Canadian Immigration Pathways for Entrepreneurs in 2021

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

In recent weeks, IRCC said the Owner/Operator class under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) will be abolished on April 1, 2021. This class allowed applicants to file for a work permit without having to do the advertising requirements of the Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

There are some new instructions affecting Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreements (CETA) Investors. As of Jan. 1, Canada is not processing U.K. applicants under this program. Instead, they will be processing them under the new Canada-UK Trade Continuity Agreement after it is approved, which is expected to happen early this year.

Until then, will have to be processed by an LMIA or meet the eligibility criteria of an LMIA-exempt work permit category.

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

Intra-Company Transfer

The Intra-Company Transfer work permit is for entrepreneurs or businessmen who want to expand an existing foreign enterprise/business into Canada. This program is normally used by multinational companies to move management and key staffs between international branches, but it can also be an option for businessmen or entrepreneurs who want to open up shops in Canada.

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

Some of the basic eligibility requirements are as follows:

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

CUSMA Investor

Citizens of the United States or Mexico who invest in new or existing businesses in Canada may be qualified to apply for a work permit under the Canada-United-States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) Investor program.

Qualified investors, sole owners, or majority shareholders can use this program to develop and direct their business from inside Canada.

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

CETA Investor

European investors who are qualified for the CETA Investor program can reside in Canada for one year without requiring an LMIA.

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

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


The self-employed entrepreneurs’ work permit is intended for entrepreneurs who own at least fifty (50) percent of a seasonal Canadian business.

It can also apply in some cases where the owner of the Canadian business intends to stay outside Canada. In such cases, the work permit could be exempted from the need for an LMIA.

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