Over the course of the past several years I have noticed a steady increase in the number of what I call digital nomads seeking to immigrate to Canada. These individuals, often avid readers of Tim Ferris’s The Four Hour Work Week, typically work from home. They are hyper efficient, and through delegation and automation can accomplish in twenty hours what most people take forty hours to do. They work on contract, often with multiple employers, or are self-employed. While they have skills that would make them very marketable in the Canadian labour force, most do not want to give up the freedom that they have built just to obtain permanent residency.
The question that they all have is simple. Can they immigrate to Canada without having to become an employee?
Economic Immigration Programs Specifically for Entrepreneurs
Most Canadian economic immigration programs discourage self-employment. For example, in the Canadian Experience Class, self-employment in Canada does not count towards the one-year work experience requirement. In Express Entry, meanwhile, self-employment does not earn any points for Canadian work experience. Most skills-based provincial nomination programs also prohibit independent contractor work, and even set caps on what percentage of a Canadian business a prospective immigrant can own in order to qualify as a skilled immigrant.
There are, however, a few exceptions to this. The Self-Employed Class, for example, allows individuals who in the past five years have two one-year periods of self-employment in cultural or athletic activities to apply for permanent residence in Canada if they intend to be self-employed in Canada. Examples of cultural and athletics include music teachers, actors, athletes, painters, film makers, freelance journalists, choreographers, coaches and trainers. In recent years YouTube celebrities have started applying under the program, and absent changes in the future it is likely the Self-Employed Class will expand to include professional Instagrammers,Read more ›
Section 207.1 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (the “IRPR”) states that (modified for ease of reading):
207.1 (1) A work permit may be issued under section 200 to a foreign national in Canada if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the foreign national is experiencing or is at risk of experiencing abuse in the context of their employment in Canada and if they
(a) hold a work permit; or
(b) previously held a work permit, have applied for a renewal of that permit and are authorized to work in Canada under implied status.
Family member of vulnerable worker
(2) A work permit may be issued to a foreign national in Canada who is a family member of a person described in paragraph (1)(a) or (b).
In other words, temporary foreign workers in Canada who are experiencing, or have experienced abuse, can apply for open work permits. People who have engaged in unauthorized work or have not complied with employment conditions are not excluded from the program.
The objectives of IRPR r. 207.1 are to:
- provide migrant workers who are experiencing abuse, or who are at risk of abuse, with a distinct means to leave their employer;
- mitigate the risk of migrant workers in Canada who are leaving their job and working irregularly (that is, without authorization) as a result of abusive situations
- facilitate the participation of migrant workers who are experiencing abuse, or who are at risk of abuse, in any relevant inspection of their former employer, recruiter or both; and
- help migrant workers in assisting authorities, if required (noting that this is not required for the issuance of the open work permit),
To be a member in the Self-Employed Class, an applicant must have a minimum of two years of experience in cultural activities, athletics, or the purchase and management of a farm (for applications received before March 10, 2018), during the period beginning five years before the date of application for a permanent resident visa and ending on the day a determination is made in respect of the application.
The experience can consist of either two one-year periods of experience in self-employment in cultural activities, two one-year periods of experience in participation at a world class level in cultural activities, or a combination of one-year periods in the two.
The experience can also consist of either two one-year periods of experience in self-employment in athletics, two one-year periods of experience in participation at a world class level in athletics, or a combination of one-year periods in the two.
What is Self-Employment?
The Self-Employed Class section of the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website does not describe what self-employment is.
However, the Canadian Experience Class section of the website provides the following:
Determining an applicant’s employment status
Applicants under the CEC must satisfy a CIC officer that they meet all program requirements [R87.1]. Any period of self-employment shall not be included in calculating the period of qualifying work experience under the CEC [R87.1(3)(b)]. As such, the CEC requires that applicants demonstrate they acquired skilled work experience in Canada through authorized employment by a third party.
As provided for in the CEC Document Checklist, principal applicants are requested to provide documentary evidence of their work experience in Canada through a combination of: a copy of their most recent work permit (unless they are work-permit exempt), copies of their most recent T4 tax information slips and Notice of Assessment (NOA) issued by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or a sufficient combination of other supporting documentation,Read more ›