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International Mobility Program – Guidelines for Self-Employed Individuals and Entrepreneurs Seeking Temporary Residency in Canada

International Mobility Program
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The International Mobility Program (IMP) of Canada offers a pathway for entrepreneurs and self-employed individuals from overseas to establish temporary residency in Canada. Specifically, under provision R205(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, utilizing exemption code C11, the program recognizes foreign nationals who intend to operate their own business within Canada for a temporary period. Such businesses must have the potential to generate substantial social, cultural, or economic benefits or opportunities for Canadian citizens or permanent residents. This guidance serves to distinguish between ‘self-employed individuals’—business owners who typically do not hire outside their family circle—and ‘entrepreneurs’—those taking significant financial risks to start and run businesses and employ a workforce beyond their family.

It is crucial to be aware that work experience accrued through self-employment or entrepreneurship is not considered valid for the Canadian Experience Class. Hence, individuals seeking residence under these categories must not rely on such experience for this particular immigration program. While C11 primarily captures situations aligning with its substantial benefits criteria, cases that fall outside of these precise parameters might still qualify under the broader LMIA exemption code C10 after an individual assessment by an officer according to R205(a). Officers from both Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the Canada Border Services Agency are involved in evaluating eligibility.

For those considering applying under this program, it is essential to consult closely with the supplementary IRCC instructions regarding employer-specific work permits sans Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIA), along with conditions and validity periods pertaining to work permits. Such scrutiny ensures thorough preparation for seeking entry into Canada as a business owner within the framework of the International Mobility Program.

Eligibility Criteria for Temporary Self-Employed Workers or Entrepreneurs in Canada

Understanding the prerequisites for temporary business activities as a self-employed individual or entrepreneur in Canada is critical for foreign nationals seeking to engage in business within the country. It is paramount to recognize that such endeavours must be structured with a temporary inclination, clearly indicating the intent to depart from Canada post the specified operation period. Herein are pivotal elements foreign nationals should demonstrate:

  • The business venture must be of a temporary or seasonal nature, substantiating the foreign national’s commitment to exit Canada after achieving their business goals.
  • The enterprise should contribute substantially to the Canadian economy, society, or culture. Positive impacts could range from fostering job opportunities for Canadian citizens and permanent residents to enriching the Canadian cultural landscape, aligning with paragraph R205(a) criteria.
  • In cases where the self-employed individual is delivering specialized services not commonly available, it becomes particularly crucial to highlight how the services provided will benefit Canadian clients in unique ways.

Examples of seasonal businesses embodying a temporary subset include bed and breakfast operators, gold miners, and wildlife guides. These ventures inherently possess a transient operational framework due to their seasonal demand.

On the contrary, entrepreneurship centred around year-round services like automotive repair or hairdressing necessitates comprehensive evidence accentuating the foreign national’s intention for provisional residence only. Immigration officers may require a detailed succession plan detailing how the entrepreneur intends to transition management responsibilities post-establishment phase.

It is essential to differentiate between temporary self-employed or entrepreneurial intentions and aspirations for permanent residence. Those aiming for long-term settlement should navigate their applications through Provincial Nominee Programs explicitly designed for business candidates or seek qualification through Quebec’s self-employed program equipped with a Quebec Selection Certificate designed for more enduring residencies.

Eligibility through Comprehensive Documentation

For entrepreneurs and those self-employed, providing comprehensive documentation is critical to fulfilling dual roles as both employer and employee. Successful applicants must adhere to the following criteria and present the corresponding documentary evidence:

  1. Employment Documentation:
  • An offer of employment number obtained via the Employer Portal by self-submission.
  • Alternatively, the IMM 5802 form if cleared by either the Client Experience Branch or the Immigration Program Guidance Branch (refer to Alternate submission [IMM 5802]).
  1. Financial Obligations:
  • Receipt of employer compliance fee payment.
  1. Work Permit Application:
  • Submission of a duly filled work permit application form.
  1. Supporting Evidence:
  • Proof detailing the extent of business ownership.
  • Documentation demonstrating potential cultural, social, or economic benefits.
  • Establishing their temporary residency intention in Canada to ensure compliance with immigration policies.
  • Letters from endorsing organizations e.g., economic development agencies or chambers of commerce.

Example Scenario: A self-employed individual planning on entering Canada’s tourism industry might include endorsements from provincial tourism authorities to showcase potential benefits and affirm non-adversity towards Canadian service providers. Contributions from local chambers of commerce and labor market insights from ESDC could further substantiate their claims.

Note: The IMM 5802 is typically authorized under exceptional circumstances; officers should verify authorization (via client notes) before work permit application processing as outlined in the Employer Portal enrolment guide.

Reminder: Sufficient supporting documentation rests on the applicant’s shoulders to convince an officer of legitimate business pursuits and significant contributions socially, culturally, or economically within Canada.

Employment Offers for Self-Employed and Entrepreneurial Work Permits

When examining the offer of employment for self-employed individuals or entrepreneurs within the Global Case Management System (GCMS), officers are tasked with verifying certain fields under the Employment Details tab. The information provided by employers must align with specific requirements to determine if the work will significantly benefit Canada. The following subsections provide clarity on what officers should consider during their evaluation:

LMIA Exemption Title and Code

Employers must select the relevant exemption code from a predetermined list in the Employer Portal. For entrepreneurs or self-employed candidates looking to run a business, the code C11 – corresponding to R205(a) – should be chosen and is not alterable once selected.

Requirement Exemptions Met

This field aims to articulate how Canada stands to gain from the self-employment venture beyond just benefiting the worker and their family. If “See attached” is referenced, officers must ensure a document has been uploaded, corresponding with the details under Organization ID and Offer of Employment – Attachments.

NOC and Job Title Compatibility

The job title and National Occupation Classification (NOC) for self-employed applicants ought to correspond directly with their business activities rather than relying on a broad entrepreneurial code. Conversely, entrepreneurs should utilize the generic job title ‘Entrepreneur’ with NOC code 88888.

Duration of Employment

The specified duration within the offer provides officers an estimate of how long the person plans to operate within Canada, informing their decision-making process.

Alignment of Duties with Significant Benefit

The duties listed should be directly related to both the significant benefit promised and what’s inherently required for successful entrepreneurship operations.

Job Requirements and Significant Benefit Correlation

Officers must review whether requirements such as industry management experience, proof of cultural status, necessary occupational experience, or language competency are intrinsically connected to the significant benefit claimed.

Educational Compatibility

While education may inform an officer’s assessment relative to job requirements, its importance might diminish if extensive relevant work experience is evident.

Specialty Training Requirements

Certain businesses may necessitate specialized training – such as food safety for restaurants or hazard training for construction – all of which must be confirmed as part of compliance considerations.

Officers should thoroughly review these elements against each application within GCMS to ensure compliance and substantiate claims that justify providing work permits based on self-employment or entrepreneurship’s significant benefits to Canada.

Significant Benefit Considerations for Temporary Self-Employed Individuals and Entrepreneurs

When assessing the potential of a temporary self-employed individual or an entrepreneur to bring significant benefits to Canada through their business activities, immigration officers are guided by a comprehensive set of criteria beyond just the possibility of economic advancement. While creating a viable business that will employ Canadian or permanent resident workers and stimulate the local economy is essential, there are several additional factors to examine.

Language proficiency is critical as it facilitates effective communication, which is vital for any successful operation. Similarly, an applicant’s background and unique skill set can greatly enhance the prospects of their business venture. The presence of a well-conceived business plan and evidence of taking actionable steps toward its realization — such as securing financial resources, renting spaces, developing staffing strategies, and obtaining necessary documentation — also play integral roles in determining the potential value the business could bring.

Moreover, the transitory nature of the enterprise can have varying implications depending on whether it’s seasonal or intended for long-term operation, which requires the proprietor’s indefinite presence in Canada.

The type of business does not inherently dictate its significance; rather it is the tangible opportunities it creates for Canadians or permanent residents and its contribution to regional economic vibrancy that matters. For instance, context is key — a convenience store’s value differs vastly between an urban environment with abundant amenities versus a rural locality where it could provide much-needed services and employment.

In evaluating franchises like Tim Horton, one must consider if it introduces a unique service thereby drawing more people into a town or if it simply joins numerous similar establishments in an already saturated market.

Each business must be considered within its specific context to gauge whether it indeed delivers ‘significant benefits’ through new job creation and economic stimulation in regions where they are most needed.

Degree of Ownership Requirements and Exceptions

When processing the issuance of work permits for temporary self-employed individuals or entrepreneurs, the Canadian government mandates that the applicant must demonstrate substantial control over the business. This is generally quantified by holding at least 50% ownership. This stipulation ensures that the individual has a significant stake in the success and operation of the business they wish to engage with in Canada.

For partial owners who hold less than a majority share, typically under 50%, there is a different requirement. These individuals must apply for a traditional work permit as employees rather than self-employed persons. Consequently, their application may necessitate a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to validate that hiring a foreign worker will not adversely affect the Canadian labor market.

In cases involving multiple business owners, usually, only one owner can qualify for a work permit under paragraph R205(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations. Exceptions are considered on an infrequent basis and must be substantiated by exceptional circumstances. An example of such an exceptional circumstance would be if both owners bring distinct specialty knowledge crucial to the business operations – e.g., one is a certified hunting guide while another is an experienced chef – both elements being essential to the business service offering.

It is important to note that any semblance of a virtual employer-employee dynamic falls short of demonstrating true business operation and ownership. Further clarity can be found by reviewing the ‘Qualifying relationship between employer and foreign worker’ guidelines.

Reflecting recent policy updates, since April 1, 2021, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) no longer issues LMIA exemptions for owner/operators that bypassed the mandatory advertising period. This change emphasizes proper labor market assessment for all and aligns with ESDC’s commitment to promoting fair work permit practices within Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).

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