Canada has unique business immigration programs through which foreign entrepreneurs can secure permanent residency. These investor immigration programs are similar to golden visas and citizenship by investment programs; however, Canadian business immigration programs require active investment, eventually allowing you to get citizenship in exchange for investment. Through business immigration, business owners, entrepreneurs, and investors can become Canadian citizens by investing in Canadian businesses.
What is Business Immigration in Canada?
In the Canadian context, business immigration is an area of immigration law that caters to foreign business owners, investors, entrepreneurs, start-ups, and high-net-worth individuals. By expanding foreign business to Canada, investing in an existing one, or starting a new one, foreign individuals and their families can receive permanent residency in Canada.
To become Canadian citizens, foreign entrepreneurs and investors must first obtain Permanent Resident status in Canada. Only permanent residents of Canada can become citizens after they have physically spent 3 years in Canada.
The process of obtaining citizenship in Canada through business ownership is as follows:
We’ll explore the steps for business immigration and how to obtain business PR status in Canada through investment and (ultimately) become Canadian citizens.
Step 1: Invest in Buying or Setting up a Business in Canada
There are four ways for foreign investors to invest in Canadian business:
- Starting a business from the beginning;
- Buying an operational business;
- Buying shares in an active business (at least 33% or more); and
- Buying a franchise
In general, your initial investment amount to buy or establish a business in Canada can range between CAD $100,000 to $350,000, but depending on your personal and financial goals can be higher. For example, a business that generates net profits of $100,000 per year for the owner would cost around $500,000 (net revenue x 5).
The table below demonstrates the pros and cons of each option for business investment in Canada.
| Cost || Risk (profit Potential)||Time to Operate Before PR Application ||Difficulty to Operate||Conditions for Permanent Residence Application
|Start A New Business||Low ($50,000+)||High||At least 12 months||Difficult||Active company in Canada; Commercial office; At least 1 Canadian employee; 12 months of operations.|
|Buy A Business||High: Owner-operator businesses: $50,000 - $250,000|
Profitable businesses: $250,000+
|Moderate||No minimum requirement||Moderate||Ownership of 51% of shares; Active company; At least 1 Canadian employee.|
|Buy Shares in a Business||Moderate to Average: ($200,000-$300,000)||Moderate||No minimum requirement||Simple||Company existed for at least 12 months; Currently active; Company has sufficient funds.|
|Buy a Franchise||Moderate ($100,000+)||Low||No minimum requirement||Simple||Active company; At least 1 Canadian employee.|
Step 2: Apply for a Work Permit
Once you have created or purchased a Canadian business, you can apply for a work permit as a business immigrant. Several different work permits are available based on your background and immigration goals. They include the following:
- LMIA-based work permits – although Owner-Operator LMIAs are no longer exempt from advertising requirements, business owners can still apply and obtain LMIA under the regular stream to work in Canada as managers of their businesses.
- Intra-company transferees (“ICTs”) – for those entrepreneurs who already have companies in their home countries and have established a new operation in Canada.
- Investors under free-trade agreements. It is specifically for citizens of Mexico, Chile, Colombia, the USA, the EU, South Korea, Panama, Peru, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Singapore.
- Entrepreneur work permits for foreign nationals who intend to operate a business that will generate significant benefit for Canada (C11).
- Start-Up visa work permits for entrepreneurs wishing to establish innovative or highly scalable businesses in Canada.
- PNP Canada programs, though may be complicated for some foreign investors, they still offer a viable option for work permits.
Step 3: Come to Canada to Operate Your Business
Upon arriving in Canada as a foreign worker, you will need to operate your business for a specific period before transitioning to permanent residence. The length of operation depends on the type of business you have (i.e. established or new) and your work permit type.
Note your business is not required to generate certain revenue or even be profitable. But your business needs to be viable (defined by the Federal Court as “having sufficient revenue to cover the operational costs and paying employee wages”).
Step 4: Apply for Permanent Residence in Canada
In general, your business must be active before you can apply for permanent residence, which means that:
- Your business is actively selling goods or services to actual and existing customers in Canada or globally.
- You have all licenses and permits necessary to operate in Canada.
- Your business has a physical location within Canada; and,
- Canadian employees are working for your company
- You are making progress toward the execution of your business plan
- You are currently performing (or intend to perform) executive or senior managerial duties in your business (you should not act as an owner-operator of your business, but rather manage your company through managers)
Once your Canadian business is active, you can apply for permanent residency as the manager of your business. You have to meet additional criteria to become eligible for permanent residence, which often include the following:
- A score of at least CLB 7 for your language skills
- Having post-secondary education
- Having no criminal record or serious ongoing medical issues
Frequently Asked Questions About Business Immigration
Below you will find answers to the most commonly asked questions about Canadian business immigration.
Can I buy Canadian citizenship?
Yes and no. No, because in Canada, we do not have any immigration programs that would allow you to “buy citizenship” or “citizenship by investment.” Yes, because to become a citizen in Canada through investment, you must first invest in a business in Canada (either buy or create your own), obtain permanent resident status, and live in Canada for 3+ years as a permanent resident. Therefore, foreign investors should first focus on becoming permanent residents if they wish to obtain Canadian citizenship. Learn more about whether you can buy Canadian citizenship in our comprehensive guide.
How much should I invest to get a PR in Canada?
There is no minimum investment amount that you need to invest to apply for permanent residency in Canada. The investment amounts are business specific and should make sense for the type of business you intend to do in Canada. For example, if you want to establish a consulting business, your initial operational costs may be less than $100,000. However, if you plan to run a restaurant, your investment amount could be over $350,000. Therefore, your investment amount will depend on your business plan and market entry strategy. In our practice, our clients usually allocate around CAD $250,000 to invest and have access to an additional $100,000 to cover operational costs in year 1.
How long does it take to get an “investor visa” in Canada?
It usually takes around 2-4 months to get a work permit as an investor/entrepreneur in Canada and another 1-2 years to obtain permanent residence. Keep in mind that these timeframes are estimates only based on our experience and can vary depending on your geographical location, application type, business performance, and the availability of documents.
What is Startup Visa Canada?
A start-up visa is an immigration program that allows founders of start-ups worldwide to obtain permanent residence (and subsequently citizenship) in Canada by moving their companies or projects to Canada. This program targets highly scalable and innovative companies that have the potential to compete on a global scale. If you have an innovative idea or tech company in your home country, this program can be an excellent option for you (and your team) to relocate to Canada. You will need to secure funding from a designated organization and obtain a letter of support for your project.
Can I start a business in Canada without PR?
You do not have to be a Canadian permanent resident or citizen to register your company in Canada. However, you are not allowed to work in your business without having a valid work permit. It would help if you relied on Canadians to operate your business until you secured your authorization to work in Canada.
Can I get an investor visa easily?
When it comes to Canadian business immigration, nothing is easy. These applications are usually very complex and require professional help with the immigration aspect of the application and business case presentation for your planned investment. However, done correctly, business immigration applications usually have a 90%+ approval rate (in our practice, at least). They could be a viable pathway for immigrant entrepreneurs to relocate to Canada through investment.
What type of business should I buy for immigration to Canada?
We recommend investing in a business that you understand, have experience in, and can commit to long-term. We do not support entrepreneurs or investors who intend to buy a business for “immigration only” purposes. We encourage our clients to invest in a business “for profit” and use their time and energy doing business rather than worrying about immigration. The immigration aspect should be outsourced to professionals and should not be the main focus of immigrant entrepreneurs. Immigration becomes easy when business is thriving.
How We Can Help You
At Sobirovs Law Firm, we can help entrepreneurs who intend to invest in a business in the following ways:
- Helping entrepreneurs and investors to select the right business to buy or invest in (we receive many promising projects from business brokers, venture capital funds, business owners and companies in Canada that are for sale)
- Developing market entry strategy and viable business plans for our clients (our lawyers and in-house professionals work together to help clients to develop business concepts and conduct market research)
- Company registration, business purchase negotiations, due diligence and other services to support entrepreneurs and investors in their journey.
- Business consulting and advising on how to successfully operate your business in Canada to obtain permanent residence and generate profits from your business.
- Full support with work permit & permanent residence applications.
Why Choose Us?
- We care about you, your family and your success in Canada. We want to help you achieve your goal because we believe Canada will benefit greatly if you come to our country.
- We simplified the process for you and tried to remove all hassles and stress (as much as we could) from your immigration journey.
- Trust our expertise. Business immigration is our business, and we specialize in all types of business immigration applications. We process over 150 business investment applications annually and have developed expertise in this type of application. Our approval rates are consistently over 90%, and we are obsessed with the quality of our legal product.
- We will support you throughout the journey and take care of all the moving parts and complexities of immigration so you don’t have to think about it. Just focus on your business and become successful in Canada.
- We read tons of books about business and entrepreneurship, take courses and attend seminars, so we can add value to your business, suggest ideas and help you see what is possible. We invest in our knowledge for you.