Given Canada’s relationship with several countries, you may be able to establish a business by becoming an investor under one of the international trade agreements. The predominant agreement is the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) (formerly the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)) which allows applicants who are American or Mexican to work in Canada in order to establish an independent business.


  • You must be a citizen of the United States or Mexico and must have the intention of establishing a business which is more than 50% owned by you.
  • You must seek temporary entry solely to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which you have invested (or are actively in the process of investing) a substantial amount of capital.
  • There is no minimum dollar figure to establish the substantial investment; substantiality is normally determined by a proportionality test that weighs the amount invested against the total value of the enterprise in question or the amount normally considered necessary to establish a viable business contemplated.

Investor Status

The objective of the investor status is to promote productive investment in Canada and therefore you are not entitled to the status if the investment will return only enough income to provide living for you and your family. You must show that the investment will expand job opportunities locally or that it is adequate to ensure that your primary function will not be that of a skilled or unskilled labourer.

CUSMA Advantage

The advantage of using one of the international trade agreements by which to enter Canada is that the process can be much faster for Americans or for Mexicans.

CUSMA’s immigration sections were designed to provide a straightforward procedure for qualified individuals in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico to have access to each other’s labour markets. The four categories under which you can come to Canada without the Services Canada validation under CUSMA are:

  • Business visitors
  • Professionals
  • Intra-company transferees
  • Investors

CUSMA streamlines applications by eliminating the requirement for confirmation from HRSD and enables you to get a job offer with a Canadian employer and then apply directly to Canada Immigration for a work permit. No advertising is required and most applicants can apply directly at a Canadian port of entry as opposed to a Canadian visa office. So you could (in the West, for example) simply fly to Vancouver International Airport or drive through the Peace Arch border crossing and obtain your work permit directly.


Fill out the investor assessment form to determine if you qualify under the CUSMA business class:


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Crease Harman LLP