Last Updated on August 10, 2021 by Steven Meurrens

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s (“IRCC”) International Mobility Program contains Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”) exemption code C-11, titled Canadian interests – Significant benefit – Entrepreneurs/self-employed candidates seeking to operate a business. The exemption falls under Regulation 205(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.

According to the IRCC website, the eligibility requirement can be divided into those who seek permanent residence and those who don’t.

For those who seek permanent residence, an applicant must:

  • be an actual or potential provincial nominee undertaking business activities or be a Quebec-destined entrepreneur or self-employed person issued a Quebec Selection Certificate (a “CSQ”); and
  • have a letter of support from the province or territory (this letter of support should count towards evidence that their admission to Canada to operate a business may create significant economic, social or cultural benefit to Canada) or a request from the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion (MIDI) requesting early entry.

For those who do not seek permanent residence, an applicant must:

  • demonstrate that their admission to Canada to operate their business would generate significant economic, social or cultural benefits or opportunities for Canadian citizens or permanent residents.  Benefits to Canadian clients of a self-employed worker may be considered in this case, particularly if the worker is providing a unique service.;
  • satisfy an officer that they have the ability and willingness to leave Canada at the end of the temporary period authorized; and
  • will have the incentive to depart Canada when their work is complete or the business closes.

Some of the factors in determining whether there will be a significant benefit include:

  • Is the work likely to create a viable business that will benefit Canadian or permanent resident workers or provide economic stimulus?
  • Does the applicant have a particular background or skills that will improve the viability of the business?
  • Is there a business plan that clearly shows that the applicant has taken steps to initiate their business?
  • Has the applicant taken some measure to put the business plan in action (showing evidence of having the financial ability to begin the business and pay expenditures, renting space, having a staffing plan, obtaining a business number, showing ownership documents or agreements, etc.)?

Indicators of “significant benefit” include:

  • general economic stimulus (such as job creation, development in a regional or remote setting or expansion of export markets for Canadian products and services);
  • advancement of the Canadian industry (such as technological development, product or service innovation or differentiation or opportunities for improving the skills of Canadians).

Degree of ownership

According to the IRCC website, the issuance of work permits for entrepreneurs should be considered only when the applicant controls at least 50% of the business in question.  Where an individual is a partial owner with a slightly smaller stake and is coming to work in the business, they are required to apply for a work permit as an employee (rather than as an entrepreneur or self-employed person) and may therefore require LMIA.

If there are multiple owners, only one owner is generally eligible for a C-11 work permit.

Duration

C-11 work permits are issued for a maximum of two years.

Renewals

The IRCC website states that applicants who have repeatedly been issued work permits over several years in the self-employed or entrepreneur category should, in addition to satisfying the indicators of general economic stimulus, be able to provide evidence of the following:

  • registration of their business as a legal entity in Canada;
  • demonstration that the profits of the business remain predominantly in Canada or proof that other significant benefits have accrued to Canada;
  • proof that all appropriate federal, provincial or territorial and local tax returns have been filed; and
  • proof that will leave Canada at the end of the period authorized for their stay.

As well, provincial nominees must provide a letter of continued support from the province or territory.

Weight of Provincial Letters of Support

In Shang v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2021 FC 633, Madam Justice Kane determined that if a visa officer is to refuse a provincial nominee’s work permit application, and that provincial nominee presented a work permit support letter, then the decision will be unreasonable if an officer does not explain why they are not giving significant weight to the provincial nomination.

As the internal exchange at IRCC demonstrates, IRCC does not consider a province’s determination of a significant benefit binding.

Starting a Business While on a Work Permit

Fishing Guides

Certain fishing guides are eligible for work permits under C-11.

Stats

Below are several statistics regarding C-11 approval rates based on visa office, year and province of destination. :

C-11 Approval Stats
C-11 More Stats
C-11 Stats By Visa Office