C11 Work Permit Explained: Canadian Entrepreneur Work Permit in 2023

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Amongst the many business immigration options available, the C11 Work Permit route offers a unique pathway for foreign entrepreneurs, business owners, and investors to come to Canada to do business. Despite the promising opportunities it provides, the C11 program remains one of the best-kept secrets of Canadian immigration.

Well, we at Sobirovs are committed to lifting the veil of secrecy! Below we demystify the C11 program and offer a comprehensive breakdown of this business immigration option, including how to determine your eligibility, what the process is like and some essential application tips we’ve lifted from our practice. The program has recently been updated for 2023, and this guide has the most up-to-date information.

What is the C11 Work Permit?

The C11 Entrepreneur Work Permit was created under the International Mobility Program (IMP) and allows foreign entrepreneurs and investors to obtain a work permit in Canada as self-employed individuals. The Initial work permit is usually issued for two years and can be extended several times, provided that your business in Canada is active and profitable. Self-employed entrepreneurs and business owners in Canada operating their businesses under the C11 work permit may eventually become eligible for permanent residence in Canada.

C11 Work Permit Immigration Graphic

Who Should Apply for a C11 Entrepreneur Work Permit?

The C11 work permit is suitable for the following categories of individuals:

  • Self-employed individuals that would like to start a business in Canada;
  • Entrepreneurs who would like to buy a business or franchise in Canada;
  • Individuals selected under any of the Entrepreneur streams of the Provincial Nominee Programs;
  • Startup founders who have submitted their PR application under the Startup Visa Program.

From our experience, this program is perfect for those who:

  • Do not plan to spend significant time in Canada but rather come to Canada temporarily to establish a business;
  • Those who intend to establish businesses in remote areas;
  • Those who offer unique service or product that is likely to benefit Canadians.

If you are considering the C11 work permit, you will need to convince the immigration officer that:

  • You own your business or a majority share of your business in Canada (at least 50%);
  • You have the relevant experience and capacity to operate your business in Canada;
  • You have the financial capacity to execute your business plan;
  • Your business plan is feasible and can be implemented;
  • You have taken significant steps to execute your business plan;
  • Your business will generate “significant benefit to Canada.”

Application Process & Timeframes for C11 Work Permit

To apply for a work permit under the C11 program, applicants should follow the following process and take into consideration below processing times:

2023 Flowchart showing C11 Work Permit - Entrepreneur Work Permit application process

We recommend that you consult with a lawyer before starting or investing in a business in Canada, as not all business ventures meet the requirements for the program. Learn more about starting a new business and purchasing an existing one with us.
Your business plan is the heart and soul of your application, and immigration officers scrutinize the business plan very carefully to assess the viability of your business. Therefore, it is incredibly important that you make sure your business plan has all the necessary information, including your business model, hiring plan, pricing strategy etc., to convince the officer that your plan is viable and feasible.
Another important aspect of your applications is the initial execution of your business vision. The immigration officer will examine your commitment to running a business in Canada and review evidence of any steps you have taken to execute your business plan. Often, opening a bank account and depositing funds alone is not sufficient to demonstrate your commitment, and you may be required to do more than show that you have the money to finance your plans and business. Your initial execution plan will depend on the nature of your business and the strategy outlined in the business plan. At Sobirovs, we know that entering a new market can be difficult, and we help our clients develop their execution plans and assist with the initial steps in the most cost-efficient and speedy manner.
Once you have collected sufficient proof of your commitment and evidence of your business plan execution, you can proceed to submit the work permit application as a self-employed individual under the C11 LMIA exemption code. Make sure to include all your relevant documents, including evidence of your entrepreneurial or managerial experience, financial documents, or support letters from vendors or customers in Canada.
Within approximately 1-3 months after submitting your application and providing your biometric information to the IRCC (if applicable), you should receive a decision from the IRCC on your application. If your decision is positive, you can start planning your trip to Canada. If your decision is negative, we encourage you to talk to your lawyer and develop a strategy to challenge the negative decision.
If your application is approved, you will be issued a 2-year work permit as an entrepreneur by the CBSA officer upon arrival to Canada (airport or land border). As a self-employed individual, you will be authorized to work only for your business in Canada and not for any other employer in Canada. Your spouse will also usually receive an open work permit which allows her/him to work for any employer in Canada. You need to operate your business for at least 12 months before becoming eligible to apply for permanent residence.
As a foreign entrepreneur, you may become eligible to apply for permanent residence under the Express Entry (Federal Skilled Workers) program with an executive job offer after operating your business in Canada for at least 12 months. For that, you need to demonstrate that you meet the basic eligibility requirements for the Federal Skilled Worker stream under the Express Entry program, demonstrating that you have a viable and operational business in Canada that can support your employment in a senior managerial or executive capacity, and the minimum language skills requirements (CLB level 7).

What is a “Significant Benefit,” and How Do I Prove I Have It?

The “Significant Benefit to Canada” requirement is assessed with the following 8 criteria, in no particular order:

    1. Is the work likely to create a viable business that will benefit Canadian or permanent resident workers or provide economic stimulus?
    2. Does the applicant have a particular background or skills that will improve the viability of the business?
    3. Is there a business plan that clearly shows that the applicant has taken steps to initiate their business?
    4. Has the applicant taken some measures to put the business plan in action (showing evidence of having the financial ability to begin the business and pay expenditures, renting space, having a staffing plan, obtaining a business number, showing ownership documents or agreements, etc.)?
    5. Does the applicant have the language abilities needed to operate the business?
    6. Is the business of a temporary nature (for example, seasonal businesses)?
    7. Is the foreign national establishing a long-term business that will require their presence indeterminately (for example, an auto mechanic shop)?
    8. What are any spin-off benefits from the self-employment of the applicant?

It is essential to understand that, in general, when assessing the “significant benefit to Canada” requirement, the immigration officer will review whether:

  • your business will create an economic benefit for the Canadian economy. You can satisfy this requirement by creating new jobs, actively participating in the economic development of a region, or contributing to Canadian exports.
  • your business will contribute to the advancement of a particular industry in Canada. You can satisfy this requirement by innovating products or services, contributing to technology innovation, or creating opportunities for Canadian workers to improve their skills and gain experience.
  • your business will have a negative effect on the Canadian economy. Make sure to avoid activities that could potentially have harmful consequences on Canadian culture, economy, or society.

Examples of Businesses with Significant Benefit

According to IRCC, a small grocery store in downtown Toronto that employs only a few people will not significantly contribute to the community. However, the same store in a less densely populated region with no similar businesses nearby could generate significant benefit to the community. This is because the store in the second scenario could provide much-needed jobs in the area while also providing an essential service and potentially attracting new people to the region.

Please look at some of our successful C11 clients whose businesses satisfied the significant benefit to Canada requirement.

We helped numerous foreign entrepreneurs with their C11 Work Permit applications and relocation to Canada. Schedule a 1-hour strategy meeting with our senior business immigration lawyers to start your journey to Canada.

Family and C11 Entrepreneur Work Permit

When you apply for the Entrepreneur Work Permit, C11, your family members can also immigrate to Canada with you. For instance, your spouse could be eligible for an open work permit, while your children could receive study permits. As a result, you can enjoy developing your business in Canada while having your family cheer for you!

If your spouse is issued an open work permit, they could work for your business. Remember that your spouse will not be counted towards your company’s creation of job opportunities for Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

Whatever your decision, make sure to plan ahead! It is possible that your spouse can be considered “self-employed” as well, which may affect the PR pathways available to you. We recommend speaking with a lawyer about your short-term and long-term goals to make the right decisions for your business and future.

Frequently Asked Questions About C11 Work Permits

Below you will find some questions that frequently arise when considering C11 applications.

What kind of business should I buy under the C11 program?

When searching for the right business to buy, you should look for businesses in the following priority industries:

  • Aerospace
  • Automotive
  • Chemical & Biochemical
  • Cleantech
  • Financial Services
  • Food & Beverage Manufacturing
  • Forestry
  • Industrial Automation and Robotics
  • IT
  • Life Sciences
  • Mining
  • Tourism

Can I start my own business in Canada and immigrate?

Yes! Budding entrepreneurs and self-employed enthusiastic businesspeople can start their businesses in Canada and use the C11 entrepreneur work permit pathway to come to Canada to operate their businesses. However, you should remember that starting your own business can be a risky undertaking, especially if you have never run a business in a new country before.

On the other hand, if you have expertise in a particular field and understand your business model well, starting your own business in Canada might be a good option, especially if you have sufficient financial resources to execute your business plan.

How much money should I invest into a business in Canada to become eligible for immigration?

Immigration Canada does not set a minimum business investment required to become eligible for the C11 entrepreneur work permit and/or permanent residence. However, your ability to create a viable business in Canada that will provide employment opportunities to Canadians and contribute to the economic or social development of the region where your business is based is an important factor that the immigration officer will consider when assessing your application.

Therefore, we suggest you focus on buying or creating a prosperous business rather than your immigration paperwork since the primary criterion for your application success is your business’ success. Based on our experience, you should budget to invest at least $250,000 into a business in Canada and set aside approximately $100,000 for operating expenses during the initial year.

Can I immigrate to Canada if I buy a franchise?

Yes, buying a franchise could be a viable option for the C11 work permit, provided that you meet the other program requirements described above. We encourage you to review our detailed guide on buying a  franchise in Canada for profit & immigration.

Should I start my own business or buy a franchise or non-franchised business in Canada for immigration?

The answer depends on your business vision, experience, available capital and how confident you feel about operating your business in Canada.

We suggest that you buy a franchised business if:

  • You want to learn how to operate a business in Canada and do not mind limiting your entrepreneurial freedom;
  • You value certainty and do not mind lower profit margins (between 5% – 15%);
  • Your budget is up to $300,000.

You should consider buying a non-franchised business if:

  • You like to have a certain degree of certainty but do not want to limit your entrepreneurial freedom to operate your business.
  • You have sufficient financial resources to invest in your business and have additional funds to cover operating expenses ($250,000 – $500,000)
  • You can tolerate moderate amounts of risk.

We suggest starting your own business, if:

  • You are confident in your abilities to run a business in Canada and excited to engage with your business daily;
  • You have significant expertise in a particular field and have prior entrepreneurial experience;
  • You are not afraid to take risks and want to invest your time and efforts to build a great business in Canada and generate solid revenues for your business (over 20% margins).
  • You have sufficient financial resources to invest in your business for the first two years before your business starts generating solid returns.

How much money do I need to set aside for my immigration journey to Canada as an entrepreneur?

We suggest setting aside at least $300,000 to invest in a business in Canada and another $50,000 to $100,000 to cover other operating expenses as the need may arise. You can use our fee calculator to calculate the estimated costs of your immigration file.

Can my family be included in the C11 application?

Yes, your spouse can apply to accompany you to Canada and receive an open work permit during your stay in Canada. Your dependent children can also obtain authorization to study in Canada and join you during your stay in Canada. You and your family members also may be eligible to access the provincial health care system, and your children may attend public schools for free.

Should I apply for the Owner-Operator program or the C11 work permit?

The Owner-Operator program was unfortunately amended in April 2021 and became more cumbersome. While it was an excellent program for entrepreneurs, don’t panic if you missed out on your chance to apply! The C11 entrepreneur work permit is a great alternative and offers you more independence and entrepreneurial freedom as you build your business and adjust to doing business in Canada.

What is your firm’s approval rate for C11?

In 2021, our firm achieved a 98% approval rate for all our entrepreneur work permit applications for clients from India, Nigeria, Turkey, South Africa, the UAE, Vietnam, Malaysia, Australia, the UK, and the USA. We understand the C11 applications very well!

How can your firm help with my C11 application?

Sobirovs Law Firm has extensive experience in business immigration, including C11 applications. Our exceptional lawyers provide tailor-made solutions specifically for you. We develop an immigration strategy that we know will work for you, and we are by your side every step of your immigration journey. With us, you can focus on your business while we take care of all your business immigration needs.

Learn More About How We Assist Entrepreneurs with C11 Work Permits

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We're incredibly grateful for the fantastic work done by the entire Sobirovs team!. While our work permit application had its share of challenges, Feruza, an outstanding lawyer with extensive expertise in business immigration, played a pivotal role. Her leadership and guidance were so important in getting our Work Permits approval. We must also acknowledge the exceptional contributions of Judy Lee, Nitty, Monique, Rachel and the rest of the team who supported us on this journey. It's clear that we'll continue to entrust Feruza and her team with any of our future legal needs. We have full confidence in Feruza and her team and highly recommend their services.
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sunday okunbor
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Our PR journey in Canada has been full of ups and downs, but Sabirovs Law Firm was there for us every step of the way. The wealth of experience that the Sabirovs team possesses has made a significant impact on the manner in which they assess the problems and the technicalities. They took care of everything for us, from getting LMIA clearance to submitting ITA documents to getting PR approval. My family and I would want to express our gratitude for the support and help that you have provided, as well as the positive experience we have had working with the Sabirovs' team.
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