Work permits are the first step for foreign entrepreneurs to run a business in Canada.

Canada has made some policy changes affecting immigration pathways for entrepreneurs.

In recent weeks, Canada announced that the Owner/Operator category under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) will be removed on April 1, 2021. This category allowed applicants to apply for a work permit without having to do the advertising requirement of the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

There are also some new instructions affecting Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) Investors. As of January 1, Canada is not processing U.K. applicants under this program. Instead, they will be processed under the new Canada-UK Trade Continuity Agreement after it is ratified, which is expected to happen early this year. Until then, will have to be accompanied by an LMIA or meet the eligibility requirements of an LMIA-exempt work permit category.

Here are some of the other options for entrepreneurs who want to start a business in Canada.

Intra-Company Transfer

The Intra-Company Transfer work permit is for entrepreneurs who want to expand an existing foreign business into Canada. This program is usually used by multinational corporations to move management and key staff between international branches, but it can also be an option for entrepreneurs who want to open up shop in Canada.

Through this work permit, business owners can divide their time between managing their current overseas business and opening their Canadian branch, subsidiary, or affiliate.

Some of the basic eligibility criteria are as follows:

  • The new Canadian business must pass a viability test, which can be achieved by providing financial information, evidence that physical premises have been secured, and a business plan that provides for the hire of at least one Canadian during the first year of operation.
  • The foreign company and the Canadian businesses must be related in terms of their ownership structure, which means they must have either a parent-branch, parent-subsidiary, or affiliate relationship.
  • The person being transferred to manage the new Canadian business must have been employed by the foreign business looking to transfer them for at least one year in a similar full-time senior managerial or executive position.

CUSMA Investor

Citizens of the U.S. or Mexico who invest in new or existing businesses in Canada may be eligible to apply for a work permit under the Canada-United-States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) Investor program. Eligible investors, majority shareholders, or sole owners can use this program to develop and direct their business from inside Canada.

To apply, the investor must prepare a business plan with details of the total capital required to establish or purchase the business. They also need to show that a significant portion of these funds have already been committed to the project. The business is also expected to generate jobs, or other benefits to the local economy.

CETA Investor

European investors who are eligible for the CETA Investor program can stay in Canada for one year without needing an LMIA.

Investors may be eligible if they are employed, in a supervisory or executive position, by an enterprise that will commit a substantial amount of capital to a Canadian business.

The provisions are similar to CUSMA. Investors need a business plan, significant funds already committed, and the business should benefit the Canadian economy.


The Entrepreneurs/self-employed work permit is intended for entrepreneurs who own at least 50 percent of a seasonal Canadian business. It can also apply in cases where the owner of the Canadian business intends to live outside Canada. In such cases, the work permit could be exempt from the need for an LMIA.

These individuals may seek temporary residence or eventual permanent residence. Applicants must demonstrate that their business will be a significant economic, social, or cultural benefit to Canadians.

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