In Canada, there are more than one hundred immigration pathways available, for studying or working in Canada and beginning the process of pursuing permanent residency (PR). The C11 pathway is an LMIA-Exempt work permit for self-employed individuals and entrepreneurs who can demonstrate their potential for providing significant economic, social and cultural benefits to Canadians. Under the C11 work permit, professionals and entrepreneurs can enter Canada temporarily to establish their self-employed ventures or businesses.

The International Mobility Program (IMP) lets an employer hire a temporary worker without a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). The International Mobility Program has a special class created for entrepreneurs and self-employed business owners, using the C11 exemption code.

If you are applying for a temporary stay, or plan to pursue permanent residency, you will need to declare to the visa immigration officer that you are self-employed or the owner of a business, with a unique and viable business plan, and the resources to establish a successful venture or purchase an existing business. To be eligible, you must meet the C11 Visa Canada requirements outlined in the program guidelines. You will need to demonstrate that your concept can bring substantial economic, social and cultural benefits to Canadian citizens.

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The C11 work permit appeals to two groups of self-employed professionals and entrepreneurs. The first group consists of those who wish to enter Canada temporarily to pursue their careers and business goals. The second group applies for the C11 work visa in the context of a two-stage permanent residency strategy.

What are the Eligibility Requirements for the C11 Work Permit?

To determine whether paragraph R205(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations has been met, here are some questions to consider when preparing your plan:

  • Is it likely that your work will create a viable business that will benefit Canadian or permanent resident workers? Will it provide economic stimulus?
  • What background and skills do you have that will improve the viability of your venture?
  • Does you business plan clearly show that you have taken steps to initiate your business?
  • Have you taken steps to put your business plan in action? Can you provide evidence that you have the financial ability to launch your business, rent space, pay expenditures, register a business number, plan staffing requirements, and secure the necessary ownership documents and agreements, etc.?

Does it offer a “Significant Benefit to Canada”?

The immigration officer will assess your proposed business for its significant benefit to Canadians. Your plan should demonstrate a general economic stimulus, advancement of the Canadian industry, social or cultural benefit.

Will your business create an economic stimulus for Canadians and permanent residents? Does it offer job creation, development in a regional or remote setting, or an expansion of export markets for Canadian products and services?

Will your business result in industry advancement? Does it encourage technological development, product or service innovation or differentiation, or offer opportunities for improving the skills of Canadians?

To argue for significant benefit, it is advisable to provide information from industry-relevant organizations in Canada that can support your application. Demonstrating that your activity will be beneficial to Canadian society, and not impinge on existing Canadian businesses, is vital.

Degree of Ownership

The issuance of C11 work permits as a self-employed professional or entrepreneur will only be considered if you own a minimum of 50% of the business you establish or buy in Canada. If your stake in the business is smaller, you are required to apply for a work permit as an employee, rather than as an entrepreneur or self-employed person. In that case, you may require a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to work in Canada.

If the business has multiple owners, only one owner will generally be eligible for a work permit under paragraph R205(a). This guideline is intended to prevent minority share transfers solely to obtain work permits.

Applying for a C11 Visa in Canada

Setting up your new business venture, or taking over an existing business in Canada can be a complicated process. The “significant benefit” parameter needs to be factored into the execution of every part of the plan.

Upon setting up your Canadian business, you will be the employer. You will issue an LMIA-exempt offer of employment to yourself, and your business will pay the employer compliance fee. You will need to prove that your business can afford to pay you enough to provide for yourself and your family members while in Canada.

Then, as the employee, you will apply for a work permit. Upon qualifying, you will enter Canada with your C11 work visa.

Setting up your business and applying for your work visa involves many business-related and immigration-related procedures and formalities. You will almost certainly require professional immigration assistance to avoid omissions and mistakes.

What Types of Business are Eligible for a C11 Entrepreneur Work Permit?

If you’re considering buying an existing business, choosing from one of Canada’s priority industries is a good place to start:

  • aerospace
  • automotive
  • chemical and biochemical
  • clean technology
  • financial services
  • food and beverage manufacturing
  • forestry
  • industrial automation and robotics
  • IT
  • life sciences
  • mining
  • tourism

If you’re planning to launch a self-employed venture, it’s worth noting that seasonal companies have had a higher success rate with C11 work permit approvals. Here are a few of the popular low-risk seasonal businesses and self-employed initiatives:

  • an outdoor adventure company
  • lawn care and landscaping
  • chimney sweeping service
  • moving services
  • Christmas or Halloween retailer
  • pool maintenance service
  • personal trainer or coach

If you have expertise in a particular field and a good understanding of your business model, starting your own unique business in Canada could also be a good option for you.

There is no minimum business investment requirement for obtaining a C11 entrepreneur work permit and/or permanent residence. Bear in mind that your ability to create a viable business in Canada, that will provide employment opportunities to its permanent residents, while contributing to the economic or social development of your chosen region, will be an important factor your immigration officer will be looking at when assessing your application.

Preparing both as a new business owner and its employee can be a daunting task. Focusing on your business plan, meeting C11 requirements and execution are generally the best use of your time when pursuing a C11 work permit while entrusting your immigration paperwork to an experienced immigration lawyer.

C11 Work Permit to Permanent Residence (PR)

A C11 work permit doesn’t get you permanent residency by default. Immigration, if desired, is a two-stage process. The first stage involves getting your C11 work permit.

The second stage is applying for permanent residency. There are three paths to apply for PR:

  • Managing your business in Canada for a minimum of 12 consecutive months, with a valid C11 work permit
  • Fulfilling the minimum requirements for the Federal Skilled Worker (Express Entry) program
  • Receiving an ITA (Invitation to Apply) for Express Entry by the IRCC

A C11 work permit helps get your foot in the door but doesn’t guarantee permanent residence in Canada. If approved, family members are welcome to join you in Canada. Your spouse will be able to work in Canada, and your children will be able to attend free public schools (save for post-secondary education).

Duration and Extensions

An initial C11 work permit can be issued for a maximum period of two years. An extension beyond two years can be granted only if an application for permanent residence is being processed, or in some exceptional circumstances. Applicants awaiting a provincial nomination certificate or significant investment projects are instances of exceptional circumstances, and you will need a letter from the province or territory expressing their continued support.

C11 Processing Time

The average time for processing a work permit is 90 days. Due to the COVID 19 restrictions, processing times may be affected.

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