Is Canada’s immigration system focusing too much on skilled workers at the cost of entrepreneurs and business immigration? Immigration to Canada has become virtually synonymous with skilled worker immigration. And that’s not a bad thing too.

Unlike an asylum seeker, a skilled worker is an economic asset who adds value to not just his/her Canadian employer but the Canadian economy as a whole.

However, the unprecedented disruptive impact of the Covid-19 pandemic may be a good time to question whether Canada needs to do more to attract global entrepreneurs into its economy.

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Nothing beyond a Startup Program

Canada is unique in how immigration powers are shared between the Federal and provincial governments. Skilled workers can apply through multiple federal as well as provincial immigration programs. This has helped bolster Canada’s reputation as an immigration-friendly destination. .

However, entrepreneur/business immigration seems to have been ignored at the Federal level. Except for a Federal Startup visa program, business persons have no real immigration options at the federal level. There is a Self-employed program but it is restricted to cultural performers, and does not cater to conventional entrepreneurs and business persons.

In contract, there are three different federal programs for skilled workers including one focusing solely on those with Canadian work experience.   

Extremely Varied Provincial Entrepreneur Programs

The omission at the federal level is compensated by the fact that each province has at least one PNP stream for entrepreneurs or self-employed immigrants. However, there’s no uniformity in these programs.

Minimum business ownership requirement ranges from 1/3rd to 100 percent. Language proficiency ranges from CLB 4 and5 for some provinces while others have no minimum requirement as long as the entrepreneur is be proficient enough to carry out business efficiently.

Minimum business and managerial experience too varies between provinces. Manitoba requires three years business experience in past five years. Saskatchewan requires three years in the past ten years. Nova Scotia is open to those with just one year experience.

Such variations exist in skilled-worker streams of PNPs as well but the federal programs serve as the benchmark for somebody seeking the freedom to settle down anywhere across Canada.

The Way Ahead

Job creation is the first casualty of any economic downturn, and the pandemic-induced recession too is unlikely to be different.

Instead of having skilled immigrants and Canadians squabbling over a limited number of jobs, introducing a federal program for entrepreneurs can lead to faster job creation and sustained economic recovery in the country.

In any case, the skilled worker immigration system has matured and is likely to function smoothly once the disruptions caused by the pandemic subsides.

On the whole, a merit-centric system where fortnightly draws are conducted for entrepreneurs with viable business plans for execution in Canada can attract talent from across the globe and revive animal spirts in an economy that’s been battered by the global lockdown.

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