Intra Company Transfer Canada: How to Expand Your Business to Canada

The Canadian immigration framework provides for various business immigration routes. Canada’s Intra Company Transfer (ICT) program is well-suited for foreign business owners who wish to expand their existing operations to Canada. On this page, you will learn the details of the ICT program, including the program requirements, advantages, application process, and pathways to transition to permanent residency.

What is Intra Company Transfer?

ICT is an immigration pathway under the International Mobility Program that allows qualified foreign business owners to transfer their businesses to Canada and acquire a work permit. Through the ICT pathway, you will be able to secure an ICT Work Permit and eventually permanent residence (PR). In most cases, the principal applicant’s spouse and children will gain an open work permit and study permit, respectively.

ICT Canada is not the only business immigration program available to you. Take our free instant assessment and learn about your immigration options. You can also receive valuable advice from our business immigration lawyers during our comprehensive consultation.

Who Can Apply for ICT Program?

The intra-company transfer program is designed to attract established companies from all around the world to expand their operations to Canada. There are 3 categories of individuals who may benefit from this program:

  • Business owners, entrepreneurs, and shareholders of successful companies who are currently holding executive positions in that company and who intend to do similar work in Canada.
  • Senior managers and functional managers who are currently working in a foreign company and intend to occupy a similar position in Canada.
  • Key employees of a business who have advanced specialized knowledge that is unique or uncommon.

Individuals who occupy one of the positions above must also meet several additional requirements as described below in order to secure a work permit under the ICT program.

Intra Company Transfer Canada Requirements

Entrepreneurs who own successful businesses in their home countries can apply for the ICT WP to expand their business to Canada. There are several additional requirements that entrepreneurs must meet in order to secure a work permit under the ICT program, including the following:

  • The home company must be operational for at least 12 months (but ideally for at least 3 years) before expansion to Canada;
  • The home company must be financially sound and capable of supporting foreign operations in Canada;
  • The applicant seeking an ICT WP must be working/engaged with the home company for at least 12 months in the past three years prior to the immigration application;
  • The home company must be related to the company in Canada as a parent, subsidiary, or affiliate company; and
  • Canadian operations will be a viable enterprise and result in job creation for Canadians.

If it is an initial expansion to Canada of a foreign company, then immigration officers will also check to confirm the following:

  • Is there a sound business plan that demonstrates that Canadian operations will be a viable enterprise and can generate sufficient revenue to cover its costs and compensate its employees?
  • Will this expansion result in job creation for Canadians?
  • Will the company be large enough to require an executive or a manager in Canada?

Thus, if it is the first ICT application in Canada, companies are required to establish that expansion to Canada makes business sense for the company and that the newly established operations in Canada are likely to succeed and become large enough to hire local staff. Therefore, for companies expanding to Canada for the first time, it is critical to present a solid business case and explain the rationale for expansion in addition to meeting basic eligibility criteria for the ICT applications.

Investment Amount for the Initial Expansion of your Business to Canada

The Canadian government does not set any minimum investment amounts for companies expanding to Canada. However, the companies must be financially sound and have the required capital to support their new operations in Canada and hire local talent.

Therefore, in our experience, companies must be able to demonstrate solid gross sales exceeding $250,000 per year and access to liquid funds in the amount of at least $100,000 to cover the first year’s operational costs. In addition to the initial investment capital, applicants should demonstrate that they have access to additional funds or assets to support the business in Canada if it does not reach self-sufficiency by the end of year 1.

A chart explaining advantages of the intra company transfer Canada program

How to Apply for Intra Company Transfer Work Permit?

To apply for any immigration program in Canada, applicants must first confirm if they meet the eligibility criteria for that program. Applicants must also develop a solid strategy on how to present their case to the Canadian immigration authorities. Next, applicants need to collect strong evidence to support their immigration application and include detailed explanations on how they meet the eligibility criteria and why their presence in Canada is required.

If it is your first ICT application, follow the steps below:

  • Step 1: Register your company in Canada as a parent, subsidiary or affiliate of your home company
  • Step 2: Prepare a business plan outlining the proposed business activity, market research and how do you plan to run a profitable operation in Canada. Make sure to include your hiring plan and cash flow projections for at least 2-3 years in accordance with the industry standards.
  • Step 3: Collect all the required documents (such as bank statements, articles of incorporation, evidence of investment funds, etc.) and prepare your work permit application; and
  • Step 4: Submit your work permit application and wait for the decision.

It is important to note that the process varies greatly depending on the applicant’s nationality. Some countries benefit from having agreements with Canada, which allows their citizens a more lenient immigration journey under the ICT.

In cases where the applicant is a citizen of a visa-exempt country, it may be possible for them to apply for an ICT WP at the port of entry (POE).

Canada Intra Company Transfer Visa Processing Time

In general, standard processing times apply to the ICT WP applications and can be checked on the IRCC’s website specific to your country.

In our experience, the following are the average processing times for specific offices around the world:

  • Ankara Office: 6+ months
  • New Delhi Office: 3-4 months
  • Abu-Dhabi Office: 6+ months
  • Ho Chi Minh city: 3+ months

Please note that very often, ICT applications for executives and managerial staff are processed by the CPC-Edmonton office in Canada. This office seems to use a case processing technology “Chinook” and therefore delivers decisions in an expedited manner. If your application is sent to the CPC-Edmonton office, it is likely that you will get a decision in 1-2 months. However, in our practice, we noticed that the rejections rates from the CPC-Edmonton office are usually higher than in other offices. Thus, strategizing with an immigration lawyer about where to send your application might be a good idea.

ICT Work Permit Duration

ICT work permits are usually issued for 1 – 2 years. If they are employed by a start-up company, then the WP will only be valid for 1 year. Some nationals from the visa-exempt countries benefit from a 3-year WP. The WP can be renewed for additional 2 – 3 years for a total of up to 5 years for specialized knowledge workers and 7 years for executives & managers.

However, immigration officers may issue work permits for only 1 year to individuals who will be employed by newly established companies in Canada. US nationals and other citizens from the visa-exempt countries (like Australia, UK, EU, Japan etc.) may benefit from Free Trade Agreements their countries have with Canada and obtain a 3-year ICT work permit.

Under the program, it is possible to obtain a WP through a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) exemption (C12). However, in some cases, LMIA will be required.

Canada ICT to PR Transition

After one year of full-time employment for the Canadian company, the foreign national may become eligible to apply for PR through the Express Entry program. Depending on the employment role, the foreign national may be eligible to receive 50 or 200 additional points for an arranged employment (job offer) from their own business in Canada.

This normally results in a significant increase in their Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score, which can lead to the selection under the FWS category of the EE stream and an invitation to apply for PR from the immigration authorities.

Intra Company Transfer Canada and International Free Trade Agreements

Several countries benefit from having international agreements with Canada, which allows for special benefits under those Treaty ICT applications. Nationals of the following countries can utilize Treaty ICT regulations: United States (CUSMA), Mexico (CUSMA), Chile, Columbia, Peru, Korea, European Union (CETA), Australia (CPTPP), Japan (CPTPP), Mexico (CPTPP), and New Zealand (CPTPP).

Frequently Asked Questions About Intra-Company Transfers to Canada

Below are answers to commonly asked questions about expanding a company to Canada.

The initial work permit obtained through the Canada ICT program is usually granted for 1 year. In certain cases, the IRCC may issue a work permit for 2 years, provided that the company in Canada is a subsidiary of the established foreign company. The Canadian ICT work permit can be renewed several times (for 2-3 years at a time and up to 7 years in total) provided that all the requirements of the program are met (such as having an office in Canada, employing a Canadian PRs or citizens and having active businesses in both, Canada and the home country).
There is generally no legal requirement that both companies (the home company and its Canadian subsidiary or affiliate) engage in the same type of business. However, it is highly recommended that the Canadian company engages in a similar business or operates in the same industry since the IRCC can raise questions about the genuineness of the business or the applicant’s suitability to engage in a vastly different business in Canada.
A business plan is not a binding agreement. While business owners should strive to achieve the goals set in the plan, they will not be held accountable if they fail to meet the targets set out in the original business plan. A business plan is a document that demonstrates that feasibility research has been completed before expansion to Canada and that entrepreneurs have a solid understanding of the market and competition in Canada. It is not mandatory to submit a business plan with your application for an ICT WP. However, we recommend having a business plan if your company in Canada has recently been established or it is your first ICT application.
No. Your work permit will be limited to enable you to work for your company in Canada, which means that you cannot work for any other employer in Canada. However, depending on the nature of your business, your company in Canada can sell goods and services to its clients in Canada and beyond.
There is no legal requirement to be profitable in the first year. It takes time and consistent effort to build a profitable company in Canada and anywhere in the world. However, your company must be genuine and actively engaged in business, which means it must be offering services or goods to its customers in Canada or abroad. Also, your company must have a physical location (office or warehouse) and employ at least one Canadian employee who is a PR or a citizen of Canada.
There is no minimum stay period in Canada for managerial and senior executive staff under the ICT program. Managers and senior executives are allowed to maintain their principal residence in their home countries while running their business in Canada and travelling in and out of Canada. However, other key personnel must relocate to Canada during their employment in Canada.
Managerial and senior executive staff may remain on the payroll of the home company and receive their wages from their home company. However, if they wish to receive their salary in Canada, it is recommended that the salary meet the Canadian median wage standards based on the position they hold. We generally recommend international companies to pay comparable wages to intra-company transferees, although it is not a requirement under this program.
Business owners are generally not required to provide any proof of language skills. However, if they wish to transfer key personnel to Canada under this program, such employees may be required to provide English or French language test results to prove their suitability for the position in Canada.
On average, the ICT work permits are processed within 1-2 months. However, due to the COVID-19 situation, it can now take around 3-4 months to receive a decision on an ICT WP application. Processing varies depending on the visa office responsible for your country. Please check with the IRCC specific to the Visa Office for your country.
It is illegal under Canadian law to guarantee a positive outcome in any kind of visa or immigration application. What we can guarantee you is that we will do our best to get you the desired outcome and that we will pursue your interests with the utmost diligence and perseverance. However, some ICT applications (5%-10%) get refused for various reasons. The most common reasons for refusal are (1) the officer doubts the viability of your business in Canada; and (2) the financial capacity of the foreign company to support operations in Canada.
In certain cases, we might be able to refund your money if your WP application is rejected, subject to the terms and conditions of the retainer agreement that you signed with our firm. Although we cannot guarantee the result, we are motivated to achieve the best results for you and your company. Please keep in mind that the ultimate decision-maker is the Government of Canada and/or the relevant Canadian embassy/consulate.
According to the official statistics released by the immigration authorities, the ICT work permit approval rates are as follows:  
  • Case Processing Center Vegreville, Canada: 90%
  • Inland Applications: 88%
  • Embassies & Consulates: 89%
  • Port of Entry (for visa-exempt countries): 100%
Yes. Business owners and key employees may bring their families to Canada during their employment period in Canada under the ICT program. Spouses are eligible for an open work permit and children can attend excellent public schools in Canada for free. The applicant and his/her family enjoy the same access to premium-free health care which is available to all residents and citizens of Canada.
There is no obligation to apply for PR after 1 year of working in Canada as an ICT WP holder. If you wish to continue working in Canada, you may choose to renew your ICT WP and continue residing in Canada as a temporary foreign worker. However, if you wish to obtain permanent resident status in Canada, you can do so as early as 12 months after working in Canada provided that you meet all other eligibility requirements of the suitable PR program.
There is always a possibility of rejection of your PR application due to various reasons, including criminality, medical inadmissibility, failure to meet the language requirements, etc. However, if you stay compliant with the requirements of the ICT program and plan your relocation to Canada strategically, there should be no issue in getting your PR approved by the IRCC, if you choose to apply for PR.
There must be a qualifying relationship between the Canadian company and the foreign enterprise in which the foreign national is employed. The relationship between the companies can be in the form of a subsidiary, branch, affiliate, or when one of the companies is a sole parent company of another. It is important to note, that both companies will be or are conducting business with each other. They must both be active companies for the time when the foreign national is in Canada.
If you are unsure if this program is for you, you should also learn about the Global Talent Stream Program and the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP).
There are many benefits of the ICT program. Just to mention a few of them:  
  • Live and work in Canada: you and your family can live and work in Canada.
  • Send your children to Canadian public schools: your children can attend public schools in Canada for free.
  • No English language is required: you may obtain a WP to work in Canada without the need to demonstrate your knowledge of English or French languages. A minimum of 1 year of managerial experience for managerial positions is required.
  • Access to free health care: You may be eligible for free medical health coverage after 3 months of work in Canada.
  • You can reside in your home country: You are not required to reside in Canada on a full-time basis and can continue your business in your home country.
  • Business opportunities: You will get access to the Canadian and US markets for expansion of your business, secure and stable banking system, financing capital, and business opportunities.
  • PR: You may be eligible to apply for Canadian PR and after living in Canada for 3 years as a PR, you can apply for Canadian citizenship and obtain one of the most desirable passports in the world.
  • Bring workers from your country: You can bring your key workers from your home country to work for your company in Canada.
  • and many more case-specific benefits that depend on your personal circumstances.
Intra-company transfer program allows global companies to transfer 3 categories of employees to Canada: executives, senior managers and specialized knowledge workers.

Executives (usually the owners, key shareholders or partners of the company) are the employees who primarily responsible for directing the management of the organization or major function in the organization. They set the goals for the organization or senior management teams and exercises wide latitude in decision-making. An executive does not generally perform duties necessary in the production of a product or in the delivery of a service. They manage managers who, in turn ,manage teams responsible for product creation or service delivery.

Senior Managers refer to a position in which the employees primarily supervise and control the work of other supervisory, professional, or managerial employees. They can also manage an essential function within the organization, or a department or subdivision of the organization. Senior Managers usually do not deliver service to customers or participate in product creation.

Specialized Knowledge ICT applicants would be required to demonstrate a high degree of both proprietary knowledge and advanced expertise. Proprietary knowledge alone, or advanced expertise alone, is not sufficient to qualify the applicant to come to Canada without first obtaining a positive LMIA.

No, an ICT is not an open work permit and intra-company transferees in Canada must work for the employer that is specified in their work permit. They are not allowed to enter the Canadian labour market without first obtaining a positive LMIA decision to work for another employer in Canada.
Foreign workers who hold a work permit under the ICT program are required to work for the employer mentioned on their work permit and at specified location that was proposed during their application to Canadian immigration authorities. Therefore, companies can choose where to base their operations in Canada and make it clear during the application process where the foreign worker will be located. However, if there are multiple locations or even provinces where the foreign worker is expected to work, this information must be clearly indicated during the work permit application stage to the IRCC, so the work permit is issued for the intended locations.
There are multiple strategies the ICT work permit holders can use to convert their temporary status to permanent resident status in Canada. The most popular strategy is to apply for permanent residence using the Express Entry program where work permit holders can receive additional 50 or 200 points depending on the nature and length of the work they do in Canada after 12 months of employment for the same employer in Canada. There might be some additional strategies to transition to permanent residence depending on your background, duties and location of employment in Canada.
If you come to Canada on an Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) work permit and find a business opportunity, you can switch to work on that business, but it may require changing your immigration status. Engaging in a new business venture might necessitate applying for a different work permit or adjusting your immigration pathway to align with your new activities. This process involves meeting the criteria of the new pathway, which may include demonstrating the viability of the new business and its contribution to the Canadian economy. It’s essential to consult with immigration professionals to ensure a smooth transition and compliance with Canadian immigration laws.

Contact the experienced Canadian corporate and business immigration lawyer at Sobirovs Law Firm to learn how we can help you with your ICT work permit application!

Start with completing this short Free Instant Assessment, and then book your 1-hour Strategy Meeting with a senior immigration lawyer by clicking here.

Two Essential Tips About ICT Canada

Most often, ICT applications are refused on the grounds of insufficiency of evidence or in cases when it’s a start-up ICT – poor presentation of a business case for Canada by the foreign company. Below are some tips on how to improve your chances for getting a positive decision when applying for ICT work permits:

Focus on evidence: it is critical that you provide all the necessary documents to the immigration officers with your ICT work permit application. Most often, applicants forget to include evidence about foreign company’s active engagement in business or company ownership documents that immigration officers want to see. On the other hand, do not include too many unnecessary documents that may confuse the officer. Officers are usually very busy and have limited time to go through your application.

Therefore, if you include too many unrelated documents and do not effectively organize your documents you are risking that officers may overlook a key piece of evidence that you’ve provided. Your focus should be on providing all the required documents (while leaving all unnecessary documents aside) and effective organization of your documents to make it easy for the officer to process your application.

Make a solid business case for your company in Canada: if it is a start-up ICT application, your business plan is an important document that you should include with your application. Often, we see the applicants either skipping the business plan entirely or retaining one of the companies they find on the internet to draft a business plan for them. This is a big mistake. Business plans must be developed in collaboration with your immigration lawyer/advisor who has experience with ICT applications, since it has key components about your business, market entry strategy and feasibility assessments that IRCC officer will assess.

Outsourcing it to non-immigration professionals may result in your business plan being not aligned with your immigration strategy and application set by your lawyer/ specialist (or even contradict it sometimes) which in turn can result in rejections. In general, we develop our business plans in-house or by using a professional company that has been carefully selected and vetted by our team. We also review business plans carefully to ensure it matches our legal submissions and the overall immigration and business strategy that we selected for the specific ICT clients.

Bringing You, Your Tech Talent & Your Business To Canada

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Immigration to Canada can be very complicated for businesses, business owners, and foreign employees. Hiring business immigration lawyers with the skill, experience, and patience is often crucial to successfully navigating this complex process. The experienced professionals at Sobirovs Law Firm offer tailored legal services in all business and corporate immigration matters. Contact us for more information on how we can help you meet your immigration needs.

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I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Ms. Feruza Djamalova, Ms. Judy Le and the entire team of Sobirovs Law Firm for their highly professional and excellent work in the complicated process of obtaining approval of our application for the business immigration program. I had several previous refusals over the course of 5 years. At that point, I contacted Sobirovs Law Firm. Their knowledge, competence, and perseverance turned my application into a success! My case was dealt by Feruza and Judy and I sincerely appreciate what an incredible job they have done and how much they have helped us. I believe they have a special gift and talent for assisting their clients. I want to particularly thank Judy for her patience and attention to detail in our case and also for thanks to her diligence, skill and attention to detail. I highly recommend Sobirovs Law Firm to anyone who wants to move to Canada using Business Immigration Programs and is looking for an immigration law firm capable of making a dream come true. They are highly professional and specialized in this field. I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks for their support.
Syed Namdaar Ali
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My experience with Sobirov's was very rewarding. Starting from LMIA to Work permit it was a smooth sail. The entire team especially Yulia prepared my case painstakingly. They guided me on every little detail. Special thanks to Feroza, Farukh, Madina and the entire team for making this happen.
Bhrushank Ved
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I had an amazing experience with the Sobirovs in applying for my C11 Work Permit. Feruza, Maggie, Judy and Yulia planned every step of the way and made the process a breeze. Benjamin was also quite knowledgeable and assisted me with the business plan for my application. I recommend Sobirovs team if you plan to expand your existing business or start a new business in Canada. Highly recommended!
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Dear Sobirovs Team, I would like to thank you (Yulia, Faruk, Feruza, Madina) for taking care of us closely in obtaining the necessary work permits for the establishment of the Canadian branch of our company and the necessary visas for our family. You have carried out a flawless process. With sincere regards
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I had a great experience working with the Sobirov Law Firm. The entire team was professional, prompt, and meticulous in their approach. We started working with them on LMIA under GTS of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. The time it took from creation of an Incorporation to submission and approval of our application was around 8 weeks. Work Permit approval took another 2 weeks. They also helped us get shared office space since it was a new experience for us. They guided us in finding a payroll service provider and a realtor to help with the relocation of the foreign employee. My sincere thanks to Feruza Djamalova and Rakhmad Sobirov (Attorneys), and Yulia Kan (Team Lead).

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