• Calver & Associates

The Start-up Checklist: A Roadmap to Starting Your Business in Canada as a Foreigner

In recent years, Canada has become a centre for innovation and entrepreneurship, largely because of the work and ideas of immigrants. However, because each country’s business start-up process is different, I have many clients ask me about what steps they should take to start a business in Canada.


Can I open a business as a foreigner in Canada?


Yes! A 2016 Statistics Canada study found that rates of business ownership and self-employment were higher amongst immigrants than among the Canadian-born population. Small businesses in particular are foundations of Canadian start-up ventures from foreign nationals. Opening up a business in Canada can help with the immigration process, particularly as the applicant can demonstrate how they contribute to the Canadian economy.


Registering Your Business


In Canada, you must register your business and apply for the proper permits and licenses from all three levels of government. Local and provincial regulations may differ. You must obtain a business license to operate in Ontario.


Incorporating a business allows an owner to separate the company’s finances from their personal finances. Business owners in Canada may choose if they want to incorporate federally or provincially. Each offers different levels of protection, geographic scope restricting their business, and cost of incorporation.


Tax Registration

All businesses in Canada must be registered with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) so that taxes may be legally collected. The most common CRA program accounts for businesses include:

  1. GST/HST program account (RT)

  2. payroll deductions program account (RP)

  3. import-export program account (RM)

  4. corporation income tax program account (RC)

  5. registered charity program account (RR)

  6. information returns (RZ)

In Ontario, the Central Production and Verification Services Branch, Ontario Business Information System (ONBIS) will assign you a business identification number (BIN). This is a different number than the one issued by the Canada Revenue Agency.


Business Banking & where to get funding if needed


While there are several methods of funding a new business in Canada, foreign nationals are somewhat limited in their access to this funding. A business will have to be self-funded when immigrating to Canada. However, once you have permanent residence, you can generally access more external funding.




Will starting a business give you Permanent Residency?


Buying or opening a business in Canada as a foreign national is an excellent way to help you immigrate here. It opens up several potential pathways to permanent residence.


We've used the following programs to successfully help business clients come to Canada:


1. Intra-company Transferee or C-11 (significant benefit) Work Permits

The International Mobility Program offers a pathway for both temporary and permanent residence for entrepreneurs and self-employed candidates who seek to operate a business in Canada, C-11 work permits are used to show that you bringing your business to Canada will have significant benefits for the Canadian Economy. ICT work permits are are a great work permit option to entrepreneurs who want to bring their existing business to Canada.


These temporary residency programs allow the business owner to access a work permit in Canada, which allows them to come to Canada on a temporary work permit, we usually then use the Express Entry system to transition our business clients to permanent residency.


2. Provincial Nominee Programs

The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) is a province-specific pathway intended for foreign workers who have the experience and skills to contribute to the economy of the province or territory they seek to live in. This is a path towards permanent residency and there are specific streams for business people in each province.


3. Start-Up Visa

The Start-up Visa Program creates an opportunity for foreigners to immigrate to Canada so that they may build their businesses here, contributing to the economy, creating jobs, and expanding the market. Creating a business plan to pitch your business idea to a designated entity with the intention of meeting Start-Up Visa requirements is a wise first step in this process.


4. Self-employed

The Self-employed Persons Program is for self-employed foreigners looking to make a significant contribution to the cultural or athletic life of Canada by immigrating. Both programs grant permanent residence to successful applicants.

Can you hire other international employees?


Once your business has officially been properly registered, it is just like any other Canadian business in the eyes of the government. A business owner in Canada is welcome to hire both Canadians and foreign workers as employees. They may use the regular Temporary Foreign Worker program, as well as ICT work permits, and other LMIA exemptions to bring international workers to Canada to work at their business.

Our Services


Calver and Associates is a leading provider of Canadian Immigration services in Durham Region. We serve clients across Canada and internationally. Our Registered Canadian Immigration Consultant has over 10 years of experience in Canadian Immigration law and over four years of experience serving those in Canada and internationally.


We can assist with applications for both temporary and permanent residency in Canada. We handle applications for study permits, permanent residency, family class sponsorship, visitor visas, work permits, and Canadian citizenship. We also handle criminal inadmissibility cases by developing remedies for refusal.



Coming this August: Moving To Canada - 2021's Guide to Life in Canada.


I’ve written this guide to help you with the big picture planning, detailing everything you need to know and do before, during and after this amazing process. We have some exciting surprises coming your way.








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