How a new “Canadian Business Experience Class” program can unlock the potential of immigrant entrepreneurs


This guest article was authored by Jeffrey S. Lowe, Chief Inspiration Officer and Canadian Immigration Lawyer, Lowe & Company.

Over the next three years, the Canadian government is looking to welcome over 430,000 new immigrants annually: Skilled Workers, Sponsored Family, Refugees, and others. But one class of immigrant is lacking: Entrepreneur Immigrants.

Canada has been without a Federal Business Immigration program for Entrepreneurs since 2014. The Start-Up Visa and Self Employed categories are not really for entrepreneurs buying or starting up businesses in Canada.

This article is to propose a new Canadian Business Experience Class (CBEC), which will be more responsive, flexible, and result in job creation and maintenance for the Canadian economy.

What is the Canadian Business Experience Class?

The CBEC is similar to the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) for skilled workers. One of the best predictors of whether someone can establish themselves in Canada is if they have actually worked here. A CEC candidate would have proven that he or she is employable, and able to work in Canada.

In the same manner, the best way to show that one can generate economic benefit to Canada is if one has actually operated a business in Canada for at least 2 years in the past 3 years. That is the basic premise of the CBEC.

Like the CEC, one would first need to have a work permit in order to be able to work in Canada and operate a business. While there are a number of different ways to obtain a work permit to gain the work experience in Canada, I recommend a specific work permit category for CBEC applicants.

Stage 1: The CBEC Investor Work Permit

Currently, there are a number of different ways that foreign business people can invest into a business in Canada and obtain a work permit. Citizens of the USA, Mexico, a European Union and certain other countries can come to Canada with free trade agreement investor work permits.

However, citizens of many countries do not have such agreements. I propose that a specific “CBEC Investor Work Permit” be introduced, with criteria that would be similar to free trade investor work permits:

1) A substantial investment has been made, or is actively being made;

2) The applicant is coming to Canada to develop and manage the enterprise; and

3) Compliance with existing immigration measures (e.g., pass an admissibility check, etc.)

Prior to applying for the CBEC Investor Work Permit, the applicant would have identified the business that he or she wants to invest in and manage. The applicant can either purchase a business, or start up a new business, or invest into a share of a business.  I would also suggest that the applicant visits Canada prior to submitting the CBEC Investor Work Permit application.

Guidelines could include:

1) The investment must be more than marginal, and sufficient to support a number of employees;

2) I would suggest a minimum investment of at least $100,000 CAD;

3) The investor should control at least 33% of the business;

4) The funds must be irrevocably committed to the enterprise. However, I suggest allowing for investments to be made conditional upon the work permit being granted.

Like CUSMA and other free trade agreement investor work permits, the CBEC Investor Work Permit should be issued for an initial period of 1 year, and renewable for 2 year periods upon proof that the business is operating and has employed Canadians.

Work permits can be processed fairly quickly, in 1 to 3 months.  This is critical for most business people making investment decisions, as target investee companies can rarely wait longer than that.

Stage 2: The CBEC PR Application

After the entrepreneur has operated the business in Canada for at least 2 years, he/she may file a permanent residence application if he/she meets the following conditions:

1) Ownership of at least 33% of a business in Canada which:

-Is an active business, and is not just earning passive income;

-Has hired at least 3 Canadians full time for 2 years in the past 3 years. At least 1 position must be a “high wage” position; Full time contractors working at least 30 hours per week would count as employees;

-If one owns less than 100%, the business must hire proportionately more (eg, 6, employees, 9 employees for 33% etc.)

2) Has participated in the management of the business for 2 out of the past 3 years;

3) Has been physically present in Canada for at least 183 days per year for 3 years;

4) Has filed Canadian income tax returns for the past 3 years; and

5) Has at least a CLB 4 for English or French.

The applicant would have 3 years to meet the CBEC qualifying conditions for a period of 2 years. If the business is operating, but has not met the conditions at the end of the 3 years, the applicant may apply to extend the CBEC Investor Work Permit to have more time to meet the criteria. Once an applicant has met these conditions, he/she can apply for permanent residence under the CBEC class.

Through the CBEC Investor Work Permit, Canada can attract many more business immigrants in a timely, efficient manner.

Jeffrey S. Lowe is an Immigration and Business Lawyer in Vancouver, BC. He is the Chief Inspirational Officer of Lowe & Company, which has acted for immigrants from over 70 countries since 1990.  Jeffrey is a Founding Member of CILA, and has taught Business Immigration, Practice Management and Legal Ethics to Professional audiences across Canada since 1990. He can be reached at

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