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Canada: getting an entrepreneur's visa and setting up a business

Getting a visa, how to set up a company and documentation required at customs.

It’s not difficult to work out why so many people dream of emigrating to Canada. With it’s wide open spaces and fresh air, friendly community, advanced economy and now boasting one of the world’s most forward thinking political leaders – Justin Trudeau – it’s a no-brainer.

This vastly appealing country is renowned for it’s effective government as well as free healthcare, free education, a low crime rate and an impressive infrastructure.

Always ranking highly in ‘quality of life’ indexes, last year Canada was named ‘country with the best reputation’ for the fourth time in six years in an international survey.

Investing in a business in Canada also means that, along with Mexico, you will have better access to the world's largest economy than anywhere else in the world. If you're lucky enough to eventually become a Canadian citizen there is no need for a visitor visa to travel to the US, while the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) eliminated trade barriers between the US, Canada and Mexico.

Most newcomers settle in one of Canada's three largest cities. If you're interested in doing business in Canada then you'll be reassured to know that Toronto (population 4.4 million), Montreal (3.4 million) and Vancouver (1.9 million) all feature in the top 50 cities for commerce in the Mastercard Worldwide Centers of Commerce Index.


To emigrate to and buy or start a business in Canada, applicants must obtain a Canadian visa under the entrepreneur or self-employment class, also known as business immigration class. This type of visa is for anyone who requires net assets to start a business in Canada.

The applicant must have at least one year's managerial experience in running and managing a business, and a viable business plan to open a business in Canada. Prospective business owners must also hire more than one Canadian citizen in the pending company.

The candidate is likely to qualify if they have a business outside of Canada and at least CD$300,000 to start a business and relocate. However, it is important to note all past paperwork and procedures must be well documented.

When applying for a visa under the self-employment class, the requirements are the same as the entrepreneur class, but applicants are not required to employ any workers in the business. This type of visa is issued to entrepreneurs who plan to start an independent business venture in the area of arts, music, culture or farming.

Business registration

To start a Canadian business, applicants must also file for a federal incorporation and provincial registration. The process of gaining federal incorporation involves stating where your registered business will be located, who will serve as directors and choosing a name for the business.

When choosing a business name, entrepreneurs must include a distinctive, legal and descriptive element. For example, 'Unique Software Ltd', 'Unique' being the distinctive element, 'Software' the descriptive element that provides information on the nature of your business and 'Ltd' obviously the legal element. The business founder can choose from the following legal elements: Incorporated, Corporation, Limited, Inc, Corp or Ltd.

If the business name is similar to another company's name it will not be accepted. A name search, which costs CA$20, will allow applicants to verify whether the name is available.

In order to file the process of federal incorporation efficiently, business owners will also need articles of incorporation. These documents are designed to provide the business with a legal structure, which follows the primary rules governing the management of a corporation in the US and Canada.

There are various incorporation options available when setting up your business venture in Canada.

Businesses yet to settle on a brand or shell companies used by large companies might adopt a numbered name corporation, for example '1234567 Canada Inc'.

Incorporation of a business can also be filed via a name pre-approved by Corporations Canada. A Newly Updated Automated Name Search (NUANS) in electronic format is required to accompany the submission.

The online incorporation process also involves a selection of Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) accounts which are required for the applicant's business, such as for corporate income tax, goods and services tax. This process also results in a Business Number (BN) generated by the CRA within five days of incorporation that is mailed to the company.

Applicants will also need a form for the Initial Registered Office Address and First Board of Directors, as well as a Provincial registration form.

Filing for federal incorporation and provincial registration costs approximately CA$200.


Immigrants will be interviewed by a Canadian customs officer and will need to provide two copies of a detailed list of all personal or household items they are bringing into the country. Also needed are two copies of a list of items that are arriving later and their cash value.

A Canadian immigration officer will then check immigration visas and travel documents, and ask questions similar to those on the Immigrant Application Form.

Applicants may also be asked to show proof of funds, and if there are no problems, the officer will authorize the immigrant's entry into Canada as a permanent resident by signing their Record of Landing or Confirmation of Permanent Residence.

Interested in switching things up and moving to Canada? Take a look at our Canadian businesses for sale here.


Krystena Griffin

About the author

Krystena Griffin writes for all titles in the Dynamis stable including, and as well as other industry publications.


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