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Canada Needs a Federal Investment Program - America’s E-2 Visa Can Be An Example

Business Immigration | Canadian Immigration | Federal Investor Visa Option


Marianella Manzur

Executive Director – Joorney Canada

Canada has become a popular destination for many companies and their highly skilled workforce. Thanks to its world class universities and fast-track immigration programs, Canadian cities have become some of North America’s fastest growing tech and innovative business hubs with a highly skilled Canadian workforce that includes 900,000 tech talent workers among numerous other professionals with diverse backgrounds and experience.

Canada has also eased its immigration process with programs like the Global Talent Stream (GTS), which was designed to fast-track the entry of foreign workers with specialized skills. So, it’s no wonder that entrepreneurs and business owners have looked north to Canada as the perfect place to scale their companies.

Up until April 2021, Canada-bound investors and entrepreneurs were able to use a program called the Owner Operator LMIA, which allowed them to not just invest in a new business in Canada but come work for that business as well, thereby getting a work permit and an eventual path to residency. But in April 2021, things got a little more complicated.

Specifically, the Owner Operator LMIA category used to allow these investors and entrepreneurs to skip the step of having to try and recruit Canadian citizens and permanent residents for the job they were coming to do. The thinking was that it was their business and so recruiting wouldn’t make sense.

Starting April 2021, however, that job posting process became a requirement. The OO LMIA is still a great program for foreign investors and entrepreneurs, but this change has added a layer of hassle that wasn’t there before.

I think it also shows that Canada needs a strong federal investment visa program, and that’s what this article explores.

So let’s look at what other options exist for Canada-bound investors and entrepreneurs, where those options may fall short, and how America’s E-2 investor visa can be used as an example of what a federal Canadian investor visa can look like.

Canada needs an investor visa similar to the E-2 Visa in the US

Investors and business owners interested in moving to Canada do have other options. Canada’s Start-up Visa program was specially designed to speed up and smooth out the immigration process for international entrepreneurs with verified investor funding. The Intra-Company Transferee work permit is used by entrepreneurs who are able to open and operate a Canadian branch, subsidiary, or affiliate of their company. The IMP C11 LMIA Exemption is another option that allows experienced entrepreneurs to purchase or start a business if they can prove it will have a significant cultural, social, or economic impact.

Additionally, the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) allows eligible investors, majority shareholders, or sole owners to develop and direct their business from inside Canada. The Canada-European Union (EU) Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) allows European investors to stay in Canada for one year without needing an LMIA. And finally, the Self-employed Program is for applicants who are able to make a significant contribution to the cultural or athletic life of Canada.

However, these options also have their drawbacks:

1. Canada’s Start-up Visa requires an innovative business that has the support and funding of a Canadian investor. But these requirements don’t typically allow for a majority of businesses that have great potential for success but are more mundane, like restaurants, plumbing businesses, construction companies and more.

2. The Intra-Company Transferee program is limited to business owners and investors who are already operating a business abroad and who want to expand that specific business into Canada. It’s not a good option for completely new businesses.

3. IMP C11 LMIA Exemption is for experienced entrepreneurs who can start or purchase a business but must prove they will create significant cultural, social, or economic benefits.

4. The CUSMA Investor program is only for North Americans, which excludes a massive number of global entrepreneurs.

5. Not only is the CETA Investor program exclusively available to potential investors and entrepreneurs living in the European Union, it also only gives business owners LMIA-exemption for one year.

6. The Self-Employed Program is designed for seasonal businesses where their primary residence is still outside Canada.

So, while these remaining programs are good, they clearly have their drawbacks. That’s why Canadian immigration would benefit from creating an investor visa program similar to America’s E-2 Visa.

What is an E-2 Visa and what can Canada learn from it?

The E-2 Visa — also known as the Treaty Investor Visa — is one of the best ways to start a business in the US and move there to operate and grow it. It enables individuals with sufficient funds to invest in or start a business in the US, and is available to citizens of 30+ countries that have trade treaties with the United States.

And while one major shortcoming of the E-2 Visa is that it doesn’t lead to US permanent residency, it can be renewed indefinitely as long as the business continues to meet its revenue, job creation, and growth goals.

Over the years, the E-2 visa has welcomed into the US many thousands of investors and entrepreneurs who have opened much-needed businesses, created jobs, and bolstered the US economy across the country. Now that the Owner Operator LMIA is shut down, Canada should look to the E-2 visa in the US as an example of a flexible visa program that would help grow Canada’s economy, bring new jobs, and continue to increase the country’s pool of entrepreneurs, especially after negative impacts of COVID-19.

Joorney can help you open and operate a business and invest in Canada

Even though Canada’s Owner Operator LMIA program has changed, don’t let that stop you from pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams in Canada! And while there are other investor visa schemes that Canada can learn from and replicate, such as the E-2 visa, you don’t need to wait for that to happen.

Joorney can help every kind of business owner and investor on their immigration path – we specialize in business plans and other support services for investors and entrepreneurs looking to build a business, and a life, in Canada.

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, learn more about how we can support you or reach out to us directly!

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 or your specific immigration case, please contact a registered immigration professional.

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