Canadian Business Visas
There is a variety of Canadian Business Visas (work permits) for British entrepreneurs, experienced investors, and business visitors to come to Canada on a short-term or permanent basis.
The available business visas are listed below. Some provide a route to Canadian permanent residency, with others offering temporary entry.
Start-Up Visa (SUV)
If you are a British entrepreneur and would like to move to Canada to start your business, then the Start-Up Visa could be suitable for you, if you can meet the requirements. Your business will need to have the support of a designated organization, but you will not need to invest your own funds, as the designated entity will provide the investment or support. You will however need enough ‘settlement funds’ to support yourself and your family (if applicable) when you arrive in Canada.
With the Start-Up Visa you can bring your family with you to Canada, and you can apply for Canadian citizenship after 3 years.
To be eligible for the Start-Up Visa Program, you’ll need to be able to show that you meet these four requirements:
1. Your business must be a qualifying one – this means you have to hold at least 10% of the voting rights of your business. Additionally, along with the designated organization, you must jointly hold more than 50% of the voting rights.
2. Commitment from a designated organization – you must have the commitment of a designated organization. A designated organization is one of these three entities: a venture capital fund, an angel investor group, or a business incubator.
3. English or French language ability – you must show that you meet the required standard in either English or French through taking a test. This test must be from an agency approved by the Canadian government.
4. Sufficient settlement funds – You must show evidence of having enough money to support yourself and any dependent family members who are coming with you to Canada. The amount of settlement funds you need to have is dependent on the size of your family.
The following application fees must be paid when applying for a Start-Up Visa:
- $1,575 CDN- applicant
- $825 CDN – spouse or common-law partner
- $225 CDN – each dependent child
- $500 CDN – Right of Permanent Residence Fee (RPRF) payable by the applicant and spouse
In terms of submitting an application, you have two options: you can apply online or send your application in hard-copy format via the mail.
When applying you will need to provide documentation to show you fulfill all four requirements stated above. Several other supporting documentation will also be required to be submitted, such as medical exams, police certificates, and additional documents that may be required depending on your individual circumstances and your business proposal.
Generally, it takes around 12 to 16 months for Start-Up Visa applications to be processed.
Federal Self-Employed Persons Program
If you have experience in cultural activities or athletics at a world-class level and wish to start a business in these areas in Canada, then the Self-Employed Persons Program (SEPP) could offer an opportunity for you to move to Canada. The SEPP allows UK and other citizens to immigrate to Canada permanently as a self-employed person.
To qualify as a self-employed person in Canada, you must have two years of relevant experience and show that you intend to become self-employed in Canada.
You will need to meet the following selection criteria and requirements:
- You must show evidence of having at least 2 years of experience within the cultural or athletics fields:
- at a world-class level, or
- self-employed experience in one of these areas
You can get more qualifying points if you have 3, 4, or 5 years of experience.
- This experience must have been gained within 5 years before the day you apply
- You must be able to show that you are willing to make a significant contribution in the fields of culture or athletics in Canada
- Be willing and able to be self-employed in Canada
- Meet the program’s selection criteria of a minimum of 35 points:
- Age – maximum 10 points
- Experience – maximum 35 points
- Education – maximum 25 points
- English or French language ability – maximum 24 points
- Adaptability – maximum 6 points
- Meet medical, security and other conditions
- You must also show that you can financially support yourself whilst in Canada
Here are the steps to apply:
- Access the “application package” on the Canadian government’s website. There will be a guide and document checklist in this package which you will need to refer to ensure you provide all required information and evidence
- Fill in the “Generic Application Form for Canada [IMM 0008]” on the Canadian government’s website. You will need to print this out including the barcodes page
- Submit the multiple supporting documents required for this visa, including:
- Evidence of relevant experience
- Identity documents
- Travel documents
- Language proficiency test results
- Evidence of educational qualifications
- Proof of adaptability, if applicable
- Police certificates
- Documentation relating to family members, if applicable
- Pay the application fees (these are the same as the Start-Up visa fees). Any additional fees will be stated in the application pack. These could include language testing, biometrics fee, medical exams and police certificates
- With all documents gathered, the completed application should be mailed to the address in the instruction guide that comes with the application pack
The processing time for the Self-Employed Persons Program is around 22 months on average, however, it could take longer if for example there are missing documents or additional information is requested.
Canada Free Trade Agreements (FTA) Work Permits
Canada’s many international Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) permit business persons to temporarily enter Canada for business purposes. In general, FTAs require a work permit but there is no requirement for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).
A list of FTAs that Canada currently has in place is listed below. Note that these can change or new agreements are implemented at any time.
- Canada–United States–Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) (called T-MEC in Mexico) – this superseded the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as of July 1st, 2020
- 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 (CUKTCA)
- General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)
- Canada–Panama Free Trade Agreement
- Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)
The FTA between Canada and the UK is the Canada-UK Trade Continuity Agreement (CUKTCA). CUKTCA provides continuity, predictability and stability for trade between Canada and the UK and allows eligible UK nationals to enjoy access to Canada’s labour market. Due to the UK’s exit from the European Union in January 2021, UK citizens looking to work in Canada could no longer be processed under the CETA, so CUKTCA, which came into force on April 1, 2021, processes applications from UK citizens who were previously covered under CETA.
Four categories of business persons can enter Canada via the various FTAs: business visitors, professionals, intra-company transferees, traders and investors. These are defined as follows:
- Business visitors – these are people who engage in international business activities across the business life cycle: research, design, growth, manufacturing, production, marketing, sales, distribution, after-sales service, and general service. Business visitors do not require a work permit.
- Professionals and technicians – professionals are people who provide pre-arranged services in the field in which they are qualified. Eligible technicians are those that are listed under the IRCC list of technicians. Professionals and technicians require a work permit.
- Intra-company transferees – employees that work in managerial, executive, or specialist roles whose employer is transferring them to a Canadian branch of the company to work in the same capacity. Intra-company transferees require a work permit.
- Traders and investors – persons who engage in significant trade in goods or services or are committing a substantial amount of capital in Canada. They need to be working in an executive, supervisory or essential skills capacity. Traders and investors require a work permit. Their application must be submitted prior to leaving for Canada at a visa office.
In terms of applying for work authorisation through an FTA, applications can be made at a Canadian Port of Entry (POE) or before travelling at an appropriate visa office, depending on the requirements of the specific FTA in question.
Depending on which FTA you go through there are also other differences between them. One is the duration of the work permit issued, with some lasting 12 months whilst others last 24 months. Whether you can extend a permit is also dependent on which FTA it is, and in some cases extensions may be at the discretion of the visa officer.
For help with preparing a comprehensive application and maximising your chances of success with an FTA work permit, contact our immigration lawyers now.
Generally speaking, business visitors coming to Canada need to follow the standard Visitor Visa or Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) application procedure. They will need to show that they are coming to Canada for international business purposes and for a maximum of 6 months.
There are two specific Canadian Business Visitor programs that come under the banner of free trade agreements (FTAs) don’t require a work permit or Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) as follows:
- USMCA (formerly NAFTA) Business Visitors
- CETA Business Visitors
The requirements and documents needed for a Business Visitor are listed below. Note that the trade agreement programs for business visitors may have slightly different requirements.
You will need to check before traveling whether you need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) as this can vary depending on your circumstances.
To meet the eligibility requirements for a Business Visitor Visa, you must be able to show the following:
- You must intend to stay in Canada for less than 6 months
- You must be able to show that you are not planning to enter the Canadian labour market
- The main place of business, source of income and business profits must be outside Canada
- The scope of your business activities must be international
- If you are applying under a free trade agreement (FTA), you must show evidence of your citizenship of a participating country
In terms of how to apply, you cannot apply in advance. Applications must only be made at a Canadian Port of Entry (POE).
Upon arrival in Canada, you will need to show several documents to the border services officer to prove you meet certain requirements. These documents include those listed below, but note that other documentation could be required:
- Your passport
- A travel document that is valid for your entire stay
- Letter of support from your parent company
- Invitation letter from the Canadian host company
- Other documents for example service or warranty agreements, or contracts etc., if relevant
- Contact details for your Canadian business host
- Evidence showing you have sufficient funds for both your stay in Canada and your return journey home
- Evidence showing that the scope of your business activity is international
- Evidence showing that your intention is to stay in Canada for less than 6 months
- Evidence showing that you are not planning to enter the Canadian labour market
- Evidence showing that your main place of business is outside Canada
- Evidence showing that your income source is outside Canada
PNP Entrepreneur Immigration Streams
Most provinces have their own PNP Entrepreneur Immigration Streams, also known as business immigration streams.
A PNP is a Provincial Nominee Program whose purpose is to nominate an applicant for settlement in that province, which opens up a route for permanent residence at the federal level for the applicant. The way it works is that an applicant accepted under a PNP Entrepreneur Immigration Stream is issued a certificate called Provincial Nominee (PNP) Certificate. The nominated person can then apply to the Federal government for permanent resident status.
Each PNP has its own individual eligibility criteria and program requirements to suit the province’s economy and labour market, which should be carefully checked before applying. However, in general, the following criteria usually need to be met when applying:
- Age requirement
- Language ability proof
- Business eligibility requirements
- Minimum investment – this varies but several entrepreneur stream PNPs require a minimum investment in the region of CAD$150,000 to CAD$250,000
- Minimum net worth of applicant – this varies from PNP to PNP but as an example, British Columbia and New Brunswisk ask for CAD$600,000 and Manitoba requires CAD$500,000
- Experience in business management – this may be in the region of 2-5 years of full-time experience
- Level of involvement in the business – some programs will require the applicant to participate in the day-to-day management of the business
- Business plan – this needs to be detailed and is required by many PNPs
- Deposits by the applicant – this is required by most provinces except Ontario & Quebec to ensure the investment that the applicant is committed to in their application is made
- Exploratory visit – some PNPs award extra points if you visit the province to do research and conduct business prior to moving there
- Any additional requirements – such as job creation
Due to the differences in the Provincial Nominee Program requirements, it can be daunting to decide which province and program would be best for you, your family (if applicable), and your circumstances. Contact Total Law so we can provide help and assistance with this important decision.
Quebec Business Immigration Programs
Quebec manages its own PNP programs, which have had several changes to them, and not all are currently operating. Also, the programs have quotas for how many applicants are accepted per intake period. You can find the latest status of Quebec’s PNPs and the number of applicants that will be accepted here.
Currently, Quebec offers the following business immigration programs:
- Investor Program Application intake – application intake currently suspended
- Entrepreneur Program
- Self-employed Worker Program
PNPs typically have different eligibility requirements from those of the equivalent federal program.
Quebec PNP applications must be sent by courier to Direction de l’enregistrement et de l’évaluation comparative in Montréal, the address can be found on this page.
Canada offers a wide variety of immigration programs for entrepreneurs, investors and business people. The programs vary in their requirements and who they are designed for, and sometimes it can be quite daunting working out the best program for your circumstances and goals.
To help with this task Total Law’s lawyers are well versed in helping clients with program selection and compiling a compelling and error-free application. We’ll provide you with support and advice every step of the process.
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The Province of Quebec, like the other Canadian provinces and territories, manages its own business immigration programs. To find out more about Quebec’s programs visit Quebec’s immigration website.
Currently, the provinces offering a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) are listed below. Note that PNPs can change frequently and programs and can be suspended, or new ones created.
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Northwest Territories
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward