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Business Immigration Canada

Three Reasons to Get Excited about Ontario's Entrepreneur Stream Immigration Program

Three Reasons to Get Excited about Ontario's Entrepreneur Stream Immigration Program

The Government of Canada has now effectively killed off all of its Investor and Entrepreneur immigration programs. Business immigration programs are very cyclical, and occasionally have an almost flavour of the month nature. So old programs getting shut down and new programs opening up isn't really huge news. But because federally speaking we're not seeing any new business programs on the horizon in the immediate future - likely because of the new government's commitment to reduce what have become horrific immigration application processing backlogs for all types of programs - one needs to look to what are known as provincial nominee programs (PNP) for open investor and entrepreneur immigration doors. 

Not so long ago, only Quebec ran a PNP program. Manitoba was the first of the other provinces and territories to realize that attracting quality immigrants who were a good "fit" with provincial economic and social requirements could be greatly in the public interest. Ontario is one of the last provinces to move into the PNP world, likely because it already received the lion's share of Canadian immigration without its own PNP programs. But it now seems to have realized that having some control over immigration policy at a provincial level would better enable implementation of provincial economic and social priorities.

Although there's currently no Investor PNP immigration program in Ontario taking new applications, there is an interesting Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) Entrepreneur Stream that was announced in 2015. I recently chatted with the friendly folks running the program at the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade, who informed me that it has yet to make its first selection "draw" inviting those who have submitted expressions of interest to make formal applications, but that multiple periodic draw are contemplated in the future once the program had worked out any growing pains, including the possibility of applying online (currently paper is still required). 

Ontario's Entrepreneur Stream follows a growing trend in PNP programs where prospective immigrants need to first submit an "expression of interest," there is then a "draw" from amongst the best point scored expressions of interest where the winners are invited to submit formal official applications to the Ontario Government, and upon approval of those applications the potential immigrants have a couple of years to fulfill all of the business establishment conditions. Once an approved business is sufficiently established, Ontario recommends the immigrant to the Federal government, who then undertakes its own application and review process possibly leading to permanent residency status be granted. The reason to start with expressions of interest appears to be to avoid getting overwhelmed by wholly inadequate applications that still must be completely processed to the bitter end. 

There are lots of strings attached to Ontario's Entrepreneur Sream, but it remains one of the few currently viable options for business immigration in Canada, and truly the only option if the business is planned to be in Ontario. There are very few limitations on the type of business to be established. Particularly notable features are that personal net worth and value of investment to be made in the business requirements are only at 50% levels outside the Greater Toronto Area as they are within Toronto. This program is for true businesspeople who are interested in running a business hands on in day to day operations, not for passive investors. Business experience is required. And working knowledge of English or French (at an intermediate level) is also needed.

Reasons to get excited about the program include: 

1. Only 2 new full time jobs need to be created in the business. 

2. Very few types of businesses are excluded from the program - an odd assortment of tire orscrap recycling, pawnbrokers, laundromats, car washes, and payday loans. If you're in Toronto, you also can't have an existing franchise, a gas station or a bed and breakfast. 

3. For businesses outside of Toronto, only a quite reasonable personal net worth of $800,000 and business investment of $500,000 is required (in Toronto, $1.5 million net worth and $1 million business investment is needed). 

As a private practice lawyer who used to practice in the GTA, but is now happily based in Eastern Ontario, I can anecdotally suggest that there are lots of economically healthy regions of Ontario in which to start businesses that don't include Toronto. Indeed, being outside Toronto might even mean your business has a comparative advantage, because it will be starting in a less competitive environment, with lower overhead costs, and sometimes a greater available pool of skilled labour. Rural and small urban communities throughout Ontario should particularly be thinking about the Entrepreneur Stream program as an aid to their economic development if they're able to partner with immigrant entrepreneurs.