How to Immigrate Through Opening a Business in Canada?

This article will explore another way of relocating to Canada – immigrating via opening a business in the country.

As opposed to the single-step Federal Skilled Worker Program and the two-step Provincial Nominee Program, this intricate multi-step process involves several major stages. In most cases, entrepreneurs will have to go through six main steps when immigrating through opening a business in Canada:

  • Arriving in Canada on a tourist visa.
  • Setting up a business in the country.
  • Getting permission to hire foreign specialists.
  • Getting a Canadian work permit.
  • Employing yourself in your own business.
  • Applying for immigration via any immigration program that is suitable for candidates officially working for Canadian-based businesses.

This immigration path has several core advantages:

  • The candidate gets to live in Canada from the very beginning of the immigration process.
  • The candidate being employed in a Canadian business positively affects their chances of their immigration application getting approved.

As with any of the more convoluted plans, this way of immigrating does here several weighty disadvantages:

  • Key steps require approval from Canadian authorities and there is no guarantee that an application won’t be denied.
  • People with families mostly have to be separated from their loved ones for the entire duration of the immigration process.

Let’s review every step one at a time.

Arriving in Canada

For most candidates, getting a temporary visa will be the first step in their immigration journey.Getting this temporary visa will require some time and effort. As mentioned in one of your previous articles, the candidate has to review all of the requirements set forth by the Canadian immigration authorities, along with the popular reasons for denial, and what to do in cases when the results are not what was expected.

The probability of obtaining a temporary visa in significantly higher if the candidate will show authorities proof of traveling solo – hence why the candidate will likely have to live away from their family for the first couple of months in Canada). Having a family means taking on an additional task of relocating them to Canada in the later stages of the immigration process.

Setting Up a Business in Canada

Technically, this will be the easiest step of the candidate’s journey. A fully-fledged and legally-compliant company can be set up and registered online in less then half an hour. A little more time will be required to open a corporate bank account.

The company can specialize in almost any trade, from public services or engineering to wholesale and retail trade. When selecting a line of business, the candidate has to evaluate their expertise and preparedness to successfully perform the selected services along with their ability to adhere to the requirements for licensing such activities in Canada. The best thing the candidate can do is to select a line of business that requires little to no licensing or requires licensing that is easy to acquire.

The only difficulty is that if the candidate wishes to start a corporation, according to the law, at least 25% of the directors of that corporation must be Canadians, and if there are less than four directors, at least one of them must be Canadian. Thus, to open a corporation, a candidate may need to enlist the support of a Canadian who agrees to take the post of its director.

After the business is set up and even with the candidate being its full owner, they still need to acquire a Canadian work permit in order to have the right to work for their own company.

The claimant's next step will be to submit an application on behalf of the company to hire a foreign employee – the owner of the company.

Getting Permission to Hire

Before the brand new owner of the company gets the right to request a work permit in Canada, their potential employer – aka their own newly-opened business – must petition the Canadian authorities for a permit to hire a foreign employee.

This permit is called the LMIA – the Labor Market Impact Assessment – and its name reflects its essence: the Canadian authorities assess the impact that hiring a foreign specialist will have on the Canadian labor market. The authorities – namely, the Ministry of Labour – will evaluate several factors: if the hiring will create new jobs for Canadian citizens, if it’ll lead to citizens and residents gaining new job skills, or, alternatively, if it’ll rob Canadian citizens of a place to work.

If the employer or, more precisely, the candidate on behalf of his own company, can prove that hiring a foreigner will not lead to negative consequences, they can count on a positive resolution to their petition. In order for this to be the case, the candidate’s business must hire at least a single Canadian before they submit their application.

When the candidate received the approval of the authorities, they can continue to the next step – requesting a work permit.

Getting a Canadian Work Permit

A positive outcome in the previous step entitles the candidate to apply for a work permit in Canada. There are several ways of how the candidate can apply:

  • Online through a Canadian visa office (both inside the country and abroad).
  • By mail.
  • In-person at the United States border.

The best option will depend on the candidate’s specific circumstances since each of them has its own requirements provided for by immigration law. Check out our article about the pros and cons of each way of applying for a work permit for more information.

Obtaining a work permit is a difficult journey in and of itself. For now, it’s enough to mention that the candidate’s application may be refused – as is the case with any request submitted to the Canadian authorities.


After the candidate officially obtains a work permit, nothing will legally prevent them from working for their own Canadian company. There are, however, certain requirements that must be met in order for this employment to play into the candidate’s right to a permanent resident (PR) status.

The hours per week and the salary that the business must pay to its owner-employee is strictly regulated by the authorities. From a legal point of view, employment should be properly formalized with tax authorities. The candidate can only rely on their business as the basis for immigration if all taxes and deductions are carefully reported, documented, and paid through the entire period of their employment.

Applying for Immigration

The final step in the candidate's immigration journey is to apply for permanent residence in Canada. If the candidate fulfills all requirements of the Express Entry program – including showing proficiency in English – they may apply for PR status immediately after employment.

If this is not the case, the candidate will need to bring their language skills up to speed and research the additional requirements of the programs that allow employed foreigners to apply for Canadian residency.

Choosing the program to apply through will be the very last of the six steps in the candidate’s immigration journey.

It’s clear that immigrating through opening a business in Canada is not for everyone. The candidate must have sufficient experience in starting and running a business, have the financial ability to cover costs at all stages of the process and take into account the huge amount of different requirements and variables at each given stage.

Keep in mind that failure at any stage does not mean that all hope is lost. In fact, in most cases, you can work with failures and ultimately achieve a positive solution. You just need to understand that it takes time, effort, and money.

Contact us if you think that you are up to the challenge – we will be able to provide assistance from the start of your journey and to its very end.

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