skip to Main Content
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Joorney's Guide to all Business Immigration Options for Canada

Business Immigration | Start-Up Visa (SUV) Program | Self-Employed Persons | ICT | LMIA | C10 | C11 | Provincial Programs

Canada has established itself as a primary destination for ambitious entrepreneurs from around the world. A huge land full of economic opportunity, Canada has a well-deserved reputation for its welcoming attitude to newly-arrived business professionals and an appreciation of the prosperity they help to maintain. 

Canada offers a number of business immigration programs that offer applicants the ability to live and run a business there. 

Our goal here is to provide information on all three options, including what each one offers, the requirements needed to qualify for them and the role of a strong business plan in each. 

What each business immigration path to Canada offers and how to qualify

There are a number of options for those seeking to immigrate to Canada to start a business, each varying in what they offer applicants and in their necessary requirements. We’ve put together a list of the most commonly used programs and a general overview of each. 

This is not a complete list and more information is available on the website of the government of Canada. Remember to consult an immigration professional to see which program best applies to your circumstances and for more detailed information regarding eligibility. 

There are three kinds of Canadian business immigration programs — Federal, LMIA (Labour Market Impact Assessment) and Provincial. 


Startup Visa (SUV)

The goal of the SUV program is to attract qualified entrepreneurs with bold and globally competitive business ideas that will create new jobs and promote economic development in the country.

The federal Start-Up Visa program requires a Letter of Support from a designated organization (the full list here). These organizations consist of investors (venture capital and angel) as well as incubators who review your idea and the business plan that explains it. 

You can find more information about the SUV program on the Canadian government website

Self-Employed Persons 

Self-employed immigrants who are highly successful or have relevant experience in particular fields and are interested in coming to Canada may be eligible for the Self-Employed Persons Program.

In order to qualify, the applicant must:

  • Have 2 years of relevant experience within the last 5 years
  • Be able to demonstrate financial viability from the proposed self-employed endeavor
  • Indicate how they will contribute to Canada economically and culturally
  • Meet other personal and financial requirements

As with all other Canadian business and entrepreneurial immigration options, the primary purpose of this program is to bring significant benefits to Canada.

You can find more information about the Self-Employed Persons program on the Canadian government website. 

ICT Intra-Company Transferee Work Permit (ICT) 

The Intra-Company Transferees (ICT) program is intended to allow international companies to transfer executives, managers, and skilled employees to create or develop their Canadian affiliates, branches, or subsidiaries. As with other business immigration programs, the ICT’s aim is to bring significant economic benefit by increasing the effectiveness and competitiveness of the Canadian economy.

Applicants must have an existing or recent relationship with the foreign enterprise that wants to transfer them to the Canadian business. The transferee must be an executive, senior manager, or an employee with highly specialized or essential knowledge. It must be evident that the employee has the ability to launch a new venture or will make a considerable improvement to an existing one.

You can find more information about the ICT program on the Canadian government website

Business immigration options for Canada

Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)

LMIA Owner Operator 

Owner/Operator Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) is a special class of applications within the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) that allows qualified applicants to enter Canada by establishing or purchasing a business. 

The goal for applicants is to receive an LMIA, which is a document that confirms that there is a need for a foreign worker to fill a job in Canada and that no Canadian worker is available to do the job. On the basis of an LMIA document, foreign investors can apply for the program but must meet these requirements:

  • A verifiable record of business management
  • A business plan for the proposed venture showing that the applicant’s entry will create employment opportunities for Canadians and permanent residents 
  • English or French language skills required for business management

Applicants must have a “controlling interest” in the business venture, which is defined by meeting one of the following requirements:

  • Purchasing a business and running its day-to-day operations (being a sole proprietor)
  • Being the majority shareholder in a company (holding at least 50.1% shares) 
  • Providing an official document confirming that the applicant holds the majority interest (even if they do not hold 50.1% of total shares)

You can find more information about the LMIA Owner Operator program on the Canadian government website

LMIA Exemption C10

Normally, a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) is required for anyone who wants to move to and work in Canada. However, in certain situations, this requirement can be waived if an applicant offers a significant benefit to economic development in Canada. 

That’s what the LMIA C10 program is for — to provide an alternate path forward for certain applicants and an exemption from the normal rules. The C10 exemption is for employees of a company.

To qualify, applicants are evaluated in terms of the “significant benefits” they can bring to Canada, as well as “economic, social and cultural” benefits. You can find general definitions of these terms as used by Canadian immigration authorities here

You can find more information about the LMIA exemption C10 program on the Canadian government website.

LMIA Exemption C11

The C11 exemption program is identical to the C10 exemption program but for entrepreneurs and business people as opposed to employees of a company. 

As with the C10 program, applicants in the C11 program are evaluated in terms of the positive impact they make on Canada and the Canadian economy. 

Another important and specific consideration is the number of people likely to be employed by a proposed venture and its impact on the local economy. The location of a proposed business is also considered, with its relative impact on the economy given  priority 

When officers are reviewing the significant benefits of the proposed business, it is not necessarily the type of business (sole proprietorship, franchise, corporation, etc.) that makes it a significant benefit or even how much is spent on it. Instead, it is how it provides opportunities for Canadians or permanent residents or a benefit to a local or regional economy.

You can find more information about the LMIA exemption C11 program on the Canadian government website

Trade Agreements 

Canada issues work permits to certain individuals under the terms of certain International Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). Those wishing to enter under an FTA will generally require a work permit but are exempt from a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

Entering Canada to work under the provisions of an FTA is limited to citizens of countries that have concluded an agreement with Canada. A list of the formal agreements that make certain citizens eligible can be found on the Canadian government website

Provincial Programs 

Every province in Canada has its own framework for allowing foreign employees and entrepreneurs to relocate there. These are called “nominee programs”, and each has its own set of rules and regulations. For more information on these programs, visit this page on the Canadian government website.

Because it is by far the most commonly used, we are only going to cover the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP). 

Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP)

The purpose of the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) is to attract aspiring entrepreneurs who wish to establish their own venture in Ontario or to purchase an already established business. As with other programs, successful applicants must show how their plans clearly benefit the region through employment opportunities and economic growth.

Successful applicants for the OINP are granted temporary working provisions to establish or take over the proposed business in Ontario. Permanent residency status can be achieved if the investment and job creation goals outlined in the initial business proposal are successfully achieved.

Detailed information about the OINP can be found on the website of the provincial government of Ontario

Remember that meeting the listed requirements does not guarantee that an applicant will be successful. The review process can include subjective judgment and some applications can be considered stronger than others for many reasons. Always consult with an immigration professional for more detailed information regarding successful visa applications. 

Business immigration options for Canada

The value of a strong business plan

As mentioned above, a business plan is among the required documents for some of the options listed. Even for visa programs that do not formally require one, a business plan can help to make a more compelling case for a business immigration applicant. While there are no guarantees, a detailed, professional business plan can enhance an application by demonstrating the applicant’s commitment to success via thorough preparation. 

An effective business plan must do the following:

  • Focus on how Canada and Canadians benefit from the proposed venture. The business plan should emphasize how approving any application will result in economic gains for Canada.
  • Focus on the unique value proposition of the business. Show that the business concept is likely to be successful because of market conditions and the skills or strategies that the applicant brings. 
  • Include detailed, five-year financial projections. A strong business plan must include financial projections showing the profitability and growth prospects of the business, along with revenue and expense projections.
  • Include relevant industry and market research. Taking the time and effort to create a market analysis shows a deeper understanding of the business and illustrates the applicant’s appreciation of statistical insights. 
  • Showcase the applicant’s unique skills, talents and experience. The business plan should feature these and other assets relevant to the running of the business and show that the applicant is thoroughly qualified to handle the business challenges ahead. 

A business plan isn’t simply a required document for immigration program processes, it’s an asset that guides entrepreneurs as their plans move forward. A business plan that covers the points above is a roadmap for conducting a business after it’s set up and running, helping to ensure its continued success. 

A persuasive business plan can make the difference in a successful visa application but its true value lasts beyond the early stages and can support entrepreneurs as their businesses grow and become profitable. 

Entrepreneurs are finding opportunities in Canada!

Canada has a well-deserved reputation as a land of generous economic opportunities and rewards for ambitious, creative and hardworking entrepreneurs. The Canadian government has created a number of programs to suit the needs of different types of aspiring entrepreneurs to access these opportunities and start a new life there. 

Whether formally required or not, the inclusion of a business plan gives applicants an opportunity to describe their business concept in detail and demonstrate why their applications merit approval. Business plans can play a crucial role in the process of obtaining formal approval to relocate and should be a priority for every applicant. 

If you or your client is considering applying for a business visa to start a business in Canada, Joorney can help by crafting a high-quality, custom business plan to support the application. 

Reach out to us today to learn more.


Disclaimer: Joorney Business Plans is not a law firm nor an immigration consulting firm, and no information provided in this document should be considered as legal advice or recommendation regarding any immigration application program. All information provided in this document should be verified by a licensed or certified immigration professional before the reader can act on this information. As such, it is understood that Joorney Business Plans Inc. shall not be liable for any loss or damage of whatever nature (direct, indirect, consequential, or other), whether arising in contract, tort, or otherwise, which may arise as a result of your use of (or inability to use) this document, or from your use of (or failure to use) the information on this document.

Latest News: More News
Back To Top