)
If a candidate is invited to apply for the NBPNP they will be required to schedule a visit to NB, where they will have an in-person interview and provide a detailed business plan. At this stage, if NB chooses to nominate the applicant, both parties will sign the Deposit Agreement and the nominated applicant will apply to Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for permanent residency.
Ontario Immigration Nominee Program – Investment Stream
To receive a nomination from the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade (MCIIT), the first step is to submit an Investment Referral Form to MCIIT to be reviewed by a secondary Ontario ministry. MCIIT will assign referral forms based on which ministry would be impacted by the business plan. The registration applications are reviewed and ranked.
For MCIIT to nominate an applicant, investments must be of significant importance to Ontario and must create jobs for Ontarians. Both new investments and expansions to current operations are eligible. Investments need to meet the following eligibility guidelines:
- The investment must receive an official endorsement from another Ontario ministry at the Deputy Minister level for the investment and the number of key positions requested
- The amount of the investment is at least $3,000,000
- The investment must create at least five net permanent full-time jobs for Canadian citizens or permanent residents in Ontario. If there is more than one requested nominee position, the requisite number of full time jobs created increases.
In addition, Investment Nominee Positions being considered for approval by the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program must:
- Be necessary for the long-term success of the investment
- Be in a skilled occupation (NOC 0, A, or B)
- Be permanent, full-time positions
- Meet prevailing wage levels. Information about wages for a variety of professions can be found on the Service Canada Labour Market Information website
- Not affect the settlement of any labour dispute or affect the employment of a person involved in such a dispute, or adversely affect employment or training opportunities for Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Ontario.
If the ministry approves the investment plan, they will provide the the applicant with instructions on how to apply. The application is once again reviewed by the assigned ministry and is also reviewed by MCIIT. If the MCIIT and the secondary ministry approve the application, the applicant will receive a nominee application package. The applicant will have 60 days to complete the application package and file it for assessment (there is a $3,500 non- refundable fee to file the application). If MCIIT nominates an applicant, the applicant has 6 months to apply to Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for permanent residence (the applicant can request a temporary work permit while the IRCC is processing their application).
Prince Edward Island Business Impact Stream for 100% Ownership
Under the 100% Ownership Stream, the first step that an applicant must make is to fill out and submit a self-assessment form and a business proposal. If the PEIPNP approves the applicant’s file, there will be an in-person interview and the applicant must submit a settlement plan and a business plan for approval. If the PEIPNP accepts the business and settlement plan, the applicant will be nominated for permanent residency.
For an applicant to be eligible for this process they must:
- Possess a minimum, verifiable, personal net worth of $600,000 that has been accumulated through legal and legitimate sources in their own right
- Possess a minimum education of high-school equivalent
- Be within 21-59 years of age at the time of application
- Have transferable management skills and past employment
- Have scored a minimum band score of 4.0 on the IELTS within the last 2 years
- Provide a detailed business plan for 100% business ownership that falls within an eligible sector and meets all program criteria in place at the time of application
- Provide active and ongoing management of the business from within Prince Edward Island
- Sign an Escrow Agreement containing stipulations on a deposit of $200,000 to be held by the province until the terms of the agreement have been meet
If the applicant fails to abide by the agreement, they could lose their $200,000 deposit in accordance with the terms
- Make a minimum of $150,000 investment into a new or existing Prince Edward Island owned and operated business
- Provide a purchase and sale agreement, if the applicant is investing or buying out an existing business
Because of Prince Edward Islands’ unique economy and the current demands facing it, the province will give priority to businesses involved in the following areas:
- The starting or expansion of an export-oriented business
- Businesses that utilize primary sector resources from the following sectors (Agriculture, Fishery and Forestry)
- Businesses that help economically diversify rural communities in Prince Edward Island
- Businesses that develop the province’s emerging innovative sectors: bioscience, information technology, aerospace and renewable energy
According to the PEIPNP, if an applicant meets all program criteria in place at application time and is approved, a nomination certificate will be issued.
Saskatchewan Immigration Nominee Program – Entrepreneur (SINP-E)
The first step in the application process is filing an Expression of Interest (EOI) with the SINP-E. It is through the EOI candidate pool that applications are reviewed and ranked, successful candidates receive an invitation to apply to the Provincial Nomination Program.
- Candidates are selected from the EOI system based on their score on the points criteria grid
The criteria grid considers age, exploratory visits, official language ability, qualifications, net worth (the higher the net worth, the higher the applicants score), entrepreneur experience, innovation, investment amount and impact of Saskatchewan economy
- At this stage, an applicant’s file is reviewed and they receive an endorsement for a two-year temporary work permit (which must be filed with the federal government within 3 months of receiving it)
- During that two year period, the applicant will be expected to enter into a Business Performance Agreement (BPA), and implement their Business Establishment Plan (BEP)(Note: an applicant’s BEP should provide evidence their application is in line with S.87 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations as explained above)
- If the applicant fulfills his obligation under the BPA, they can apply to be nominated for permanent residency.
In order to file an EOI an applicant must:
- Have a minimum $500,000 in net business and personal assets
- Have a minimum of three years (in the last 10) of business management or entrepreneurial experience
- Intend to invest a minimum $300,000 in Regina or Saskatoon, or $200,000 in any other area of Saskatchewan.
If the above criteria is met, the applicant receives a letter of recommendation for a temporary work permit. Provided that the applicant adheres to the Business Performance Agreement, they will be permitted to apply to the SINP for nomination. Finally, with a nomination in hand, an applicant is able to apply to IRCC for permanent residency.
Yukon Business Immigration Nominee Program
The first step in the application process is to submit an application for evaluation. The application will be evaluated against the assessment criteria.
For a registered applicant to pass the assessment criteria, the applicant must:
- Have achieved a minimum score of fifty-six (56) on the Nominee Assessment Grid
Points are awarded based on the size of an applicant’s proposed investment value, their personal net worth, there age (between 29 and 40 will earn maximum points), length of prior visit, education and training, amount of ownership or senior management experience, and language skills
- Have achieved, at minimum either/or:
- Level 6 in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
- Level 4 in the Test d’Évaluation De Francais (TEF)
- Have relevant entrepreneurial or business management experience
- Have a minimum net worth of $250,000 CAD
- Have a minimum $150,000 in liquid assets (cash, bonds, cash derivatives etc.)
- Have documented proof that claimed net worth and liquid assets has been obtained through legal means
All applicants who are approved for nomination receive a letter of recommendation which is submitted to the Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to obtain a two-year work permit. Once the two-year work permit is obtained, the applicant will be required to submit a business plan with detailed documentation demonstrating either:
- A business plan that outlines how the Supported Applicant will establish a successful business venture in one of the industries listed on the Strategic Sector List. In this category, the Supported Applicant must demonstrate a minimum $150,000 CAD investment in the business with no less than 1/3 ownership
- Or, an equity investment in a business in one of the industries listed on Strategic Sector List of at least $1,000,000 CAD
At the end of the two year period, successful applicants will be notified whether the YBINP will support their permanent residence application to the IRCC.
North West Territories Immigration Nominee Program – Entrepreneur Stream
To begin the process a candidate must take the self-evaluation to see if they are eligible to apply to the program. If they are, the application is submitted and it is reviewed by the territory.
All economic sectors are eligible for this program. However, priority will be given to those applicants whose business product or service is new to NWT or would generate significant benefits for the North. The business plan may be for the establishment of a new business or the purchase of an existing business – the key is to show the incremental benefits that will accrue to the NWT.
To be eligible for this program, applicants must have:
- A minimum of $300,000 equity if they are starting or buying a business within the corporate boundary of Yellowknife; or, $150,000 if you are starting or buying a business outside the corporate boundary of Yellowknife
- A personal net worth of at least $500,000 if you are starting or buying a business within the corporate boundary of Yellowknife; or at least $250,000 if they are starting or buying a business outside the corporate boundary of Yellowknife
- An additional $75,000 to be kept in a trust account (which will be released without interest upon the completion of a performance agreement)
- A reasonable understanding and knowledge of the territory and its economy
- Reasonable communication skills
- The necessary education and experience to successfully implement the business plan
If all of these criteria are met, and the Assistant Deputy Minister approves the Business Plan, the NWT may choose to nominate the applicant, for temporary residence so they may establish their business according the Business Performance Agreement. If the conditions of the agreement are satisfied the NWT will, at that point, nominate the applicant so they may apply to Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for a permanent residency.
Federal Government Requirements Applicable to all Provincial Nominations
It is important to be aware that any permanent residency application is subject to a final decision by Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and a nomination from a province is not a guarantee that IRCC will approve the applicant’s request for permanent residency. IRCC will review admissibility criteria such as an applicant’s criminal history and medical condition, and can refuse an application if they find the applicant to be inadmissible based on the requirements of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
Contact us for more information about the Business Immigration application process or for assistance in preparing an application