Canadian Immigration Pathway: Invest, then Immigrate

In this pathway, applicants will invest in a business and apply for a work permit, before they can apply for permanent residence.

This pathway is ideal for foreign entrepreneurs and high-net-worth individuals who want to immigrate to Canada and run their businesses. But they are not yet qualified for any direct immigration applications, such as Express Entry, because they have a low score, no Canadian work permit, or no Canadian job offer.

How long is it going to take?
1-5 years*
*Estimated timeline
  • Invest in a businessVaries

    The timeline can vary a lot based on how much time the applicant spends conducting market research, searching for an ideal business

  • Working in Canada6 months - 3 years

    The timeline can vary a lot based on how much time the applicant spends conducting market research, searching for an ideal business

  • Apply for immigration7-8 months

    The timeline depends on which depends on the type of work permit applied and which country the applicant is from.

Considering these timeframes, the whole journey to citizenship will take years.

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What is the process?

Invest in a business

This is the first step of the pathway. There are a few ways to become a business owner in Canada, including

  • Start a business and invest in it
  • Purchase an existing business in Canada in its entirety
  • Purchase shares of an existing business in Canada

Regardless of which way the applicant chooses, they will typically spend a large amount of money at first and a lot of time operating the business afterwards. Before investing any money, the applicants should consider writing up a detailed business plan that identifies the market opportunities and risks, the revenue potential and costs as well as the amount of initial investment required.

The applicants should also consult with an immigration expert on their business plan. The applicants need to confirm whether the investment amount, ownership percentage and business industry would allow them to get a work permit and permanent residence later on. Depending on the application, the government may have certain requirements.

Get a work permit

After starting or purchasing a business, the business owner needs to apply for a work permit to operate their business in Canada.

There are two types of work permits that authorize foreigners to work in Canada: Employer-specific Work Permits (also known as closed work permits) and Open Work Permits. Almost all business owners will get employer-specific permits. We will only discuss what work permits business owners can apply for.

Employer-specific Work Permits

Some of the most common closed work permits include:

  • LMIA-supported work permits, which requires applicants to have a Canadian employer to help them apply for a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). An overwhelming majority of Canadian work permits issued each year are under this category. Because it requires an additional LMIA application, the processing time is typically longer than other options.
  • Significant benefit work permits, which requires the applicant to show that they will bring significant economic, cultural or technological benefits to Canadian society. This work permit typically involves starting, purchasing and/or running a business
  • Trade agreement work permits, such as the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) which allows US and Mexico citizens to apply for an employer-specific work permit if they have a Canadian job offer. Applicants can even apply for this work permit at Port of Entry (POE), making it the fastest work permit to obtain.
  • Intra-company transferee work permits, which requires the applicant to be a senior manager or a worker with very specialized knowledge at a company with a branch outside Canada.

Business owners usually have multiple work permit options at the same time, e.g., LMIA-supported work permits and significant benefit work permits.

Apply for immigration

After obtaining a work permit and landing in Canada, the applicant may now qualify for Canadian immigration (also called permanent residence). The Canadian immigration journey can be divided into two options: federal and provincial

Federal immigration options include Federal Skilled Worker, Canadian Experience Class and Federal Skilled Trades. All of these are applications under Express Entry and have the shortest government processing time.

Provincial immigration options are called Provincial Nomination Programs (PNPs). There are more than 80 PNPs in Canada that selects a variety of skilled workers and entrepreneurs who want to live in the nominating province or territory, and are deemed beneficial to local economic development.

Most applicants choose the following immigration applications (follow link to learn more):

  • Federal Skilled Worker under Express Entry, where applicants can get a 50 or 200 bonus points as a business owner with a work permit, to reach 450-470 points to be invited.
  • Provincial Nomination Programs - Entrepreneurship: most Canadian provinces have their own business immigration streams. They are designed to help entrepreneurs to invest, show business tractions and permanently settle in the province. Since 2021, all PNP entrepreneurship programs require the applicant to apply for a work permit and operate their Canadian business for a period of time before they can apply for permanent residence.
  • Alberta Opportunity Stream, this Provincial Nomination Program has no age requirement, minimal education requirement, minimal language requirement (CLB 4/5) and does not have any revenue, staff or years-of-operation requirement for the company in Alberta that the applicant is working for, unlike other PNPs.
  • Skilled Worker in Manitoba Stream, this PNP is almost exactly the same as the one above. It has one additional requirement that the applicant needs to live and work in Manitoba for 6 months before they can apply.