Attracting business immigrants is a priority for Canada. The focus of the business immigration categories established by legislation is to attract experienced and successful investors and entrepreneurs who will contribute to Canada’s economic development and increase employment opportunities.
From the perspective of the intending business immigrant, Canada offers an environment that is supportive of business, an effective legal system, a strong economy with established trade links across the globe, and proximity to the United States market.
Business Immigration Categories
Immigration to Canada is permitted in one of three main business immigration categories:
The Immigrant Investor: Immigration in this category is available to high net-worth individuals with verifiable business experience. The source of funds must be traceable to legal business activities. The prospective immigrant is required to deposit funds with the authorities, which will be returned after a set period of time without interest At the time of writing (October, 2007) the amount of $800,000 in Canadian currency must be deposited (either with the Federal government, or with the Province of Quebec) in order to obtain permanent residence. Canadian financial institutions have financing available for both the Federal and the Quebec programs, and this facility allows prospective immigrants to retain more of their capital for their own use when they immigrate to Canada.
Wealthy immigrant investors can enjoy considerable tax benefits by setting up an immigrant investor trust and registering it in Canada when they immigrate. Under Canadian legislation in force at the time of writing, doing so allows the investor to legally avoid liability for Canadian income tax on any assets held in the trust for five years after becoming a permanent resident of Canada.
Entrepreneurs: intending immigrants in the entrepreneur category must have business experience and, unlike applicants in the Immigrant Investor category, are required to purchase and actively manage a Canadian business. Initially, entrepreneurs are admitted to Canada to work in the business, and are awarded permanent residence provided the business meets specific criteria – usually these are related to growth of the business and to creation of outside employment opportunities. A variety of Provincial Nominee programs are available to entrepreneurs who wish to reside in a particular Province, and are attractive to prospective entrepreneurs who do not meet the requirements of the Federal selection system, or because, in some instances, the Provincial program may offer entry to Canada far more rapidly than the analogous Federal program.
Self-employed persons: Self-employed farmers, artisan, actors, artists and sport personalities may qualify under the Federal system, based on their prior experience in these fields and if they demonstrate the intention and ability to make a “significant” contribution to the economy or to the cultural or artistic life of Canada. In the case of a self-employed farmer, the applicant must have the intention to purchase a farm in Canada. It is readily apparent that the self-employed category for immigration is very restrictive under the Federal system. Applicants whose self-employment has not been in the above occupations would therefore have to consider if they can immigrate under the Investor program, or otherwise under the Quebec immigration system, which allows other self-employed persons to immigrate.
In summary, Canada offers a number of avenues whereby successful business people may immigrate. Entrepreneurs can take note of increased possibilities after several years: Canadian businesses enjoy preferential access to the United States market and Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Permanent residents are in many instances eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship after three years. Once Canadian citizenship is granted and a Canadian passport issued, the entrepreneur will enjoy easier access to the North American market.