Investor Work Permit under Canada Free Trade Agreements
Business owners and certain employees can come to Canada in investor status, if they meet the requirements established in Canada free trade agreements. They may work in Canada without having to go through the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) by getting Investor Work Permit, which is LMIA-exempt.
Eligibility for Canada Investor Work Permit
Currently, Canada has in place six agreements that qualify citizens of participatory states for Canada Investor Work Permit if they meet eligibility requirements. These are:
Canada-European Union (EU) Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement – CETA Investor Work Permit under LMIA Exemption Code T46
Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership – CPTPP Investor Work Permit under LMIA Exemption Code T50
Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement – USMCA Investor Work Permit (former NAFTA Investor Work Permit) under LMIA Exemption Code T22
Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement – CCFTA Investor Work Permit under LMIA Exemption Code T22
Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement – CPFTA Investor Work Permit under LMIA Exemption Code T22
Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement – CPFTA Investor Work Permit under LMIA Exemption Code T22
Controlling Interest in the Canadian-Based Corporation
An applicant/investor must own at least 50% interest (directly or by stock) in the enterprise or firm to which they are coming to Canada. Even though the enterprise is established in Canada with a local registered address, for Investor Work Permit, it will be considered to have the nationality of an investor.
“Develop and Direct” the Canadian Operations
Business owner needs Investor Work Permit to “develop and direct” the operations of Canadian enterprise (except for an employee). This simply means that an investor has controlling interest of at least 50% in the enterprise, which gives them the right to develop and direct the operations. Less than 50% interest does not qualify an applicant for Investor Work Permit.
Type and Nature of Business/Investment
Passive investment in real estate or stock does not qualify. The goal of Investor Work Permit is to promote productive investment in Canada. This means that an enterprise should not be just marginal in nature, i.e., providing a mere livelihood for the applicant and family. The Canadian-based company must be an active enterprise for the commercial purpose that operates to produce service or commodity for profit and expands job opportunities for Canadians. An investor should be ultimately an operator of the business, but not a sole skilled or unskilled labourer for that business.
“Substantial Amount” of Capital Has Been or Is Being Invested
Applicant has invested a “substantial amount” of capital in the Canadian-based corporation or is actively in the process of investing.
Investment means placing funds or other capital assets at risk for commercial purposes to generate profit or return on the funds risked. Thus, the funds must be subject to partial or total loss if investment fortunes reverse. For the same reason, investor status could not be extended to non-profit organizations, or for mere intent to invest (prospective investment arrangements) with no present commitment. Signing contracts or scouting for suitable locations and property are not sufficient activities to meet the investment requirement, as those may be broken. The rule of thumb is that the investment funds must be irrevocably committed to the business.
For example, the following activities would be considered investment funds:
a reasonable amount of cash held in a business bank account for routine business operations;
secured by the applicant’s own personal assets loans, or unsecured loans, which are subject to in the event of business failure;
lease or rent payment for property or equipment, which have already been made (not anticipated future costs);
equipment and inventory on hand purchase;
value of goods or equipment transferred to Canada that will be put, or are being put, for commercial purpose use.
Minimum Required Investment Amount
The investment amount must be “substantial” and already invested or irrevocably committed for investment. There is no minimum threshold of the investment amount, or, in other words, what is considered “substantial”. Substantial investment means significantly proportional to the total investment/value of Canadian-based enterprise (e.g., purchase price) or the amount normally considered necessary to establish a viable enterprise of that type and nature of business.
For example, in the case of a consulting firm, $50,000 may be reasonably required to become fully operational. To qualify for Investor Work Permit, the applicant would have to invest a high percentage of this amount – around $40,000.
Bringing Employee in Investor Status
Lastly, employees who do not have a controlling interest in the Canadian-based corporation can also be brought to Canada in investor status, if the following requirements are met:
Canadian-based corporation (i.e., employer) is owned (at least 50%) by the citizen of the participatory state, is productive/active, and “substantial investment” has been made (or is actively in the process of investing).
The applicant (i.e., prospective employee) must be a citizen of the participatory state who qualifies and will work in a supervisory or executive capacity or possesses skills essential to the firm’s operations in Canada.