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Alternatives to the Owner/Operator LMIA

I had planned to use the owner/operator LMIA to launch my business in Canada but have read that this is no longer a good option. What are my alternatives? Question submitted by Steven R.

The Owner/Operator LMIA was an opportunity for entrepreneurs to work and immigrate to Canada. You could purchase an existing business in Canada or establish a new one. Unfortunately, with its removal from the Temporary Foreign Worker Program back in April of 2021, entrepreneurs are left searching for alternate ways to immigrate to Canada.

You may still request an LMIA to run your own business in Canada, however, this isn't the best option for some.

Below is a breakdown of alternative options for entrepreneurial immigration.

International Mobility Program C11

The C11 Entrepreneur Work Permit was created under the International Mobility Program and is the closest option to the former Owner/Operator LMIA. The C11 allows foreign entrepreneurs and investors to obtain a work permit in Canada as self-employed individuals while being LMIA-exempt. This option has various qualifiers and targets mostly those who have been chosen for the Provincial Nominee Programs as an entrepreneur; those who would like to purchase an existing business or franchise in Canada; and those who would like to start a new business of their own in Canada. There are additional specific requirements, yet this option is the closest alternative to the pre-existing program.

If your application is successful, the original Work Permit will be issued initially for a two-year time frame, with the possibility of extension if your business is financially prosperous.

Intra-Company Transfer

The intra-company category permits international companies to temporarily transfer qualified employees to Canada for the purpose of improving management effectiveness, expanding Canadian exports, and enhancing competitiveness in overseas markets.

Intra-company transferees may apply for work permits under the general provision if they:

  • are currently employed by a multi-national company and seeking entry to work in a parent, a subsidiary, a branch, or an affiliate of that enterprise;

  • are transferring to an enterprise that has a qualifying relationship with the enterprise in which they are currently employed, and will be undertaking employment at a legitimate and continuing establishment of that company (where 18–24 months can be used as a reasonable minimum guideline);

  • are being transferred to a position in an executive, senior managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity;

  • have been employed continuously (via payroll or by contract directly with the company), by the company that plans to transfer them outside Canada in a similar full-time position (not accumulated part-time) for at least one year in the three-year period immediately preceding the date of initial application. Extensions may be granted up to the five- and seven-year maximums referred to in the section Breaks, recaptured time and duration of work permit limit below, and in the section on the categories of work with validity periods that may not be exceeded. Documented time spent outside Canada during the duration of the work permit can be “recaptured” to allow the intra-company transferee five or seven full years of physical presence in Canada.

CUSMA (Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement) Investor

  • CUSMA facilitates temporary entry for business persons who are citizens of the U.S., Mexico, and Canada and who are involved in the trade of goods or services, or in investment activities.

  • CUSMA removes any need for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) for all business persons covered by the Agreement.

  • In the case of a business visitor, it ensures that there is no requirement for a work permit.

  • For professionals that are TRV exempt, it expedites the application process by ensuring an application can be made at the port of entry (POE). Foreign nationals that require a temporary resident visa to enter Canada are still required to apply at a visa office prior to coming to Canada.

Business persons of the CUSMA are grouped under four categories:

  1. Business visitors engage in international business activities related to research and design; growth, manufacture, and production; marketing; sales; distribution; after-sales service; and general service.

  2. Professionals are business persons who enter to provide pre-arranged professional services— either as a salaried employee of a Canadian enterprise, through a contract between the business person and a Canadian employer, or through a contract between the American or Mexican employer of the business person and a Canadian enterprise.

  3. Intra-company transferees are employed by an American or Mexican enterprise in a managerial or executive capacity, or in one which involves specialized knowledge, and are being transferred to the Canadian enterprise, parent, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate, to provide services in the same capacity.

  4. Traders and investors carry on substantial trade in goods or services between the U.S. or Mexico and Canada or have committed, or are in the process of committing, a substantial amount of capital in Canada. Traders and investors must be employed in a supervisory or executive capacity or one that involves essential skills.

CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) Investor

CETA facilitates entry for certain covered business persons who are citizens of Canada and EU member states by removing the requirement for Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs).The agreement covers the three following categories of visitors for business purposes:

  1. Key personnel: including intra-corporate (company) transferees, investors, and business visitors for investment purposes;

  2. Contractual service suppliers and independent professionals; and

  3. Short-term business visitors.

The investor provisions of CETA apply to applicants who:

  • will establish, develop, or administer the operation of an investment in a capacity that is supervisory or executive

  • are the investor

  • are employed by an enterprise that has committed or is in the process of committing a substantial amount of capital

Start-Up Visa

Canada’s Start-up Visa Program targets immigrant entrepreneurs with the skills and potential to build businesses in Canada that:

  • are innovative

  • can create jobs for Canadians

  • can compete on a global scale

To be eligible for the Start-up Visa Program, you must:

  • have a qualifying business

  • get a letter of support from a designated organization

  • meet the language requirements

  • bring enough money to settle

Immigration Station Canada will work with you and guide you through the best process to achieve your goals, wherever they lead!


About Us

Immigration Station Canada is a dedicated, professional Canadian Immigration firm practicing out of Northumberland County, just east of Toronto, Canada. We serve clients from Kingston, Belleville, Brighton, Cobourg, Oshawa, the GTA, Guelph, Milton, Stratford and St. Catharines and around the world. Our Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant, Anne C. McCaughey (Annie) is an experienced immigration services provider and a fifth-generation Canadian who values the immigration process and the unique individuals who immigrate to Canada to become part of the fabric of this wonderful country. If you would like to submit a question to Ask Annie, use the contact form.

How Can We Help? We do work permits, study permits, visitor visas, Express Entry, spousal sponsorship, family class sponsorship, and Canadian citizenship with expertise in Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) applications and Global Talent Stream applications. Please contact us if you would like assistance with your immigration application or to book an appointment.

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