Business Immigration: A Challenging Process
The ideal representative for business applications would be able to analyze financial statements, understand business plans, and know the associated tasks for different management levels.
For potential immigrants who wish to apply under a business immigration category, Canada offers a wide range of business programs. These programs are administered by three entities:
- The federal government
- Canadian provinces other than Quebec
A few years ago, the federal government closed its passive investor and entrepreneur programs. Instead, a niche program was introduced, the “Start-Up Program,” which focuses on new business start-ups by potential immigrants who can attract third party capital from venture capital groups or angel investors. The potential immigrant’s net worth is merely a secondary concern, since the start-ups goal is to develop into a small business empire with a positive impact on the Canadian job market, one that would contribute financially with taxes. Anything is possible, but it is usually high tech or bio-chemical industries or innovations that have the best chance to succeed.
In 2017, the Conference Board of Canada presented an analysis and report suggesting that a reintroduction of entrepreneur and investor programs by the federal government would greatly benefit the labour market, economy, and local communities. Currently, however, only some provinces offer entrepreneurial programs (and Quebec offers passive investor programs).
Canadian Provinces Other Than Quebec
At the moment, 8 provinces and 2 territories offer immigration programs for entrepreneurs and farmers. These provinces have agreements with the federal government which allow them to allocate a designated number of nominee certificates to applicants interested in settling in these provinces. They basically have exclusive authority to establish program criteria, nomination quotas, and administrative schemes. The provincial immigration program requirements themselves are subject to periodical change as most provinces are quite dynamic in designing programs best suited to the province’s needs.
Most of the time an interested applicant must fulfil certain criteria before becoming registered in a database of prospective immigrants, often called “Express Entry Registration for Entrepreneurs.” The criteria vary from province to province, but in general the requirements and information requested pertain to net worth, business/management experience, intended investment, English/French knowledge, education, links to the province, and exploratory visits. Each province has its own preferred industries and businesses based on demand and benefit.
Once in the database, each applicant will be assigned points based on how well they meet the given requirements. The province will then invite the individuals whose total points exceed a score chosen arbitrarily by the province to apply for immigration within specified cycles.
The invited applicant must then submit a completed application, along with forms, documents, and a processing fee, usually within 30 to 60 days. A business plan proposal is mandatory and often must be explained to provincial immigration officers in an interview, during which the submitted information and documents are verified. The intention to settle in the province (with family) and set up a business (according to the submitted business plan) are other critical requirements.
To increase the retention of selected applicants, work permits are typically issued for the initial setup of the business. It is only after the business has been successfully set up that the nominee provincial certificate is issued.
An applicant will receive a selection certificate once approved or nominated by the province. The applicant must then file a second application, this time to the federal government, who alone has the authority to issue the final visa for permanent residence and determine medical and criminal admissibility. Part of the federal process includes medical and background checks!
An application can also be refused if the federal officer determines that the applicant intends to settle in a province other than that which selected the applicant, or if the applicant accumulated his or her net worth illegally or in an unverifiable manner. The latter, however, is quite rare, as provinces review applicants diligently to uncover any such conflicts.
The Canada-Quebec Accord gives Quebec the exclusive responsibility of choosing immigrants and refugees who still reside in their home countries. A chosen applicant receives a Quebec Selection Certificate, and must then apply in a second application to the federal government, who will issue the final visa, pending a medical and background check. The federal government can also refuse visas if the applicant does not intend to settle in Quebec or if his or her net worth accumulation is not verifiable.
Due to its special agreement, Quebec is permitted to offer a passive investor program along with the usual entrepreneurial program. This is prohibited for other provinces who must follow IRPA federal government legislation under the Provincial Nominee Agreements.
A successful Quebec applicant must have a specified net worth with a verifiable and meticulous accumulation history. Other important factors are management experience, the intention to stay in Quebec, and a specified, large payment to the Quebec Government as an interest-free, five-year loan.
These funds are used by Quebec to improve the economy and the provincial government itself secures payback after five years. Quebec allows registered financial intermediaries to offer a loan to applicants for part of the government payment, an option most applicants use due to favourable return on investment.
Qualification Authorized Representative
Authorized representatives are the only individuals allowed to assist applicants with immigration services. Note that for Quebec programs, the representatives must in addition be registered in Quebec. The same is true for some other provinces, such as Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island.
In addition, I would suggest that there are service areas where additional competence is most helpful, such as presentations in front of tribunals or business applications. In this context, the ideal representative for business applications would be able to analyze financial statements, understand business plans, and know the associated tasks for different management levels and company positions. He or she should be able to converse with accountants, net worth verifiers, and immigration authorities competently. This will ensure the client properly qualifies when selecting the most suitable program.
Immigration programs and their requirements are constantly changing, but this summary provides a good overview of the typical structure. Anyone interested in applying under any category, but especially under business categories, is well advised to seek first a consultation with an authorized and competent immigration practitioner. Money paid for consultation can literally save you thousands (and sometimes even tens of thousands) of dollars, and will provide guidance and strategy toward the right path, avoiding unnecessary stress along the way. The process is challenging, but the reward of setting up a viable business as a base for life in Canada is well worth it!