Canadian work permit alternatives to Owner/Operator for immigrant entrepreneurs

Shelby Thevenot
Published: April 1, 2021

The expedited work permit for immigrant entrepreneurs is no more, here are some other options.

The Owner/Operator category has been removed from the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) as of April 1, 2021. This category allowed applicants to apply for a work permit without having to do the advertising requirement of the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

There have been more changes affecting immigrant entrepreneurs this year. As of January 1, Canada is not processing U.K. applicants under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) Investors. Instead, they are being processed under the new Canada-UK Trade Continuity Agreement.

In order to start a business in Canada, foreign nationals need to get a work permit. The right work permit for you may depend on where you're from, your role in the company, or what kind of impact your business will have on the Canadian labour market.

Get help with Canadian work permits

Intra-Company Transfer

The Intra-Company Transfer work permit is for entrepreneurs who want to expand an existing foreign business into Canada. This program is usually used by multinational corporations to move management and key staff between international branches, but it can also be an option for entrepreneurs who want to move to Canada.

Through this work permit, business owners can divide their time between managing their current overseas business and opening their Canadian branch, subsidiary, or affiliate.

Some of the basic eligibility criteria are as follows:

  • The new Canadian business must pass a viability test by providing their financial information, evidence that physical premises have been secured, and a business plan that creates at least one Canadian job opportunity in the first year.
  • The foreign company and the Canadian businesses must be related in terms of their ownership structure, which means they must have either a parent-branch, parent-subsidiary, or affiliate relationship.
  • The person being transferred to manage the new Canadian business must have been employed by the foreign business looking to transfer them for at least one year in a similar full-time senior, managerial, or executive position.

CUSMA Investor

Citizens of the U.S. or Mexico who invest in new or existing businesses in Canada may be eligible to apply for a work permit under the Canada-United-States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) Investor program. Eligible investors, majority shareholders, or sole owners can use this program to develop and direct their business from inside Canada.

To apply, the investor must prepare a business plan with details of the total capital required to establish or purchase the business. They also need to show that a significant portion of these funds has already been committed to the project. The business is also expected to generate jobs or other benefits to the local economy.

CETA Investor

European investors who are eligible for the CETA Investor program can stay in Canada for one year without needing an LMIA.

Investors may be eligible if they are employed, in a supervisory or executive position, by an enterprise that will commit a substantial amount of capital to a Canadian business.

Investors need a business plan as well as significant funds already committed to the project.


The Entrepreneurs/self-employed work permit is intended for entrepreneurs who own at least 50 per cent of a Canadian business. It can also apply in cases where the owner of the Canadian business intends to live outside Canada. In such cases, the work permit could be exempt from the need for an LMIA.

These individuals may seek temporary residence or eventual permanent residence. Applicants must demonstrate that their business will be a significant economic, social, or cultural benefit to Canadians.

Get help with Canadian work permits

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