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An Overview of the Significant Benefit Work Permit Program – The Basics and Complexities

Nava Elmi | C-11 Program

We were thrilled to host Nava Elmi, the Canadian immigration lawyer and owner of Nava ELMI Immigration Law Firm for this month’s webinar: Significant Benefit Work Permit Program: The Basics and Complexities

Given that Joorney Business Plans Canada is not an immigration consultant, lawyer, or advisor, we have invited Nava Elmi to do a deep dive into this topic.

In this webinar, Nava talked about the eligibility of applying to the C-11 program, the minimum requirements, the longevity of the process, the success rate, and other crucial aspects of a significant benefit work program.  

Watch the full webinar below.

If you are curious to know Nava’s answers to our most frequent questions, feel free to read the transcript below and listen to the mini audio clips.

Q: Can you tell us about the C-11 program and who is eligible?

A: The C11 significant benefit should be considered if you want to own and manage a business in Canada. The business can be new, or it can be an existing business. Like any other business program, you need to have the financial capacity to operate that business. 

You need to have something unique – a product, knowledge, a service that will bring something new to the Canadian market, to the region, to the city you want to open the business in. That business needs to bring a significant economic, social or cultural benefit to Canada. 

Lastly, it is about your experience. You should consider opening a business that is somehow related to your background. When an immigration officer looks at your case, they will look at whether this business will be viable. And one of the metrics they are going to look at is how much experience you are bringing in.

Q: What does it mean for a business to provide a significant benefit?

A: Significant benefit has no legal definition. This goes in our favor because it means that there is a lot of room to play with and a lot of flexibility. That being said, there are some guidelines that show us what are the benefits of immigration. 

We are talking about job creation: How many jobs, if any, is your business going to create? What type of knowledge are you going to bring to those employees that you’re going to hire? And it’s not going to be just the knowledge to your employees. It could be knowledge in an entire industry. Is your knowledge or product or service going to help the industry move ahead in Canada? Does it bring something that is culturally impacted? Do you bring knowledge to that country? Are you going to settle in a specific location where your business will help that city, that region be economically more flourishing? Is your business going to help export? 

These are just some of the examples that we could look at when we think about the significant benefit. And the word significant is very much discretionary, and it all depends on a case-by-case basis and how you’re going to argue it.

Q: What are the minimum requirements of the program?

A: We look into different parameters. We look at your portfolio. Are you an artist that has some portfolio to showcase? Do you have any articles that were written about you and about your business? Were you featured anywhere? What about your employment contracts? We look at every single terminology in those employment contracts. We look at any awards you may have had, any certificates that you may have taken to keep up to date with your industry to be at the forefront of your industry. 

All of these are just to give you an idea of what we look at. It’s about the share ownership that is also very important. You need to be a minimum shareholder of 50 percent. And usually, we do not even advise to be only a 50 percent owner. We advise being way more than that, if not 100 percent, at least 70 or 80 percent of shareholders. 

And the reason is that one of the criteria that immigration looks at is the level of control that you have in your business, and control will be defined as how much room you have to make decisions for your business. So being a key decision-maker is related to your percentage of ownership.

Q: Can you tell us about the steps? How long does it take? What can you do when you get a work permit or a significant benefit?

A: The steps before we even apply for a work permit will be to do market research to make sure that the business is feasible in Canada. To have a business plan. 

I work with Joorney on this end. They provide a huge value to me and my clients. It’s sometimes also about incorporating the business upfront, to show immigration that you have more than just a business plan. The other very important component is the business development that you will do. Have you already spoken with some people in your industry? Have you reached out to some associations? Are you a member of these associations? How many footprints do you already have in Canada before moving ahead and asking for a work permit? So on average, it takes us about two to three months to prepare such an application. 

Once this is done, we apply for a work permit. The work permit can take anywhere between two weeks to approximately eight months. The reason is that these applications are being processed outside of Canada in the visa office where you are located. Once you submit the work permit, you have the approval to come to Canada and open the business. Most of the applicants will want to consider applying for permanent residency.

There are different ways of getting permanent residency, and this is what we sit down and review with the applicant right at the beginning. 

At the first consultation, we ask them: What are your short-term goals? What are your long-term goals? If you are maybe going to look into staying in Canada permanently and managing your business, then we need to strategize for the long route. Applying for permanent residency will take at least one year. In between that, your initial work permit may expire and we will need to apply for a renewal of your work permit. 

Once you have your permanent residency, you need to stay in Canada physically for at least two or three years. It doesn’t need to be continuous, but the number of days that you will accumulate will be key to being eligible to apply for citizenship, and citizenship means a passport

Q: What is the success rate for C-11 applications?

A: Regarding the industries, there is nowhere in the law or even in the immigration guidelines that will say that we prefer these types of businesses or these types of industries. Some other programs may have that, but this program doesn’t, which again leaves a lot of room for any industry. 

That being said, Canada loves everything that is tech. As long as you say the word technology, or IT, it will have another pair of eyes looking at it, that’s for sure. If you say manufacturing, it’s also key; if you say farming, it’s also very valuable. Like any other business immigration program, we are going to look at the investment you are going to put in, not solely industry.

Regarding the success rate, the number of applications has constantly increased. However, the rate of approval is decreasing, which means that probably there is a lot of demand for business immigrants that want to come and open their own business or buy into an existing business. For 2020, the approval rate was 64 percent. In 2011, the approval rate was 80 percent. But you also need to take into consideration the number of applications that we received–from 80 applications in 2011 to 267 in 2020.

Q: Should the individual or their business idea already be established for the significant benefit to be an option for them?

A: By law, no. You do not need to already have a business set up in Canada before applying for the significant benefit work permit. However, if you want to increase the chances of approval, the risk that you’re taking upfront by opening a business, registering your business, and investing in your business upfront is also very valuable to immigration. 

Not only for this program in general, for you, for the business immigration programs, the business development, as well as the steps you are taking before applying, are truly key to the success of an application.

Q: If there is somebody who has established a business, how can they prove that ownership percentage?

A: We like to incorporate the business. In the incorporation, you have the shareholder agreement as well. So if you have partners, then they share a shareholder agreement that will show it.

Q: What are the three main recommendations that you would give to an applicant to increase their chances of approval?

A: First of all, meet the conditions. It is the base of this application. You need to do business development upfront. I have mentioned and I have emphasized that as well. Business development could be anything. It will be tailored to the needs of your business. But it could be getting some letters from some associations in Canada that are linked to your industry. 

It could be becoming a member of a specific organization that will maybe be able to open their network to you – that will facilitate finding potential distributors and potential suppliers, potential clients, getting in touch with the Chamber of Commerce, etc. 

Our firm does as well a little bit of business development for our clients. We do put them in touch with all our networks because at the end of the day, the success of our clients is our success. We are a law firm, we are a business as well, and we do value tremendously what a network could provide.

The business plan is also important. I have been working with the Joorney team and they do know what our expectations are for the business plan. Usually, I provide them with a brief of what the client is about, their background, the type of application we’re going to do, and also provide them with a checklist of the documents that I will provide in my application because all of these will make the business plan stronger. 

I also need to emphasize in the business plan the jobs that will be created or the jobs that will be maintained. So it means there has to be a very good staffing plan included in the business plan. After that comes the investment amount.

It’s also about emphasizing the industry. What is your industry? Is there a lack in your industry in Canada? Who are your competitors here? Have you already looked into your competitors? How would you differentiate yourself from your competitors? Something else that is also valued in this program is your location. Where are you going to be located? Are you going to be located in downtown Toronto? Or are you going to be located in a rural region, for example? 

Canada is way more than just Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto. The rest of the regions are trying to economically flourish. So they welcome entrepreneurs who are willing and looking into settling their business in their region.

Q: Do you work with other immigration professionals on a case-by-case basis?

A: Yes, absolutely. So we have young lawyers, we have consultants that come to us and ask us for shadowing. It’s always on a case-by-case basis. We do look at what is the background of that consultant and lawyer, what is the understanding of immigration law in general, and what are the needs. Accordingly, we tell them how we may be able to work with them and help them.

Q: Can someone apply for this program if they have been refused previously under an ICT?

A: Yes, it is possible, but you need to look at why you were refused under the ICT. It does happen that we consider the significant benefit program when we think that the ICT will be weak for any reason. So a refusal doesn’t mean that you cannot reapply either for the same program or through another program. But we do need to dive deep into the reason for the refusal.

Q: Should the applicant run a related business in their home country? Is business management experience needed for this type of immigration?

A: Ideally, you should already have a lot of experience in what you will do in Canada. We touch base on management experience right at the beginning. It touched on the viability of the business. If you don’t have business management experience in your home country, it will be difficult for an immigration officer to project the success of this business in Canada. They want to see it. You don’t need to be a business owner. You can be a senior manager working for many years or some years, at least for a company, and demonstrate that managerial skills.

Q: Is proof of language proficiency important?

A: It’s not mandatory at all. It depends on the country you’re coming from. So if you are, for example, from the Middle East, the first language there is usually not English or French, then we may advise taking the test if they are willing to. But that’s not mandatory.

Q: How do you show the investment? Does a business bank account work?

A: Yes, we do show it through bank statements from abroad. We show the net worth; we don’t show the money in the bank. For example, it could be property. If you have tons of property, it could easily add up to your net worth.

Q: What is the difference with the ICT program?

A: So ICT is for people who already have a business back home and who want to open a branch in Canada. It means that the business back home is not closing. You are maintaining that business and you are opening a branch, an affiliate, a parent company, or a subsidiary in Canada.

Q: Does a visitor visa help with the C-11 application?

A: If you use the visitor visa to come to Canada and look at the business side of things for an exploratory visit, for example, and you can demonstrate that you used that visitor visa to undertake some basic market research – yes, it could be helpful. But if you just have a visitor visa that you used once 10 years ago to come and see a cousin, that is not going to be relevant to this type of application.

Q: How soon after getting a work permit can you apply for permanent residency?

A: One year.

Q: How many employees do you need to hire for the business and over what time?

A: You can hire two senior positions and pay them more than 100k per year, and these two positions will generate 50 new jobs within five years. Or you can hire 13 waiters within year one. It depends on your industry. The more people you can hire, the stronger your application will be.

Once again, we would like to share our appreciation to Nava Elmi for joining our webinar and sharing her insightful knowledge about the significant benefit work program permit – C11.

Nava is the founder and owner of Nava ELMI Canada Immigration Law Firm, located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She helps entrepreneurs set up their business immigration strategy and execute it. Nava is a licensed member of the Law Society of Upper Canada Bar Association.

Our team of business experts and consultants will assist you in creating a perfect and custom business plan for your client’s visa application. We are not immigration consultants, lawyers, or advisors. We work with them to create professional and concise documents for their client’s needs.

Contact us for more details.

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Disclaimer: Joorney Business Plans Canada is not an immigration consultant, lawyer, or advisor and cannot be held responsible for damages incurred from the use of this information. If you require more information about a program, please contact a registered immigration professional.

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