Canadian Business Visas
The Government of Canada welcomes experienced investors, entrepreneurs, and business visitors to apply to a range of Business Immigration Programs it offers.
Currently, the available Canadian Business Immigration Programs are as follows:
Start-Up Visa (SUV)
Canada’s Start-up Visa is an opportunity for entrepreneurs and their families to immigrate to Canada as permanent residents in order to set up a qualifying new business. The business must have the support of a designated entity.
With a Start-up Visa, you don’t need to invest your own money in your new business, as this is secured from a designated organization. However, you will need settlement funds to support yourself and your family upon arrival in Canada.
This visa provides the chance to apply for Canadian citizenship after 3 years of permanent residence.
To be eligible for the Start-up Visa Program, you need to meet four main eligibility requirements, as follows:
1. Have a qualifying business – you must hold at least 10% of the voting rights across all shares of the company. The designated organization and the applicant must also jointly hold more than 50% of the voting rights in the business.
2. Commitment from a designated organization – A designated organization is a venture capital fund, angel investor group, or business incubator.
3. Language requirement – An English or French language test from an approved agency must be taken to show you meet the minimum level 5 of the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) in speaking, reading, listening, and writing.
4. Sufficient settlement funds – You need to be able to show that you have sufficient funds to support yourself and any dependents once you arrive in Canada. The amount needed is determined by the size of your family.
- $1,575 CDN- Application fee
- $825 CDN – Application fee for spouse/common-law partner
- $225 CDN – Application fee for each dependent child
There is also a $500 CDN Right of Permanent Residence Fee (RPRF) to pay by the applicant and spouse.
How to apply
You can submit your application online, or as hard-copy via the mail.
You will need to submit documentation to show you meet all four main requirements, as well as significant supporting documentation such as medical exams and police certificates. The full range of documents can vary depending on your circumstances and your business proposal.
Applications are typically processed within 12 to 16 months on average.
Federal Self-Employed Persons Program
The Self-Employed Persons Program is aimed at those with relevant experience in cultural activities or athletics. You must be able to show you are willing to make a significant contribution to cultural or athletic life in Canada.
This visa offers a direct route to permanent residence in Canada.
You need to show that you:
- Have at least 2 years of experience taking part in cultural activities or athletics at a prominent (world-class) level, or self-employed experience in these sectors.
- Your experience must have taken place within the 5 years prior to applying for the program.
- Show that you are willing to make a significant contribution to the fields of culture, athletics or art in Canada.
You must meet certain criteria, and the minimum number of points you must achieve is 35, with 100 being the maximum. Points can be obtained by meeting the following selection criteria:
- Education – maximum 25 points
- Experience – maximum 35 points
- Age – maximum 10 points
- Ability in English or French – maximum 24 points
- Adaptability – maximum 6 points
You must also undergo medical exams and security risk assessments and prove that you can support yourself financially whilst in Canada.
How to apply
- Fill in the generic application form on the Canadian government’s website and print it including the barcodes page.
- Gather all of the supporting documents including proof of educational qualifications, language proficiency test results, proof of relevant experience, proof of adaptability if applicable, travel documents, police certificates, identity documents, photographs, documentation about your family members if applicable.
- Pay the application fees, these are the same as those for the Start-up Visa.
- Mail your completed application form, supporting documents, and fee payment receipt to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, Self-employed Class Centralized Intake Office, P.O. Box 7200, Sydney, NS, B1P 0E9, Canada.
The processing time for the Self-Employed Persons Program is around 22 months, although this can vary.
Temporary Entry for Business Persons via Canada Free Trade Agreements (FTA)
International Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) have provisions to allow temporary entry for business persons to Canada. Generally, an eligible person coming to Canada under an FTA will require a work permit, however, there is no requirement for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to be obtained. Note that FTAs are not a means to remain in Canada indefinitely.
Canada’s Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)
Currently, Canada has the following FTAs:
- North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – Superseded by Canada–United States–Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) as of July 1st, 2020
- Canada–United States–Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) (called T-MEC in Mexico)
- Canada-Chile FTA (CCFTA)
- Canada-Peru FTA (CPFTA)
- Canada-Colombia FTA (CCoFTA)
- Canada-Korea FTA (CKFTA)
- Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)
- Canada-UK Trade Continuity Agreement (Canada-UK TCA)
- General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)
- Canada–Panama Free Trade Agreement
- Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)
- Canada-European Union (EU) Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)
Each FTA varies somewhat in its immigration requirements for business persons to enter Canada, and special codes that need to be used during the application process.
There are four categories of business persons included across the various FTAs: business visitors, professionals, intra-company transferees, and traders and investors. Here is a definition of each of these categories:
- Business visitors – engage in international business activities related to the components of a business cycle: research and design; growth, manufacture and production; marketing; sales; distribution; after-sales service; and general service. Business visitors do not need for a work permit.
- Professionals and Technicians – professionals enter Canada in order to provide pre-arranged services in the field for which they are qualified. Technicians are those that are listed under the IRCC list of technicians permitted to apply. Professionals and technicians require a work permit.
- Intra-company transferees – employees in a managerial or executive capacity, or in a specialist role who are being transferred to the Canadian branch or subsidiary of their employer in the same capacity. Intra-company transferees are exempt from the LMIA process but require a work permit.
- Traders and investors – those who carry on substantial trade in goods or services between Canada and their home country, or are in the process of committing a substantial amount of capital in Canada. Traders and investors must be working in an executive, supervisory or essential skills capacity. Traders and investors are not subject to the LMIA process but require a work permit. They must apply for a work permit at a visa office before departing for Canada.
How to apply
Applications can be made at a Canadian Port of Entry (POE) or prior to travel to the appropriate Visa Application Centre (VAC), depending on the FTA requirements.
The duration of the work permit varies according to the trade agreement program selected, for example, permits can last 1 or 2 years. A permit can sometimes be extended as a matter of rule, or at the discretion of the visa officer, again depending on which program you go through.
In general, business visitors to Canada have to follow the normal application procedure for a Visitor Visa, or Temporary Resident Visa, and they will need to show that they are entering Canada for international business purposes for no longer than 6 months.
There are two specific programs that do not require a work permit or Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to enter Canada as a business visitor:
- USMCA (formerly NAFTA) Business Visitors
- CETA Business Visitors
Note that you may still need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) depending on your circumstances, so this should be checked in advance of travelling.
In general, the requirements and documents needed are listed below. The trade agreement programs for business visitors may have slightly different criteria.
In order to meet the Business Visitor Visa eligibility requirements, applicants must be able to show the following:
- You must plan to stay in Canada for less than 6 months
- You must show that don’t plan to enter the Canadian labour market
- Your main place of business and source of income and profits must be outside Canada
- The scope of the business activities must be international
- You must be a citizen of a participating country if applying under a trade agreement
How to apply
Applications can only be made at a Canadian Port of Entry (POE), advance applications are not accepted.
When you arrive in Canada, you must show several documents to the border services officer and provide evidence of certain requirements. These include, but are not limited to:
- The passport you used to apply for your eTA
- A travel document that is valid for your entire stay and guarantees re-entry to your country of origin
- A letter of support from your parent company and a letter of invitation from the Canadian host company
- Other documents such as warranty or service agreements, contracts, etc. if relevant to the visit
- 24-hour contact details of your business host in Canada
- Evidence that you have enough money for both your stay in Canada and your return home
- Evidence that the scope of the business activity is international
- Evidence that you plan to stay for less than 6 months
- Evidence you don’t plan to enter the Canadian labour market
- Evidence that your main place of business and source of income is outside Canada
Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP) for Business
Many of Canada’s provinces operate their own Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). A PNP allows a province to nominate an applicant for immigration to Canada in order to settle in that province. The applicant can then usually submit an application for permanent residence at the federal level.
Many provinces offer an entrepreneur or investor program. The minimum investment and net worth requirements vary from province to province, since each PNP is designed to best suit that particular province’s economy and labour market. Application processes, any applicant limits, and the fees also vary.
That being said, here are general requirements of PNPs:
- A detailed business plan – most PNP business immigration programs require this
- Business management experience – sometimes stipulated as a minimum, eg 2-5 years of full-time experience
- Participate in the day-to-day management of the business – most PNP business immigration programs require this
- Language requirements
- Age requirements
- Optional or required government deposits to ensure the applicant will make the investment that they committed to in their application – most provinces require this except Ontario & Quebec
- Minimum net worth – PNPs vary in the amounts
- Exploratory visit required – PNPs vary but some will award additional points for your visiting the province to conduct business and lifestyle research
Assessing which PNP is the right one for you and your circumstances can be daunting and time-consuming. Contact Total Law so we can help you with this important decision.
Quebec Business Immigration Programs
Quebec offers various PNP business immigration programs. At any given time not all of the programs will have their doors open for applications due to the limits on applicants they will accept during application intake periods. You can find out the latest status of all Quebec programs and the maximum number of applications allowed here.
At present, Quebec offers the following business immigration programs:
- Investor Program Application intake – application intake currently suspended
- Entrepreneur Program
- Self-employed Worker Program
The eligibility requirements for Quebec’s immigration programs differ considerably from those of the equivalent federal program.
Applications must be sent by courier, to Direction de l’enregistrement et de l’évaluation comparative, in Montréal.
Get help with Total Law
Canadian Immigration Programs offer a lot of opportunities for investors and business people, but you need to know how to select the best one for your circumstances and how to properly represent yourself when applying.
Nothing beats having a professional on your side and Total Law’s lawyers can help you compile a comprehensive, compelling, and error-free application, while supporting you with advice and guidance at every step of the process.
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The Province of Quebec manages its own business immigration programs such as the Quebec Entrepreneur and Quebec Investor programs. More information about these programs and how to apply is available on Quebec’s immigration website.
The provinces that currently offer a PNP are listed below. Note that provinces can withdraw or suspend PNP programs at any time.
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Northwest Territories
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward