Canadian immigration implications of being self-employed

Julia Hornstein
Published: July 30, 2023

You may be self-employed and still be eligible for Canadian immigration streams. Most economic immigration streams require proof of at least a year’s worth of work.

Discover if You Are Eligible for Canadian Immigration

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) uses the National Occupational Classification (NOC) system to evaluate if the work experience of a candidate meets the criteria of the program they are applying for.

If you wish to apply to a skilled worker program, you may be able to count your overseas self-employed work experience towards the eligibility criteria of the program you are applying to. IRCC accepts various forms of evidence you were self-employed, such as articles of incorporation, evidence of self-employment income, and documentation from third parties indicating the service provided and payment details.

If you would like to pursue immigration to Canada via a dedicated self-employed program, there are also many options available to you.

The Federal Self-Employed Persons Program

The Federal Self-Employed Persons Program allows eligible self-employed foreign nationals with relevant experience in cultural activities or athletics to establish themselves in Canada as permanent residents. Candidates for the program must have the experience, intention and ability to make a “significant contribution” to Canada’s cultural life or sports.

To be eligible for the program, candidates need at least two years of working experience of self-employed working experience or participation in a world-class level in cultural or athletics as defined by IRCC.

Eligibility is determined by a minimum cut off score of 35 on a points grid that assesses language ability, education, age, experience, and adaptability.

Quebec’s Self-Employed Worker Immigration Program

The Quebec Self-Employed Worker Program grants eligible individuals the opportunities to get permanent residence if they can effectively establish themselves as an independent tradesperson or professional in the province.

In addition to meeting the requirements for the program, the Quebec government says the self-employed worker must:

  • Choose the means of work performance;
  • Organize the work;
  • Provide the required tools and equipment;
  • Carry out most of the specialized duties; and
  • Collect the profits and support the loss risks resulting from the work.

In order to be eligible, you must be at least 18 years of age. In addition, self-employed workers in Montreal must register a start-up deposit of $50,000 or more at a local financial institution, while candidates based outside Montreal must deposit at least $25,000.

All candidates must have a passing score under the Quebec Economic Class selection grid for the program. Candidates are awarded up to 99 points (112 if accompanied by a spouse or common-law partner) for factors including education, professional experience, language proficiency in English and French, family in Quebec, age, financial self-sufficiency, amount of deposit and financial resources.

Physician self-employment

IRCC and the Government of Canada recently made it easier for doctors to come to Canada. Some physicians were facing barriers to accessing permanent residence through Canada’s Express Entry programs for skilled workers as the “fee for service” model used in Canada for health care professionals was outside the traditional employer-employee model. As a result, some physicians were considered self-employed and unable to meet the eligibility criteria for these immigration streams.

In September of 2022, IRCC announced that they were exempting physicians who worked in a fee-for-service model from current requirements, providing physicians with access to Canada’s economic permanent residence programs. This allows a greater number of physicians to fill crucial job vacancies in Canada’s health care sector and allow them to stay in Canada permanently.

Work permit options for self-employed persons

Many self-employed persons will first enter Canada by obtaining a temporary work permit. This can be beneficial in the long term, as many economic immigration programs require work experience in Canada, so having this experience can support a later application for Canadian permanent residency.

A self-employed work permit is an option for entrepreneurs who are the sole or majority owner of a Canadian business or the owner of the Canadian business does not have a primary residence outside of Canada. In these cases, the work permit could be exempt from the Canadian government’s labor market test, known as the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). The applicant will have to demonstrate their business will be of significant benefit to Canada.

Under the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) citizens of the US or Mexico who invest in new or existing businesses in Canada may be able to apply for Investor work permits to manage their Canadian business. Usually, the investor is the majority shareholder or sole owner of the business in Canada and must prepare a business plan as part of the application.

Under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, citizens of European member states who invest in new or existing businesses in Canada may be eligible to apply for Investor work permits to manage their Canadian business, similar to CUSMA.

Finally, the Intra-Company Transfer work permit is primarily used by corporations when moving key staff between branches, but it can also be well suited for entrepreneurs wishing to start a new business in Canada. The applicant must demonstrate their company’s ability to become established in Canada.

Tax implications of being self-employed

In Canada, income taxes are due for the previous year on April 30th. However, self-employed individuals must file their taxes by June 15th. On the return, they must enter their income from any business they run with themselves or their partner.

Generally, a self-employed individual must register for GST/HST if their revenue is more than $30,000 in one calendar quarter or over the last four consecutive calendar quarters.

A self-employed person must fill out form T2125, the Statement of Business or Professional Activities, in addition to reporting their income on the T1 General. The T2125 also provides self-employed Canadians with the opportunity to deduct allowable expenses from their gross income to lower taxable income, so they pay less in income taxes.

Discover if You Are Eligible for Canadian Immigration

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