Canada has a number of immigration pathways that are designed to attract wealthy business immigrants. One such pathway is the Owner-Operator program that allows foreign investors to invest in a business in Canada and move to Canada to become permanent residents.
Below you will find important information about this pathway as well as answers to the most commonly asked questions.
WHAT IS THE OWNER-OPERATOR PROGRAM?
The Owner-Operator program allows foreign owners of Canadian companies to come to Canada to run their businesses and to settle in Canada permanently. In order to benefit from this program, foreign investors must buy a business in Canada or establish their own business in Canada and demonstrate to the Canadian immigration authorities that their business is genuine and will create employment opportunities for Canadians.
However, please see our article about the recent changes to this program which make it more burdensome to some extent.
WHO CAN APPLY UNDER THE OWNER-OPERATOR PROGRAM?
Foreign investors who meet the following requirements are the ideal candidates for the Owner-Operator program:
- A minimum of three years of managerial or business ownership experience.
- Solid financial resources to buy a business in Canada.
- Sufficient language abilities in either English or French to actively work as a manager in the business.
- The ability and desire to operate a business in Canada and to participate in the day-to-day management of the business in Canada.
WHAT KIND OF BUSINESS CAN QUALIFY FOR THE OWNER-OPERATOR PROGRAM?
Foreign investors should take into account a number of requirements for the Owner-Operator program before they purchase a business in Canada. For detailed information, visit “How to Buy a Business for Immigration and Profit in Canada.”
In short, the company in Canada should meet the following criteria in order to support its owner-operator’s permanent residence application in Canada:
- The company in Canada must be active and operational, which means that it has to have a physical location (not a virtual or home-based office), customers and at least 1 employee.
- The company must have solid financial performance and sufficient cash flow to pay the foreign investor’s salary.
- The company should be operational for the past 3 years or at least for the 12 months before the foreign investor can apply for permanent residence.
- The foreign investor must directly hold and control at least 51% of the shares of the Canadian company.
- The company in Canada must demonstrate that the foreign investor’s presence in Canada is required for managing its operations.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF THE OWNER-OPERATOR PROGRAM?
ADVANTAGES OF THE PROGRAM:
- The Owner-Operator program does not have a minimum investment amount, but investment must make sense given the business plan.
- The Owner-Operator program is available to any nationality.
- There is no requirement for a pre-existing foreign company.
- There is no minimum language requirement, but foreign investors are often asked to demonstrate their ability to manage a business in Canada and therefore, should possess an intermediate level of English or French.
- Foreign investors can apply for permanent residence in Canada using this program.
DISADVANTAGES OF THE PROGRAM:
- The Owner-Operator program is not suitable for start-up companies.
- The company in Canada must be active and operational with adequate financial performance.
- This program requires investment to purchase at least 51% of shares without a guarantee of success.
- Not the best model for tax purposes.
WHAT IS THE PROCESS FOR THE OWNER-OPERATOR PROGRAM?
The Owner-Operator program is a two-step application process. Once the foreign investor buys a business in Canada, the company in Canada must apply to the Employment and Skill Development Canada (ESDC) office to obtain a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).
Once the company has received a positive LMIA, the foreign investor can obtain a work visa, which is usually valid for 2 years, as well as apply for permanent residence, if he or she meets the eligibility requirements under the Express Entry program.
In general, the process looks like this:
WHAT IS THE INVESTMENT AMOUNT REQUIRED FOR THE OWNER-OPERATOR PROGRAM?
There is no minimum investment amount specified in the law regarding the Owner-Operator program. However, investors should keep in mind the following factors when it comes to the investment amount:
- Buying an eligible business in Canada for the owner-operator program would cost at least $100,000 and above; however, solid companies with $500,000+ revenues and good net profits for the owners would cost much more, starting from $200,000 and above.
- Investors should also set aside at least $50,000 as reserve cash to operate their newly acquired Canadian business for 1 year.
- The company in Canada must also generate sufficient revenue to cover the owner’s wages (at approximately $50-$58 per hour), rent, and wages of its Canadian employees (so, generate at least $250,000+ in gross sales per year).
WHAT DOCUMENTS ARE REQUIRED FOR THE OWNER-OPERATOR LMIA PROGRAM?
There are different sets of documents that the foreign investors must provide to the Canadian authorities at different stages of the process.
During stage 1 (LMIA applications stage), the foreign investors must include the following documents with their application:
- Canadian company’s registration documents
- Proof of new ownership of the Canadian company by the foreign national (agreement of purchase and sale, share certificates, proof of purchase, etc.)
- Corporate tax filings for the company in Canada
- Financial documents for the company in Canada (GST/HST filings, assets ownership, bank statements, Schedules 100 and 125, etc.)
- Proof of active operation of the business in Canada (e.g., marketing material, website, agreements with clients or customers, office lease agreements, invoices, etc.)
- Foreign owner’s passport copy
- Foreign owner’s resume
- Business plan (sometimes required for newly established companies)
During the second stage of the application process, the foreign investors will be required to provide more information about their education, work experience, and managerial experience, and they will undergo medical and criminality checks. Here is the list of additional personal documents that foreign investors will be required to prepare in advance:
- Educational credentials (ECA report is required for permanent residence application)
- Proof of business experience and managerial experience, like employment confirmation letters, salary information, business ownership documents or reference letters from former boss or clients
- Status documents – marriage certificate, birth certificates for children
- English or French language test results (highly recommended)
- Bank statements for the past 6 months
- Passport photo
- Proof of undergoing advance medical assessment
- Police clearances for every country where the applicants spent more than 6 months
HOW LONG DOES THE PROCESS TAKE?
On average, it takes around 6 months from the start of the process to the LMIA-based work permit approval. However, it may take much longer depending on the type of business foreign investors are buying and whether or not the LMIA is intended to support the foreign investor’s permanent residence application.
If you hire us for this program, the average timeline looks like this:
WHAT IS THE LENGTH OF THE INITIAL OWNER/OPERATOR WORK AUTHORIZATION?
Initial LMIA-based work permits are issued for 1-2 years, depending on the nature of the business.
CAN THE OWNER/OPERATOR WORK PERMIT BE RENEWED?
Foreign investors will be able to renew their work permits in Canada for up to 6 years, as long as the company in Canada is able to demonstrate that it is actively engaged in business and has complied with the law.
CAN THE FAMILY MEMBERS OF THE FOREIGN INVESTOR COME TO CANADA UNDER THE OWNER-OPERATOR PROGRAM?
Family members can accompany foreign investors during their employment time in Canada as foreign owners of Canadian businesses. The spouse of the foreign investor may get an open work permit to work in Canada and their children may attend public schools for free (this rule does not apply to post-secondary education). Foreign investors and their family members can also get access to free health care during the validity of their work visas. However, different provinces have different rules for access to free health care for foreign workers, and investors should check the rules for the province where they intend to settle.
HOW CAN WE HELP?
Through our licensed network of partners, we can help foreign investors and entrepreneurs in the following ways:
- Identify a suitable business for sale in Canada.
- Assist with purchasing a suitable business in Canada.
- Assist with the Owner-Operator LMIA program application.
- Assist with the permanent residence application as owner/operator.
- Business consulting & support to manage newly acquired Canadian company.
- Assist with audits and compliance with employment and immigration rules.
HOW MUCH DO WE CHARGE FOR THE OWNER-OPERATOR PROGRAM?
Our law firm charges around $25,000+ in legal fees to assist with the Owner-Operator business immigration program. The fees may increase depending on the applicant’s background, experience, and language skills and the complexity of the case.
At Sobirovs Law Firm, we focus only on business immigration. That is, we help entrepreneurs, business owners and investors with sufficient funds and business experience to relocate to Canada using the most suitable immigration programs. We take time to learn about you, your goals and capabilities, and choose the best pathway(s) to Canadian permanent residence and, ultimately, Canadian citizenship for you and your family.
Contact us today and see how we can help you and your business!