Canada Business and Investment Immigration Overview
Canada offers the most established and widely-used investment based immigration programs conferring permanent resident status.
The Canadian confederation system of government and the country’s social norms offer a “European alternative” to the more unabashed capitalism of the USA. Canada offers European-style social benefits with fairly high levels of taxation and unparalleled quality of life. Under the Canadian model, business immigrants can enjoy the benefits of a national health care program, affordable first-class education and a national pension system that provides measurable annual income upon retirement.
Business immigration offering permanent admission to Canada comprise of the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program (QIIP), Quebec Entrepreneur program, Quebec Self-Employed, several Provincial Nominee Entrepreneur programs, the Federal Immigrant Investor Venture Capital (IIVC) Pilot Program and the Federal Start-Up Visa program. While the various entrepreneur and self-employed programs are aimed at individuals with a mid-range personal net worth who intend to establish and operate a business in Canada, the investor programs are suited for high net worth individuals who wish to make a passive investment with no obligation to establish a business.
As well, wealthy business immigrants may buy or establish a new businesses in Canada and qualify for a temporary work visa, under federal ‘owner-operator’ policies. After a period of time, applicants may qualify for permanent residence under a suitable immigration program.
How to Buy a Business and Move to Canada
More information about each program is available at the links below:
At the federal level, there are several business-related programs:
Buy a Business and Move to Canada
Candidates can buy an established business and qualify for a work permit via the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Program
The Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Program was introduced to replace the Canada Immigrant Investor Program, but has failed to take hold.
Requirements include a personal bet worth of $10 million and a $2 million investment to be held for 15 years.
Start-Up Visa Program
The Start-Up Visa Program was established in 2013 and grants permanent residence and work permits to qualified immigrant entrepreneurs.
The program aims to recruit entrepreneurs and link them with private sector businesses in Canada
After less than one year in Canada, candidates and their families can transition to permanent residence.
Quebec Immigrant Investor Program
The Quebec Immigrant Investor Program is passive in nature, meaning that individuals selected under its auspices are not required to establish or actively manage a business in the province.
Rather, the program requires an investment of $1,200,000 into a prescribed (government guaranteed) investment. Applicants must have the intention of settling in the French speaking province of Quebec.
Successful applicants are issued a selection certificate from Quebec for Canada immigration, which allows them to obtain Canadian permanent residence following health and criminality examinations by federal immigration authorities.
The primary requirements are:
- Legally-acquired personal net worth of $2 million.
- Two years of suitable management or business experience within the five years preceding the application.
- Investment of $1,200,000 into a passive government guaranteed investment for a period of five years bearing no interest;
- Settle in the province of Quebec.
Quebec Immigrant Entrepreneur Program
The Quebec Immigrant Entrepreneur Program aims to recruit individuals who have the skills and experience to operate a business in the province. The conditions to apply are different depending on the chosen stream.
This stream consists in managing a business in Quebec that the candidate created alone or with other partners (of which only 3 can be foreign nationals), with support from a business accelerator, a business incubator or a university entrepreneurship center.
To apply under this stream, the entrepreneur must control at least 25% of the shares of a new enterprise, or at least 51% of an acquired enterprise, which must have a value equivalent or higher than the funds needed to start the business project.
- Investment of starting funds of $200,000 for a business outside the metropolitan area of Montreal, or $300,000 for a business located in the metropolitan area of Montreal.
- A minimum guarantee deposit between of $200,000.
- A net value of $900,000 CAD legally acquired, alone with their spouse if applicable.
Under both streams, successful candidates must obtain the threshold score in the selection grid, which features criteria such as: age, education, language abilities, stays or family in Quebec, financial autonomy.
All candidates must submit their business project under the form of a business plan.
Every year, the government accepts a limited number of applications in the entrepreneur category.
Quebec Self-Employed Program
To qualify under the Quebec self-employed program, applicants must meet the following conditions that differentiates them from the Quebec Skilled Worker Program.
- Have two years of applicable experience in the profession they intent to exercise in Quebec.
- Possess a personal net worth of $100,000.
- Have sufficient settlement funds to support themselves and their family.
- Provide a start-up deposit of at least $50,000 if the self-employed candidate is based in the metropolitan area of Montreal, and $25,000 if the candidate is located outside of Montreal.
Like skilled workers, a self-employed applicant is assessed on several selection factors and must obtain sufficient points in order to qualify to apply.
British Columbia operates three business streams:
- Entrepreneur Immigration
- Entrepreneur Immigration – Regional Pilot
- Entrepreneur Immigration – Strategic Projects
- Establish an eligible new business or purchase and improve an existing business in B.C.
- Investment of minimum $200,000 in the new or existing business.
- Create at least one new full-time job for a Canadian citizen or permanent resident
- Net worth of minimum $600,000.
- Business and/or management experience.
- Have, or be eligible for, legal immigration status in Canada.
- Have been lawfully admitted in the country where you currently reside.
- Pay a $300 registration fee, $3,500 application fee and $1,000 fee for each key staff application.
Complete an online registration including a short business concept and pay non-refundable fee of $300. Candidates are scored on the information they provide and are place in a pool for six months or 180 days, or until they receive an invitation.
British Columbia carries out regular draws, on average one each month for the Entrepreneur stream. Candidates who are invited to apply have four months to submit a complete application. The score takes into account English language ability, age and Canadian work experience. Candidates can improve their score while in the pool, including by submitting a new business concept.
3) Net Worth Review
Candidates receiving an invitation to apply will have their net worth reviewed by a qualified supplier, who is a professional chartered accountant. The review includes the amount and source of funds and supporting documents. The candidate is responsible for all costs.
Candidates have four months, or 120 days, to submit an application once an invitation is received. Candidates may be required to attend an interview. Approved applicants must sign a performance agreement with B.C. They then have 20 months, or 610 days to implement their business proposal.
5) Building the Business
Candidates get a letter of support from B.C. to apply to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for a two-year work permit. Candidates and their dependents must arrive in B.C. with a valid work permit within 12 months, or 365 days, of receiving a letter of confirmation. The 20 months to implement the business starts when the candidate lands. At the end of the period, candidates must submit a final report to the British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program.
6) Nomination for Permanent Residence
Candidates who meet the terms of their performance agreement are nominated for Canadian permanent residence by B.C.
Dependents and key staff members (if applicable) will also receive nominations.
B.C. Entrepreneur Immigration – Regional Pilot
The British Columbia Entrepreneur Immigration – Regional Pilot aims to attract entrepreneur to rural parts of the province.
It is initially a two-year pilot, with enrollment open in early 2019.
The Regional Pilot is only for entrepreneurs wishing to start a new business. Those wishing to purchase an existing business should consider B.S.’s main Entrepreneur Immigration stream.
1) Community Involvement
Participation communities are actively involved in attracting the foreign entrepreneur, and helping them settle after arrival.
2) BC PNP Referrals
Communities can refer foreign entrepreneurs to the BC PNP. The candidates must have visited the community and have a business proposal aligned with its economic priorities.
3) Community Concierge
Participating communities have access to the services of a dedicated BC PNP Community Concierge.
4) Invitations and Prioritization
Referred candidates register is a separate BC PNP pool. Monthly invitations are issued to the best scoring candidates. Those invited received priority processing.
- Population of less than 75,000.
- Located beyond 30km from a municipality of more than 75,000 population.
- Demonstrated capacity to support foreign entrepreneurs with network of settlement and business support agencies.
- Immigration and pilot-specific training must be completed by community representatives.
- Desire to start a business and settle in a B.C. regional community.
- Complete an exploratory visit.
- Minimum of $100,000 in eligible business investments.
- Minimum personal net worth of $300,000.
- Minimum of 51 per cent ownership.
- Minimum of one new job created.
B.C. Entrepreneur Immigration – Strategic Projects
The B.C. Entrepreneur Immigration – Strategic Projects stream assists foreign-controlled companies establishing an eligible business in B.C. with the timely entry of foreign key managerial, professional or technical staff who intend to become permanent residents of Canada and settle in B.C.
- Make a minimum equity investment of $500,000 to establish or purchase and expand an eligible business in B.C.
- Create at least three new jobs for Canadian citizens or permanent residents for each foreign key staff member proposed (to a maximum of five key staff).
- Establish or purchase and expand a company in B.C.
- Exploratory visit
- Discuss proposal with BC PNP officials and register company’s interest to apply
The Saskatchewan Entrepreneur stream is a three-stage process:
- Expression of interest;
- Invitation to submit application;
Successful candidates initially come to Canada on a temporary work permit.
They become eligible to apply for nomination after a minimum of 6 months spent establishing their business.
The expression of interest must meet the following minimum entry requirements:
- Minimum net worth of $500,000 legally acquired.
- Minimum of three years of entrepreneurial or relevant management experience.
- Investment of at least $300,000 in Regina or Saskatoon, or $200,000 is any other Saskatchewan area.
Candidates enter a pool where they receive a score. The top scoring candidates are invited to submit an application.
Applications must include:
- Business Establishment Plan confirming figures in expression of interest, and including at least one third ownership of a company in Saskatchewan, unless investment is $1 million or higher.
- Commitment to be active in day-to-day management of business.
- Creation of two or more jobs for Canadian citizens or permanent residents if the business is located in Regina or Saskatoon.
Read more on the Saskatchewan Entrepreneur Stream.
Business Investor Stream
The Manitoba Business Investor Stream is aimed at qualified international business investors and entrepreneurs. Candidates are initially issued with a temporary work permit, and must have the intent and ability to start or purchase a business in Manitoba within two years of arrival. There are pathways for entrepreneurs and for farm investors.
a) Entrepreneur Pathway
For applicants wanting to open a business in Manitoba. Candidates are initially issued with a temporary work permit. They are nominated for permanent residence after establishing a business meeting the conditions of a Business Performance Agreement. Priority is given to candidates starting businesses outside Winnipeg.
b) Farm Investor Pathway
For applicants wanting to open and operate a farm in rural Manitoba. Candidates are initially issued with a temporary work permit. They are nominated for permanent residence after establishing a business meeting the conditions of a Business Performance Agreement.
Ontario Corporate Stream
The Ontario Corporate Stream is aimed at established international corporations that want to expand into Ontario or buy an existing Ontario business. If an international corporation establishes itself in Ontario and abides by the rules of the program, five key members of the corporation that are essential to the establishment, operation and success of the business may be nominated by the Ontario government for permanent residence. Once nominated, an applicant qualifies to apply for Canadian permanent residence.
Ontario Entrepreneur Stream
The Ontario Entrepreneur Stream is aimed at individuals from outside Canada who want to start a business or buy an already existing business in Ontario. Those who are approved for the program will be nominated for Canadian Permanent Residence. Once nominated, an applicant qualifies to apply for Canadian permanent residence.
The New Brunswick Provincial Nominee Program operates an Entrepreneurial Stream and Post-Graduate Entrepreneurial Stream aimed at professionals and graduates from New Brunswick institutions.
Entrepreneurial Stream Requirements
- Have an eligible connection to New Brunswick.
- Be aged between 22 and 55.
- Minimum two years post-secondary education degree or diploma.
- Score at least level 5 on the Canadian Language Benchmark exam for speaking, listening, reading and writing in English or French.
- Have completed at least two years full time post-secondary education.
- Legally-acquired personal net worth of at least $600,000, of which $300,000 must be available in available in unencumbered liquidity.
- Invest at least $250,000 in a New Brunswick business, taking ownership of at least 33 per cent.
- Sign a Business Performance Agreement with the New Brunswick provincial government and pay a deposit of $100,000.
- Business must create significant economic benefit to New Brunswick.
- Show business experience – either three years of ownership or five years of senior management experience in the last five years.
- Submit a business concept of 1,000 to 1,500 words.
- Conduct an exploratory visit to New Brunswick, or participate in an information session offered by the New Brunswick provincial government.
- Intend to live permanently in New Brunswick.
Post-Graduate Entrepreneurial Stream Requirements
- Be aged between 22 and 40.
- Score at least level 7 on the Canadian Language Benchmark for speaking, listening, reading and writing in English or French.
- Have completed at least two years full time post-secondary education at a recognized New Brunswick university or community college.
- Have lived in New Brunswick for the duration of the course (distance-learning courses do not qualify).
- Have 100 per cent owned and operated a business for one full year.
- Have a valid Post-Graduation Work Permit.
- Intend to live permanently in New Brunswick.
Work Permit Stream
Individuals applying under the P.E.I. Work Permit Stream must obtain a Canadian work permit and work for a P.E.I. business for a certain amount of time as designated in a Performance Agreement.
After the Performance Agreement is fulfilled, the applicant must make a minimum $150,000 investment in the business and commit to managing the business on a daily basis from within P.E.I.
Previously, Prince Edward Island operated direct permanent residence business streams, but these were closed in September 2018 over immigration fraud concerns.
Read more on the Prince Edward Island Business Impact Category.
The Northwest Territories Business Stream is aimed at entrepreneurs with business expertise and investment capital, who wish to purchase or start a business in the region.
Northwest Territories Business Stream: Requirements
- A minimum of $300,000 equity into starting or buying a business within the corporate boundaries of Yellowknife, NWT, or
- A minimum of $150,000 equity into starting or buying a business outside of the corporate boundaries of Yellowknife, NWT.
- Have a personal net worth of:
- At least $500,000 if starting or buying a business within the corporate boundaries of Yellowknife, NWT, or
- At least $250,000 if starting or buying a business outside the corporate boundaries of Yellowknife, NWT.
The Nova Scotia Entrepreneur stream targets candidates with business ownership or senior management experience. They must live in Nova Scotia, either start a new business or buy an existing business, and actively participate in the day-to-day management of that business.
Under the Entrepreneur stream, candidates are first issued a temporary work permit before applying for permanent residence after operating the business for a year. The stream uses an Expression of Interest format, where candidates in a pool are invited to apply.
Entrepreneur Stream: Candidate Requirements
- Be aged 21 or older.
- Want to live permanently in Nova Scotia while owning and actively managing a Nova Scotia business.
- Minimum net worth of $600,000.
- Minimum investment of $150,000 to establish or purchase a business in Nova Scotia.
- Minimum 3 years of experience actively managing and owning a business (33 per cent ownership minimum) OR more than 5 years of experience in a senior business management role.
- Score minimum of 5 on the Canadian Language Benchmark in speaking, listening, reading and writing in English or French.
International Graduate Entrepreneur Category
- Open to immigrants wishing to start, join or manage a business in the province.
- Be a graduate of Memorial University or the College of the North Atlantic.
- Have complete a program at least two years in length.
- Have benchmark level 7 in one of Canada’s official languages.
- Have at least one year of experience in managing or owning a business in the province.
- Candidates must establish themselves and their business on a temporary work permit, before being nominated for permanent residence after at least one year.
- There is no up-front investment requirement.
International Entrepreneur Category
- Open to immigrants aged 21 to 59.
- Transfer $500,000 in net business and personal assets to the province.
- Have two years of experience managing a business.
- Candidates must establish themselves and their business on a temporary work permit, before being nominated for permanent residence after at least one year.
Read more about the Newfoundland business programs.
The Yukon Business Nominee Program allows entrepreneurs to own and operate their business in Yukon.
Candidates initially come to Yukon on a two-year work permit, before being nominated for permanent residence if they successfully establish their business.
Yukon Business Nominee Program: Requirements
- Legally-acquired net worth of at least $500,000, documented and verified by a Yukon accounting firm.
- Legally-acquired minimum of $300,000 in liquid assets, documented and verified by a Yukon accounting firm.
- Invest at least $300,000 in capital investments for the business in the first 2 years.
- This does not include any capital investments made before acceptance into the Yukon Business Nominee Program.
- Capital investments include purchases such as property or equipment. It does not include purchases such as a house, vehicles that are only partially for the business and operational or maintenance expenses.
Interested readers are invited to complete our Free Assessment to determine whether they qualify for immigration to Canada as a Business Immigrant.