Canada’s immigration system is designed to give primacy to economic immigrants, which includes not just skilled workers but entrepreneurs and business persons as well, over all other categories.

Virtually every province has a business immigration stream as a part of its nomination programs. Yet, there are two federal immigration programs that business persons can explore to qualify for permanent residence in Canada. 

Start-Up Visa Program

This federal business immigration program is designed specifically for startup entrepreneurs. The program has three primary requirements. 

Requirement 1- Qualifying Business

  • Create or setup a business incorporated in Canada.
  • Contact different organizations, pitch your ideas, and finalize a formal agreement with them in the form of Commitment Certificate issued to immigration authorities and Letter of Support that is issued to the entrepreneur. 
  • Own at least 10% voting rights and, along with designated organization, own at least 50% of the total voting rights at time of getting Letter of Support. 
  • Either apply for LMIA-exempt work permit under International Mobility Program by enrolling the business in the Employer Portal and creating a job offer for yourself. 
  • Or, you can apply directly for permanent residence after setting up the startup. 

To qualify for permanent residence, it is mandatory for the applicant to participate in active and ongoing management of the business. Further, the business, or an essential part of the business, must be run or managed from within in Canada.

Requirement 2- Language Requirements

  • You must have language proficiency of at least CLB 5 in English or French. 

Requirement 3- Settlement Funds 

  • Meet low-income cut-off (LICO) as applicable to the investor’s family size for a period of one year. 

To facilitate entrepreneurial teams to settle in Canada together, the startup can be owned by up to five individuals who can then apply for the startup visa together. 

Applications under this program are processed over 12-16 months and success of the startup venture is not a pre-requisite for grant of permanent residence. This means permanent residence will not be revoked for the sole reason of failure of the startup.  

Self-Employed Person

This is a niche business immigration program targeting athletes and individuals with experience in cultural activities to qualify for business immigration. 

There is no specific definition of the phrase ‘cultural activities’ but it is generally understood to include artisans, experts in performing arts, and other fields related to arts and culture. 

To qualify, the self-employed athlete or cultural performer must have at least two years of experience in his/her field or must have participated in events at world-class level for two years over the five-year period preceding the application under this program. 

The federal startup visa program does not mandate any minimum investments from the applicants(s). Rather, the intent of the program is to attract entrepreneurial talent into the country. 

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