Welcoming doors for business people wishing to immigrate to Canada seem harder and harder to find. Federal investor and entrepreneurial categories are closed, various provincial PNP programs have been suspended or highly discretionary and opaque selection process are being introduced as with the new BC PNP. However amidst all the confusion, a new door is cracking open which is being used with greater frequency and may be the only route for potential business candidates to enter Canada where they may still have some measure of personal control without relying on the conditional PNP acceptances.
It is called the owner-operator model under the provisions of Employment and Social Development Canada.
The process has fewer financial or business limitations for an individual who wishes to start a business on their own or wishes to purchase a business with more that 50% ownership. One can start or purchase a business without the limitations of the provincial nominee programs which require a signing of a performance agreement monitored over a conditional 20 to 24 month period. The application procedure for an owner-operator is similar to the usual process when a Canadian employer applies to ESDC for what is called a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). In fact, rather than a Canadian employer making the application, the foreign national makes his or her own application as their own employer for a successful LMIA. No advertising is required to determine if there are Canadians who are qualified for the position, there is no qualification as to what type or value of the business to be established. The only requirement is that the business owner have at least 51 % interest. The business does not even have to be purchased before the application can be made since a buy-sell agreement can be in place to show the overall intention of the parties. Such buy-sell agreements can include a clause which makes the purchase subject to the successful issuance of the LMIA and a work permit. The businesses must be financially viable and must ensure expansion of employment or the preservation of jobs or ensure that skills of the foreign national will be transferred to other employees in the company. It is a convenient method of obtaining a work permit within a 5 to 6 month period. It also opens up the potential avenue for permanent residence if a two-year work permit is secured and the individual qualifies in all other respects for entry into the CIC express entry pool.
These applications should be planned carefully to ensure that the very tight restrictions and qualifications all the LMIA process are met especially when the forms themselves are not yet designed for self-employed entrepreneurs.
With other doors closed or closing, the owner-operator could be the new entry path of business applicants considering Canada.