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Canada C11 Exemption Is A Great Alternative For The Owner Operator Since LMIA Requirements Changed

International Mobility Program (IMP) | C11 Significant Benefit | LMIA Owner Operator Alternative


Marianella Manzur

Executive Director – Joorney Canada

Earlier this year, Canada announced that changes were coming to the special processing of the Owner Operator LMIA as part of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). Prior to the announcement, the OO LMIA program made business owners exempt from job advertising, but now all business owners must complete the standard Labour Market Impact Assessment and can only take advantage of the Owner Operator category if no qualified or suitable Canadians apply for the job.

Due to these recent changes, starting a business in Canada via the OO LMIA program has become a little more challenging for many foreign entrepreneurs. The good news is that for those who don’t want to take the OO LMIA path, there are a number of other ways that entrepreneurs and investors can move to Canada to launch and grow their businesses.

One of these options – C11 Significant Benefit exemption under the International Mobility Program (IMP) – is lesser known than the others and there isn’t much information about it online. So, let’s take a look at the C11 exemption and what this option presents for entrepreneurs who are looking to invest in or start a business in Canada.

What you need to know about International Mobility Programs’s C11 exemption

The International Mobility Program (IMP) allows employers in Canada to hire foreign workers on a temporary work permit without needing an LMIA. In order to take advantage of the IMP, the hiring must serve Canada’s broader economic and cultural interests, which can include things like youth exchange agreements, international graduates who studied in Canada, or international agreements like Canada–European Union Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (CETA).

The IMP has an LMIA exemption called C11, which is also known as the Significant Benefit category. The C11 exemption code lets entrepreneurs apply for a work permit in Canada that does not require an LMIA. However, the term “significant benefit” can be vague so let’s dive in.

The significant benefit category is meant for those that will provide significant economic, social, or cultural benefit. One of the main considerations is whether or not the business – or work – will benefit Canadian citizens or permanent residents. While it is possible to get approval based on social or cultural merits, the main focus for evaluation is often more closely tied to the economic impact.

According to the Government of Canada, indicators of “significant benefit” may include

  • general economic stimulus such as
    • job creation, 
    • development in a regional or remote setting, or
    • expansion of export markets for Canadian products and services
  • advancement of the Canadian industry such as 
    • technological development, 
    • product or service innovation, or 
    • differentiation or opportunities for improving the skills of Canadians

Another major requirement is that the foreign applicant must own – or plan to own – a minimum of 50% of the Canadian business. Further, in order to qualify for the IMP’s C11 pathway, applicants must demonstrate, through a business plan and/or other documentation, the viability of their business and also show evidence of financial ability to rent space, pay salaries, and cover other business expenses.

The recent changes to the OO LMIA have left some Canada-bound entrepreneurs scrambling, and the IMP C11 is a viable alternative pathway to running a business in Canada.  What exactly were these changes?

Recent changes to the Owner Operator LMIA

The Owner Operator LMIA used to offer relatively easy access to Canada with only a few major requirements, including the fact that the company had to be up and running before submitting the application and proving the ability to cover costs for at least the first year of doing business.

Most importantly, applicants were exempt from the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), which meant they didn’t have to prove that they looked for and failed to find a Canadian citizen or permanent resident that could do the job. By being exempt from the LMIA process, the business didn’t need to provide evidence that a foreign national – in this case the investor or business owner – was needed.

Without an exemption, those looking to hire in Canada must advertise the position for at least four weeks and potentially interview candidates who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents. The LMIA process is exhaustive and can be expensive, which is why the changes have pushed people to other options.

The C11 exemption pathway is now more important than ever

As of April 1, 2021, the OO LMIA changes officially went into effect. Of course for a business owner or investor coming into Canada to run the business, this adds a lot of time, cost, and complexity to the process. And while the OO LMIA program can still be a great way to build a business in Canada, there are other, more appealing, options to choose from.

The IMP C11 exemption allows business owners and entrepreneurs to hit the ground running. Rather than undergoing the onerous LMIA process, the C11 entrepreneur work permit creates a smooth transition for those who can prove that they have a well-thought-out business plan, one that clearly demonstrates how the business will benefit Canada and Canadians.

Joorney can help you prepare the business plan to apply for the IMP C11 exemption in Canada

For entrepreneurs who want to pursue this option, Joorney is there to help along the way – we specialize in preparing C11 and other Canadian immigration-related business plans, market research, financial models, and more.

Since our start in 2013, Joorney has helped thousands of entrepreneurs and investors start and expand their businesses into Canada and the US. If you’re looking to move to Canada by investing in an existing Canadian business or launching a new business, find out how we can support your C11 entrepreneur application or just reach out to us if you simply want to learn more!

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