Business Immigration Program

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Are you an entrepreneur considering starting a business in the Canadian market? Do you have special skills or experience with which you could be self-employed in Canada?

Immigration Canada invites skilled professionals to obtain Permanent Resident (PR) status through the Federal Business Immigration Program (BIP). This program accepts those who have the tools to establish business in Canada and create jobs for Canadians.

What tools are required to be considered?                      

  • Skill
  • Experience
  • Education
  • Capital

If this applies to you, you can apply for PR under the Economic Class of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), 2002.

This article will be a review of the self-employed class of the BIP and the newest addition to the program, the start-up visa program (SUV), 2014.

A Little History

The Business Immigration Program in its most infant form was introduced in 1978. At this point it only consisted of the self-employed persons class and the now cancelled Entrepreneur class. In 1986 the Investor class was introduced to the BIP. The entrepreneur class required applicants to have a minimum net worth. It also monitored all approved candidates for 3 years, to ensure they met permanent residency requirements. Conditions included keeping a minimum stake in any businesses started in Canada. And creating a progressively larger number of jobs for Canadians. Candidates’ PR status could have been revoked if conditions were not met. The Entrepreneur class stopped accepting applications in 2011.

The Investor class is similar to the entrepreneur class in that it requires a minimum net worth. The self-employed class has never required a minimum net worth. It did ask a minimum amount of settlement funds to ensure the applicant can support themselves. In 2014, the Investment program was closed and the Start-Up Visa (SUV) program was introduced. It began as a 5-year pilot program. This program is still accepting applications. In 2018 the IRCC made the program permanent. Since the start of the SUV program, the number of foreign nationals accepted to it has grown every year.


There were 587 admissions through the entirety of the BIP in 2017. A 2017 review of the BIP showed that the ratio of female to male primary applicants is greatly skewed. Only 22% of principal applicants to the Federal and Quebec Business immigrant classes were women. Under the BIP program specifically female investors accounted for 16% of business immigrants. The disparity however begins to shrink when observing the economic class as a whole.


Economic Permanent Residents Admitted to Canada (2015–2017, Principal Applicants and Immediate Family Members)


This graph demonstrates male-female admittance through all economic streams. Further observation of the BIP demographic statistics show that self-employed immigrants tend to be more single and younger than the other classes. Investor immigrants are mostly married and typically middle aged or older. The Economic Class of the IRCC is growing every year and the BIP seems to be growing with it. Many foreign nationals are benefitting from the Canada’s stable economy and high quality of living. A 2020 article by the popular business publication Forbes praised Canada’s SUV program citing it as a best option for many entrepreneurs.

Provincial Nominee Program: Overview

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The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) follows the IRPA guidelines but is structured differently than the BIP. The PNP allows the provinces and territories to nominate foreign national candidates. The nomination is to live and work specifically in the province/ territory that nominates them. Applicant must first apply for a nomination then apply through the PNP process. Because the provinces/ territories mostly govern this program, they each have widely differing standards. Expectations and eligibility requirements differ from province to province. Through the PNP, provinces can nominate candidates according to their needs and preferences.

Candidates can be:

  • Students
  • Business People
  • Skilled Workers
  • Semi-skilled Workers

Some of the foreign nationals admitted through PNP’s can be self-employed persons or entrepreneurs creating a start-up. For the purposes of clarity this article will refer to start-up candidates and self-employed persons as through the federal stream (BIP). And the PNP is a separate entity.

Note: Entrepreneurs and self-employed persons can apply either through the PNP or through the BIP. But remember, they are different programs and the application process and requirements will differ. Especially in the PNP where they will differ in each province and territory.

Self-Employed Class: Overview

The Self-Employed persons stream is part of the economic class of the Permanent Resident Program. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) regulates this program. The BIP was formed under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Entrepreneurs, investors and self-employed persons are all regulated under the BIP.

Under the BIP a self-employed person is:

  • Willing and able to employ themselves in Canada
  • Making a significant cultural OR economic contribution

 The type of work activity must comply with the following categories:

  • Cultural
  • Athletics related
  • The purchase and management of a farm (temporarily suspended)

Note: As of March 2018, acceptance of new applications under the Farm Management Stream of the Self-Employed Persons Program is temporarily suspended.  

The immigration officer will be reviewing applications to ensure they meet BIP guidelines. And that the applicant has sufficient experience, education and tools to become successful in Canada. Unlike most other streams under the BIP, the self-employed class does not require the applicant to create jobs within a few years of arrival. Although some categories, like farming, may naturally create positions for Canadians.

Self-Employed Class: Eligibility

Failure to meet the IRCC definition of a ‘self-employed person’ can cause an application to be immediately rejected.

According to the IRCC, a self-employed person is someone who:

  • Has relevant experience
  • Has the intention and ability to be self-employed in Canada
  • Intends to make a significant contribution in specific economic activities

Immigration officers will judge if an applicant meets the criteria of a ‘significant contribution.’ The cultural and athletic sections of the self-employed class instruction manual refer to this broadly.

The manual does however provide some examples. It notes that a music teacher immigrating to a small/rural community can be considered to offer a ‘significant contribution.’ It mentions an officer reviewing this application should not discourage “qualifying self-employed persons who are applying in good faith.”

Note: This may be a stream of the economic class in which the assistance of a professional can be greatly useful. Applications will widely depend on the discretion of the immigration officer. A professional can help you submit a convincing application.

If an applicant meets the IRCC’s definition of self-employed, they are then judged by a point system using the chart below. A minimum of 35 units is required out of a possible 100.

Selection criteriaMaximum points
Ability in English and/or French24


As seen in the point’s chart, education and experience are important to any application. Applicants must show at least 2 years of relevant experience in the 5 years directly preceding the application date. Due to the broad nature of these categories, the relevancy is left to the discretion of the immigration officer.

The immigration officer can ask for any documentation that may assist their decision-making. Proof of a business plan or at least research of the Canadian labor market in the applicant’s field may be requested. Immigration officers must also prove intention and ability to create one’s own employment in Canada. Unlike most other streams of the economic class, there is no minimum capital required for the self-employed class. The amount required will largely depend on the nature of the work. Applicants must, however, demonstrate that they have sufficient funds to support themselves. They must also prove that they can support any family members who may be accompanying them. The funds must be enough to support until the self-employment activity for which they are applying can begin to support them.

Start-Up Business Class: Overview

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The Start-Up Visa class of the Immigrant, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is a stream of the economic class. Part of the objections of the IRCC are:

“…to promote economic development and employment by attracting people with venture capital, business acumen and entrepreneurial skills…”

The IRCC is seeking those who can create jobs for Canadians. And contribute to Canada’s overall economy. It is up to the applicant to provide all the required documentation to prove they can offer this.

All applicants must meet the IRCC requirements by:

  • Having a qualifying business
  • Obtaining a letter of support from a designated organization
  • Meeting the language requirements
  • Having enough money to settle

Applicants to this class can apply for a temporary work permit while the application for permanent residence is processing. This will allow the applicant time to begin building the business. A temporary work permit application, in this case, will require a positive Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) and a commitment certificate stating the matter is essential. Said business must remain within the IRCC definition of a qualifying business.

For Reference: An LMIA is a document by Employment and social Development Canada. It assesses if your position and work is necessary and beneficial to Canada.

For a business to be a qualifying business under the BIP:

  • Ownership division percentages must comply with BIP standards
  • Applicant must be an ongoing, active part of the management of the business
  • The business must be incorporated in Canada

The fulfillment of some of these requirements can depend on acceptance into the program.

Ownership Structure Guidelines:

  • Each applicant must have over 10% of voting right and shares outstanding before applying
  • Applicants and designated investing entity must jointly hold over 50% of total voting rights

If a spouse or common-law partner is an active part of the business, they must be named on the commitment certificate and also apply for SUV. The applications will be considered together although only one will be the essential person. An essential person is a person that is essential to the business. Only one can be identified in the commitment certificate and letter of support.

Note: If the essential person retracts their permanent residence application or chooses not to immigrate, all linked applications will subsequently be rejected.

Other business people linked to the same business can apply for separate SUV’s for the same business venture. If the commitment certificate for one is not approved, all are rejected. If the applicant’s spouse or common-law partner owns shares but is not an active part of the business, those shares cannot count toward the ownership requirements. In this case the partner can still apply for permanent residence. This could be done through the principal applicant, as a family member.

Start-Up Business Class: Eligibility

Unlike the Self-employed Stream of the Economic class, the Start-Up Visa business class is not evaluated on a points system. It is a pass or fail grade judged on 3 requirements.

SUV Eligibility Points:

  • A commitment from a designated entity
  • Ability of applicant to speak English and/or French
  • Settlement funds

The letter of support is required to represent the commitment from a designated entity. This support letter must be from a private sector organization. It will detail the commitments they are willing to make towards the applicant/business. They must also send another form of the letter of support as a commitment certificate. The commitment certificate is sent directly to the IRCC.

The applicant must demonstrate sufficient knowledge of English, French or both. An original language test may be required with the application. Language tests cannot be older than 2 years old.

The letter of support can be from these Designated Entities:

  • A designated angel investor group; investing $75 000
  • 2 angel investor groups; investing $75 000+ total
  • A commitment of at least $200 000 from a designated venture capital fund
    • Or multiple investing amounts totaling $200 000
  • A designated business incubator.

Angel investor groups, venture capital funds or business incubators must be from the list of government approved organizations . The organization must provide the letter of support prior to applying. An application without a letter of support is considered incomplete and will be returned. The IRCC is able to suspend or remove any organizations from the list if there is reason to believe the organization has submitted false, misleading or inaccurate information to the IRCC at any point.

A crucial element to any application under the Start-Up business class is the amount of settlement funds that the applicant has. All applicants must show sufficient funds for settlement. This does not include investment commitments or previously received investments for the business. The amount of settlement funds required directly depends on the family size. The applicant must show that they have enough to provide for their family according to the proof of funds requirements demonstrated in the Settlement Funds section further below.

Applicants will be asked to provide proof of funds at the time of application, and again after the application is finalized.

Intake Process

The general intake process for paper-based applications is relatively the same for all streams of BIP. Paper applications to the federal BIP program and the PNP are sent to the Centralized Intake Office (CIO) in Sydney, Nova Scotia. The CIO-S processes all applications according to the IRPR. Before applications are processed, they are taken through the first step of the intake process- the completeness check. Every application is assessed for completeness.

Completeness Check Review:

  • Missing forms
  • Blank spaces
  • Missing signatures
  • Missing biometrics
  • Missing fees etc.

Applications to the SUV will also require the commitment certificate and letter of support. These documents should include a date range in which the support offered is valid. Applications with expired letters of support will be returned to the applicant. Foreign nationals can then re-apply with a valid letter of support and confirmation of commitment certificate.

Qualifying entities must send the commitment certificate directly to CIO-S and the letter of support to the applicant. Both must have the same validity period. If any part of the application is missing the application will be returned to the applicant.

Global Case Management System (GCMS)

Complete applications are entered into the Global Case Management System (GCMS). This is the system by which the CIO-S digitizes paper applications. Once an application is entered into GCMS, a receipt is sent to the applicant. Incomplete applications will also be entered into GCMS. Even though they are sent back it gives the CIO-S a record of application history. Applications submitted to the GCMS are locked-in. If a letter of support expires after the application is submitted, it will be considered valid. The same is applied to the ages of dependent children who may be accompanying a principal applicant. This system also allows the CIO-S to triage. So, applications can be effectively transferred to the relevant processing centers. This means if you are a principal applicant, your application will be processed with your family members.

Ministerial Instructions

MI’s are temporary instructions that immigration officers must observe. It is the responsibility of the Immigration Officer to reference any current standing MI’s before application processing. The IRPA gives the Minister the authority to issue these temporary and specific changes. They are meant to help the IRCC meet their immigration goals. There may not be any current MI’s for the stream of your application. Though immigration officers are always required to check. You can also check all current MI’s on the Government of Canada website.

Provincial Nominee Program

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The Provincial Nominee Program is another pathway under the Economic class. It allows high skilled foreign nationals with education or capital to receive permanent residence in Canada. These individuals must select a specific province in which they wish to settle. That province must nominate the applicant. Each province manages and creates their own guidelines making the requirements differ from each other. The general application intake for this program however, follows the same process as for the federal SUV and self-employed streams. The main difference being that to pass the completeness check, the applicant must appear on a nomination list. The provinces and territories send a list of their nominations directly to CIC-S.

Note: Applicants have the ability to apply for the PNP, SUV and self-employed class online through the government of Canada website. The intake process will be relatively identical to the paper processing.

Fraud Prevention

To help protect against fraud, immigration officers can send any applications off for peer review. An officer can request a peer review simply for quality assurance. The application will be sent to the industry appropriate association with:

  • A Peer Review Form (IMM 5765)
  • The Commitment Certificate
  • Term Sheet
  • Any other relevant materials

The applicant always has the right to access the findings of the review. The peer review will not include any name, address or origin country information that could identify the applicant. A peer review request can delay the processing time of an application.

Required Documents

It is recommended that the applicants review all criteria of the branch of immigration for which they intend to apply. Requirements can change, especially temporary MI’s, that may be put into place at the time of applying.  The ‘Apply to Immigrate’ page of the Government of Canada has the most up-to-date information for any potential applicant.

Under the SUV program the most important documents will be:

  • the Letter of support/ certificate of commitment from a designated entity
  • proof of English/French proficiency
  • proof of settlement funds.

The letter of support is to be sent to the applicant. The Certificate of Commitment is sent to the CIO-S. The applicant must then submit the letter of support, which they received with their applicant. It should also include a term sheet or client agreement, outlining the details and conditions of support. The documents will both be observed for consistency. Each letter of support is valid for up to 6 months from the date it is issued.

Required Forms SUV:

  • IMM 0008 SCH 13 – Start up Business Form
  • IMM 5766- Letter of Support
  • IMM 008 Generic Application Form for Canada

Required forms, Self-employed Class:

  • Generic Application Form to Canada (IMM 0008)
  • SCH A: Background/ Declaration (IMM5669)
  • SCH 6A: Business Immigrants- Self Employed persons

Applications to both classes may also require some overlapping forms and supporting documents.

Required forms for Dependents:

  • Additional Dependents/ Declaration (IMM 0008)
  • Additional Family Information (IMM5406)

With all IRCC applications, a Use of Representative (IMM 5476) is required if a representative is assisting with the process. Applicants must also submit proof of all relevant education, language and work experience. If an applicant is applying with a spouse or common-law partner, the education and work experience of the partner will also be reviewed. Finally, all biometric information required by the government of Canada must be submitted.

Required Biometric Information:

  • Passports
  • Current immigration information, if the applicant is not applying from their home country
  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates, if applicable
  • Biometric information of any children
  • Police certificates and clearances for all applicants over 18 years
  • Two photos of each family member taken within 6 months of applying
  • Fingerprints

General Fees

ServicePrice (CAD)
Biometrics Fee85
Right of Permanent Residence Fee500
Application Processing Fee, BIP principal applicant1,575
Application Processing Fee, BIP spouse825
Children’s Processing Fee225

The Biometrics fee will cover the costs of fingerprinting and photo scanning. Approved applicants will also face a Right of Permanent Residence Fee after the application is accepted. The fee is waived for dependents. All principal applicants to the BIP will face an application processing fee. Each spouse or common-law partner applying with the principal applicant will need to pay an additional processing fee. The Right of Permanent Residence Fee is not included in the application processing fee. These fees do not include the cost to the applicant to obtain the required medical exams, police certificates and language testing.

As mentioned above, some applicants may find it beneficial to begin by applying for a short-term work permit in order to set up beforehand rather than applying directly for the SUV program. Those who meet the SUV program requirements have this option available to them. In fact, some applicants from medically-exempt countries who would not need a visa to enter Canada have the option to apply with all documentation at a port of entry (e.g. airport). This can be risky and will largely fall to the discretion of the immigration officer.

Note: Those applying from within Canada for BIP will need to file an application to change conditions, extend stay or remain in Canada as a worker (IMM5710).

Settlement funds

Settlement funds are an important aspect of any PR application and especially those under BIP. The Government of Canada requires that anyone accepted to the SUV stream of immigration must have the minimum settlement funds required. This includes at the time of the application, and after it has been processed. These funds are the estimated amount that a person will need to support themselves in Canada. It doesn’t include business investments or assumptions of profit from business. The amount required rises with every added family member. Below are the current required amounts.


Number of
family members
Funds required
(in Canadian dollars)
For each additional family member$3,560

This amount cannot be borrowed or taken from investment funds to the business. The funds must also be available and transferrable- cannot be stock or equity. Applicants may be required to provide bank statements or letters from financial institutions as proof of funds.

Processing time

The processing time for all PR applications depends first on its completeness. This also applies to the inclusion of supporting documents such as police checks, medical exams etc. Including these documents before they need to be requested can save a lot of time.

Note: An RCIC can help you prepare by informing you of what additional documentation you may be asked for in your specific case.

An immigration officer has the right to request additional information that may not be previously required. The time it takes to obtain and receive the information will extend the processing time. The Government of Canada website provides a tool to estimate  processing times for every stream of immigration.  The times provided on the tool are only estimates. Any number of incidents can extend processing times. The tool estimates that the processing time for self-employed persons under the federal program and not the PNP, to be 22 months. It estimates the SUV processing times at 12-16 months.

Stream of BIPProcessing Time
Self-Employed Persons22 months
Start-Up Visa12-16 months


The admittance of foreign national business professionals into Canada is largely based on the applicants:

  • Skills
  • Experience
  • Education
  • Capital

These factors gage how well a foreign national can establish themselves in Canada. Canada gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to receive PR status. Foreign nationals can establish businesses in Canada that will help push its economy and overall culture forward.

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