Canadian Work Permit for Business Owners/ Operators

Canada has a great investment climate and offers many business opportunities for entrepreneurs willing to do business here. Foreign workers, in general, need a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to get a work permit. Foreign nationals who are owners and operators of a business in Canada can apply under a special category. It is an Owner Operator LMIA.

Important Update Regarding Owner-Operator LMIA That Will Come Into Force On April 1, 2021

Owner Operator Program Requirements

To be eligible for an Owner-Operator Work Permit, an entrepreneur must be a sole proprietor or hold 50.1% of the shares in a Canadian company. It’s a minimum, and the higher control and ownership, the better. It is possible to apply for a work permit under this category to grow the existing business. Importantly, an applicant must take some steps to put the business in action prior to applying for the Owner Operator LMIA. For example, hiring personnel, renting space, having a website, advertising, negotiating contracts with potential customers, if any, etc.

A business must have a perspective of bringing significant economic benefits to Canada. For example, meeting the demand for a service or good, creating more jobs for Canadians, which is described in a business plan, constituting an integral part of this type of application.

An important consideration is a genuineness of a job offer. A business owner is someone who is performing duties described in NOC 00 – Senior Management Occupations. Therefore, an entrepreneur’s prior experience in managing a business (not necessarily a Canadian company) is a very important factor, speaking about the ability to successfully operate a business in Canada, for which an LMIA is requested.

Advantages of Owner/ Operator LMIA
While an LMIA is still needed to apply for an Owner Operator Work Permit, there are certain advantages of going through it.

Owner Operator LMIA is exempted from the job advertisement requirement, as compared to a regular LMIA. Businesspersons are not required to conduct recruitment, meaning going through a lengthy and expensive process to prove that Canadians are not available for the job. It makes the application process faster, as long as the business idea is viable and genuine.

It is a pathway for immigration for business people and their family members. Positive LMIA or a confirmation letter gives the business owner 200 Express Entry points. In many cases, it increases the Comprehensive Ranking Score (CRS) to sufficiently high allowing a business owner to be invited to apply for a permanent residence as soon as he or she has an LMIA approved. Family members, such as spouses and dependent children under 22 years of age can immigrate with the principal applicant.
Owner Operator LMIA could be eligible for expedited service – ten (10) business days processing by the Economic and Social Development Canada (ESDC). It falls under the priority if the wage being offered to the owner is at or above the top 10% of wages earned by Canadians in the province, where the job is located. For example, 47.12 C$/hr in Ontario. Within the above time frame, an ESDC’s officer reviews the application forms, business plan, supporting documents, as well as conducts an interview with a Director of a Canadian company.

With a confirmation letter, a business owner should apply for a work permit. Time varies depending on what Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) visa office processes an application. On average, from one (1) – to six (6) weeks. A work permit can be issued for up to two (2) years. If it is a first-time Owner Operator LMIA application, a work permit is likely to be issued for a duration of (1) one year. The rationale behind this is that a business owner could prove the viability of a business idea, and then extend a work permit.

As mentioned above, a positive LMIA for a job in NOC 00 will give 200 points to the owner-operator of a business. It may be a direct pathway to immigrate to Canada with the Expres Entry System, which will take another six (6) months.

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