Immigration Pathways for Business Owners and Managers

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Zeynab Ziaie is a graduate of the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto and a lawyer licensed to practice in Ontario and New York. Her legal practice focuses on immigration and business law. She often works with clients to find suitable solutions in complex immigration and citizenship cases and represents clients at all levels of court. She can be reached at zeynab@ziaielaw.com.

As a country built on immigration, Canada has been attracting entrepreneurs and investors from the start of its immigration story. Many of those initial entrepreneurs helped shape the early history of the country that we know today. In more modern times, Canada has adopted various business immigration programs since 1978 to attract entrepreneurs and investors, and these programs have evolved over the past four decades.

The needs of entrepreneurs and investors are often different from those of other immigrants and these present a set of unique challenges for Canada’s politicians and policymakers.

Canada wants to select applicants who have a proven track record of success but is past performance the most important determinant of future success? Can a successful entrepreneur or investor that has spent a decade (or several decades) working outside of Canada replicate the same success in Canada?

Setting up a new business in a new country can be a difficult task. You need access to local knowledge and networks, not to mention the local language. And will a successful entrepreneur want to stay in Canada and give up all that he or she has built outside of Canada?

The challenge for Canada’s immigration system is to find the right balance between attracting successful entrepreneurs and making sure that the applicants that apply can and will stay in Canada to bring their knowledge, expertise and resources to Canada. And this is a serious challenge as demonstrated by the recent history of business immigration to Canada.

Canada closed its long standing federal entrepreneur immigration program and investor immigration in 2014. The two programs that have since been introduced by the federal government (the Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Pilot Program and the Start-up Program) have received only a couple of hundred applications in the past five years.

At the provincial level, with the exception of the province of Quebec that still has an immigrant investor program, applicants can only apply under entrepreneur programs. As the population of many provinces continue to decline, there is a heightened need for provinces to retain newcomers. Therefore these entrepreneur programs have evolved into a two-step process where applicants must first spend time in the province (at least 1-2 years) and demonstrate that they can be successful entrepreneurs (set up and manage their own business with a minimum investment of $150,000 to $200,000) in Canada before they are able to apply for permanent residence.

This new approach helps alleviate some of the concerns about the ability to choose applicants who will be able to replicate their success in Canada and remain in Canada.

So what are the options available to entrepreneurs and investors looking to relocate to Canada? Next week I will begin to review the current programs available, their eligibility requirements and how you can best prepare yourself to become a successful entrepreneur.
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Zeynab Ziaie is a graduate of the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto and a lawyer licensed to practice in Ontario and New York. Her legal practice focuses on immigration and business law. She often works with clients to find suitable solutions in complex immigration and citizenship cases and represents clients at all levels of court.

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