An entrepreneur is a person who organizes and operates a business, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit. Entrepreneurs are an important part the fabric of Canada’s economy, creating and growing businesses that, at the very least, provide us with products and services and create employment.
Until 2014, Canada had a federal “Entrepreneur” immigration program that granted permanent residence to applicants on the condition that after immigrating they would buy or set up a business in Canada. There were great benefits from the businesses created under the program but monitoring the businesses was very difficult and it often took up to 5 or 6 years for applications to be approved.
However, the demand for those wanting to buy or set up a business in Canada has not changed since the program was cancelled. I am approached regularly by applicants, often business owners and managers, who want to relocate their business or buy a business in Canada because of the market opportunities they have identified in this country. The good news is that there are visa and immigration options available for those interested in buying or setting up a business in Canada.
Under certain conditions you may qualify to obtain a work permit to buy or set up a business in Canada. The first step is that you must find an acceptable, active business opportunity. There is no list of “acceptable” businesses but the business should be a genuine business, it should be financially viable and it should be logical that given your experience and training you will be able to manage the business when you obtain your work permit. The minimum investment required for the business will be determined on a case by case basis depending on factors such as the type of business you are acquiring, the investment required to achieve the business goals, and where the business is located.
As with any other business transaction you will need a team of experts to assist you in your purchase of the business including a business lawyer to negotiate and finalize the business purchase agreements, you may require a real estate lawyer if there is a property that is part of the business, and you should also have an accountant to review the financial documents of the business and advise with regards to tax planning and related matters.
After you have the business in place and the necessary approvals, the final and critical step is to obtain a work visa to work for your own business. While you may own shares of a business in Canada without a work permit or being a permanent resident, you cannot work for the company until you have a work visa. The application for your work visa is extremely important as the officer will carefully review your application to determine if you will be able to manage the business in Canada. Further, since a work visa is a temporary visa, the officer will look at important factors such as your ties to your home country and your financial ability to pay for your investment in determining whether you will receive a work visa.
Once you receive your work visa you will be able to work in Canada for your own business, managing its day-to-day operations. It is important to note that a work visa is temporary (even though there are options to renew it) and if you are interested in applying for permanent residence later you should make clear plans from the beginning of the process to ensure that the path you choose will be suitable.
The requirements for a work visa are different from those required to qualify for immigration. You should seek advice from an experienced immigration lawyer to determine your eligibility for both immigration (based on factors such as your age, education, language ability) as well as a work visa.
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.