The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on businesses, operations, and travel around the world, including in Canada. Immigration will, however, remain a priority and be key to Canada’s economic recovery in the months and years ahead.

If you are a Canadian entrepreneur and facing hiring difficulties within Canada, you might consider using Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)’s programs to hire global talent, either on a temporary or permanent basis.

Temporary Immigration

Workers can come to Canada temporarily through either the Temporary Foreign Worker Program  (TFW Program) or International Mobility Program (IMP).

Under the TFW Program, when no Canadians or permanent residents are available to do the job, you can apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from Service Canada. A positive LMIA is required to hire foreign workers under this program.

The IMP, on the other hand, covers foreign workers who are exempt from the LMIA process. They might be exempt based on an international agreement, such as the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) and the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), reciprocal employment opportunities or other Canadian interests. When hiring a foreign worker who is LMIA-exempt, the first step is to submit an offer of employment in IRCC’s Employer Portal.

If you are self-employed or are launching a start-up, you might need quick access to other highly-skilled global talent to drive the success of your venture. As an employer, you can use the Global Skills Strategy (GSS) to bring in people with unique skill sets in as little as a few weeks.

Permanent Immigration

Express Entry is IRCC’s online application system for managing most applications to economic immigration programs. Applicants inside or outside of Canada may apply for permanent residence through Express Entry if they meet the eligibility criteria.  For applicants, submitting an Express Entry profile is the first step towards immigrating permanently through:

Immigration and Entrepreneurship

Under Express Entry, candidates get ranking points based on their skills, experience, and other qualities that will help them contribute to Canada’s economy. A valid job offer from a Canadian employer or a provincial nomination will give them additional points, but it’s not a requirement. Top-scoring candidates are invited to apply for permanent residence.

Candidates whose work experience is from self-employment may meet the eligibility criteria for the Federal Skilled Worker Program. Self-employment work experience does not qualify for the Canadian Experience Class.


If you are not a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident yet and would like to start a business in Canada, here are some options to consider.

Canada’s Start-up Visa Program

Canada’s Start-up Visa Program targets immigrant entrepreneurs with the skills and potential to build businesses in Canada that:

  • are innovative;
  • can create jobs for Canadians; and
  • can compete on a global scale

This is the only federal category of permanent immigration specifically geared towards entrepreneurs. If you have the support of one or more of the Canadian venture capital funds, angel capital organizations or business incubators that participate in the program to launch your start-up in Canada, you can apply for permanent residence (PR). In fact, you also become eligible for a temporary work permit that lets you get to Canada quickly and begin building your company while we process your PR application.

Some provinces offer an entrepreneur-based stream as part of their Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). You can see how the PNP works, and find out what Canada’s nine provinces and two territories offer as part of their nominee program here.

Starting a Business in Canada

If you are not a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident, you must normally have the authorization to work in Canada to manage a business or carry out self-employment activities. In other words, if you are in Canada as a visitor, for example, you will need to obtain a work permit before operating a business. There are two important programs which offer LMIA exemptions when you apply for the work permit:

If you want to come to Canada to work for yourself or to operate your own business on a temporary basis, Entrepreneurial LMIA exempt category-C11 may be the right option for you. Under this category, you must be able to demonstrate that your business will generate significant economic, social or cultural benefits or opportunities for Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

If you want to establish a Canadian subsidiary, branch or affiliate of a foreign company, and you will be working at a managerial level or you possess specialized knowledge, you may be eligible to apply as an Intra-company transferee (LMIA Exempt category-C12).

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I start a business in Canada if I have an open work permit?

If the open work permit indicates no conditions, then you may work in any occupation in any location in Canada. This includes self-employment. Only people in certain situations are eligible for open work permits, such as spouses of skilled workers or students, international students after they have graduated, and working holiday program participants.

Immigration and Entrepreneurship

As an international student on a study permit, may I start a business?

If you are studying full-time, you may work on- or off-campus during your studies if you are eligible and authorized to do so. If authorized, you may engage in self-employment as long as you comply with the restrictions concerning hours of work during academic sessions. Please note that employment during full-time studies or self-employment on a work permit does not count towards work experience required for your permanent residence application under the Canadian Experience Class.

Can I engage in self-employment if I am in Canada on an employer-specific or “closed” work permit?

No, your authorization to work is restricted to the employer listed on your work permit. To become self-employed, you will need to obtain a separate work permit authorizing your self-employment.

For more information on hiring foreign workers please review the Employer Roadmap.