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Establish a business in Canada – Owner-operator Work Permit under the International Mobility Program

A business owner holding a Canadian flag

The “owner-operator work permit” allows foreign national entrepreneurs to come to Canada and work on their business which they will establish in Canada, in which they hold more than 50% ownership. Choosing this route could be an attractive option for many entrepreneurs because it does not have any minimum investment or net worth requirements, in contrast to provincial permanent residency streams.

A work permit, when issued, gives the holder the right to live in Canada for the purpose of working for a designated company specified on the work permit. It does not automatically lead to permanent residency, although accumulating work experience in Canada, in itself, does open up significant potential for an applicant to become eligible under one of the Express Entry streams for permanent residency.

A majority-owner of a business incorporated in Canada has the option to apply for a work permit either by applying for and obtaining a LMIA (Labor Market Impact Assessment) for his or her own position, or applying under the “Canadian Interests – Significant Benefit” (C11) category that allows the applicant an exemption of the requirement to obtain an LMIA.

Eligibility for Owner-operator Work Permit under Canadian Interests -Significant Benefit (C11) LMIA Exemption

To qualify for this type of work permit, an entrepreneur must:

  • (1) own at least 50% of the business in question and control the business
  • (2) prove that his or her work will “create or maintain significant social, cultural or economic benefits or opportunities for Canadian citizens or permanent residents.” Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (SOR/2002-227), Section 205(a).

How can an applicant prove “significant benefit”?

Significant benefit is defined to include two types of benefits that are wide-ranging and impact the Canadian industry:

  • General economic stimulus, such as job creation, development of a remote or regional area, expansion of export markets for Canadian goods and services;
  • Advancement of the Canadian industry, such as technological development, product/service innovation or differentiation, or creating opportunities for improving the skills of Canadians.

The IRCC will look at Letters of support from relevant Canadian agencies or commercial associations (e.g., Chambers of Commerce) occupying the particular field as evidence that the business activity would benefit, rather than impinge on, existing providers in that sector.

Other relevant considerations include:

  • Is the work likely to create a viable business that will benefit Canadian or permanent resident workers or provide economic stimulus?
  • Does the applicant have a particular background or skills that will improve the viability of the business?
  • Is there a business plan that clearly shows that the applicant has taken steps to initiate their business?
  • Has the applicant taken some measure to put the business plan in action (evidence of financial ability to begin the business and pay expenditures, renting space, staffing plans, obtaining business registration number, ownership documents or agreements)?

Finally, the IRCC will ask the foreign national to affirm his or her ability and willingness to leave Canada once the proposed business activity is complete or if the business closes.

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