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Canadian permanent residency for the self-employed: creative and athletic professionals

a track and field runner with a baton

Traditional avenues of permanent residency, such as employer sponsorship, may not be feasible for creative professionals. Notably, Canada offers a separate immigration stream for cultural or athletic professionals who either participated for 2+ years in a world-class level in their field or were self-employed for 2+ years. This is called the Self-employed persons program (SEPP).

Cultural or athletic professionals who meet this experience criteria can apply to immigrate to Canada as a self-employed person if they show an intention and ability to make a “significant contribution” to Canada’s cultural or athletic sector by being gainfully self-employed (i.e., supporting oneself) in Canada.

What counts as “cultural” or “athletic” fields?

Cultural professionals eligible for immigration under this category include authors and writers, creative and performing artists, musicians, painters, sculptors and other visual artists, professionals in the motion picture industry, creative designers, craftspeople, and more. A full list of eligible occupations can be found under National Occupation Category (NOC) Codes starting with 51 and 52.

Athletic professionals eligible for immigration under this category include athletes, coaches, sports officials and referees, and program leaders or instructors in recreation, sport, and fitness. A full list of eligible occupations can be found under National Occupation Category) codes starting with 525.

Relevant experience

An applicant must show at least two one-year periods of either (1) self-employment or (2) “world-class level” participation in cultural activities or athletics, within 5 years from the date of application.

For example, a swimming instructor can either show 2 years of self-employment as a swimming coach, or show 1 year of self-employment and 1 year of swimming for the nation’s Olympics team, or show 2 years of experience swimming for the nation’s Olympics team, within the past 5 years.

“world-class level” usually refers to people known internationally, but also can apply to people who perform at the highest levels in their discipline, regardless of whether they enjoy international fame for such performance.

Minimum 35 out of 100 selection points

To qualify for permanent residency under the SEPP program, the applicant must also score at least 35 out of 100 selection points under five criteria, which are education, experience, age, language ability, and adaptability.

For example, an applicant who has a high school diploma, two years of self-employment experience, 30 years old, and high levels of English proficiency would receive 5 points for education, 20 points for experience, 10 points for age, and 16 points for high English proficiency in all four areas (speaking, listening, reading, writing), totaling 51 points, which brings this applicant over the 35 point threshold and makes them eligible for permanent residency under this program.

A breakdown of points awarded for each criteria can be found here.

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