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The Self-Employed Program

Updated: December 5th, 2021

Immigration to Canada under the Self-employment Program

To qualify for business immigration to Canada under the Self-employed Program, an applicant must demonstrate that they have the relevant artistic or athletic experience that has allowed them to be self-employed while living in their country of origin. The candidate must furthermore be able to make a reasonably significant contribution to one of these fields through their relevant experience and skills in Canada in order to be successful in their application. The National Occupation Classification of Canada has a complete list of all the career types that fall under these two categories which, for the most part, there is no exception to.

  • Painter
  • Dancer
  • Journalist
  • Writer
  • Musician
  • Designer
  • Sports coach
  • Athlete
  • Referee
  • Program leaders

We have only outlined a broad understanding of the type of work that is relevant under each category but if you have any queries as to whether or not your title falls under one of these, you can  sign up so that we can do an assessment for you, giving you the best advice about which program is right for you. With the help of our Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs), you are in a better position to strengthen your profile, gain expert insights into the immigration process, and get chosen as one of the successful applicants. These knowledgeable professionals know all about Canadian immigration policy as well as how the over 100 different immigration programs work. This means they can tell you exactly what aspects to build up as well as what requirements you need to complete before moving on to the next stage of the program. If the Self Employment Program in Canada is not for you, we can also help you find the right program that does suit your background.

When you apply for the program, you'll need to meet the criteria stated below in order to receive points under the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). These points are then added to create a score for your online profile which you created when you applied. This total score competes against other scores until there is a draw from the pool of candidates. These candidates will then receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence in Canada. Remember that your score can always be updated throughout the process as you gain recommendations, new skills, or qualifications.

The Perks of the Self Employment Program in Canada

Self-employed Program

One of the wonderful things about the Self-employed Program which sets it apart from an Entrepreneur's Visa Program is that there is no net-worth requirement. However, you must have sufficient funds for immigration purposes according to the usual visa procedure, this includes supporting any dependents (spouse or children) that you are intending to bring into the country with you. This means you have the freedom to set up your business on your own terms, contributing to the Canadian economy in your own unique way without the pressure of a certain profit margin or corporate mindset.

There are also plenty of different career options to choose from, meaning that even if you're currently working in one field such as photography (for yourself) but you have adequate experience in something else in your country of origin, you can discuss with our RCICs about which path would be a better option for successful immigration.

Another perk of the Self Employment Program in Canada is that you only need two years of experience in your chosen field in order to practice in that area of culture or athletics. This is different from the Federal Skilled Worker Program in the sense that while you still need to be qualified in your chosen field, there is much more room to move in terms of entrepreneurship. For example, being a wedding planner still requires a qualification of some kind but it is up to you how you grow this business and how many years you have chosen to spend getting acquainted with the industry.

Do You Qualify?

Self-employed Program

The Self Employment Program in Canada uses very specific criteria to measure your chances of being selected for immigration. As mentioned before, you need to accumulate points which ultimately total to give you a profile score. The more boxes you check, the better your score, and the better your chances are of being drawn from the pool of candidates who apply. If you don’t currently meet the requirements, don’t give up hope. We can give you guidance on where and how to grow your skill-set, ability, and qualifications in order to meet the standards for immigration.

Work ExperienceAt least two years experience in your field (points up to five years)
EducationRelevant tertiary or skills qualification in your field
AgeIdeally between the ages of 18 and 35
Language SkillsProficient in Canada's official languages (basic, moderate, high)
AdaptabilityHow easy it would be to assimilate into Canadian society

Factors that are scored include your age (and the age of your spouse) because younger candidates are preferred as they can contribute to the economy for a longer period of time. However, this doesn’t mean that older candidates cannot apply, it will simply mean that you receive less or no points under this category.

The number of years of experience that you are bringing to the field is important and the more years the better. In a field such as athletics, having been an athlete on an internationally competitive level also counts towards experience. This can be applied to other self-employment streams where you have achieved something or earned a globally recognized award for that profession. Another aspect of this is the nature and duration of your respective professional training which can include practical skills gained while working in that field.

Your education level (tertiary or other training programs) is important for proving you are qualified in the field you have chosen to pursue, especially if you are younger and perhaps lack significant experience. In terms of language skills, you would do well to gain proficiency in both French and English, which are major languages spoken throughout Canada.

The last aspect to be aware of is adaptability which looks at the likelihood that you will be successful in terms of cultural immersion. This is very important because ultimately Canada is a diverse multicultural country made up of a lot of international ex-pat communities but together they work cohesively to run a strong economy and further a rich cultural history. Criteria for this has to do with how long you may have already worked in Canada, your spouse or partner's education level, whether or not you have studied in Canada, and what family connections you have in the country.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a self-employed person in Canada?

A self-employed person is someone who works on their own. They do not work for a business or company or have someone who oversees their daily tasks. Self-employed persons work when they want as well as for whom they want and may have multiple clients at any given time.

2. How do I become self-employed in Canada?

The process of registering your business whether self-employed or not depends on the province or territory you're in as well as the type of business model you have chosen such as a sole proprietorship, partnership, or incorporation. If, for example, you have chosen to register your business as a corporation, the registration process may be a bit more complex than other business models. You will need to:

  • file articles of incorporation;
  • get a federal business number and corporation income tax account;
  • register as an extra-territorial corporation; and
  • apply for permits and licenses applicable to your specific business needs.

3. Do you need a work permit to be self-employed in Canada?

In order to start a business in Canada, you will need a business visa. There are various options, including the most popular federal business program, the Start-up Visa, as well as various provincial entrepreneur visas. If you only intend to come to Canada for six months or less, you can apply for a business visitor visa.

4. How much can you earn as a self-employed person before declaring in Canada?

For the 2020 tax year, self-employed persons could expect to pay about 10.5 percent of their income to the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) up to a maximum amount of $5,796.

5. Can you be self-employed on an open work permit?

Yes. You can operate your business anywhere in Canada if you have an open work permit, however, it is important to keep in mind that it may make gaining permanent residency status difficult. 

6. How do you prove income if you are self-employed in Canada?

There are 3 types of documents that you can use as proof of income: 

  • Annual tax returns or 1099 forms from your freelance employers;
  • Bank statements showing incoming payments from clients or sales; and
  • Profit and loss statements (keeps track of your revenue, costs, and business-related expenses over a set period of time).

7. Do you need a business license to be self-employed in Canada?

All self-employed business owners in Canada are required by law to register their business. It is important to check provincial requirements as these could differ substantially. Registering your business also comes with added benefits such as:

  • Enhances your brand image and reputation;
  • Protects your assets;
  • Tax benefits; and
  • Ensure compliance with Canadian law.

8. Does self-employment count as work experience for Canada PR (permanent residency)?

There are some options to consider if gaining PR status in Canada is your end goal as a self-employed person. For example, the Federal Skilled Worker Program managed by the Express Entry Program allows applicants who are self-employed to qualify. The Start-up is another option for entrepreneurs to consider. There are also a number of Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) that offer entrepreneur programs, however, in general, do not qualify for Express Entry points.

If you are looking to establish, invest in, or acquire a business in Canada, our professional RCICs and immigration consultants will ensure that your visa documentation is submitted correctly and on time. Our consultants will also advise you on the visa options best suited to your individual profile. Contact us today to begin your application process. Immigrate to Canada today through the Self-employed program.

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