Owner-Operator Work Permits

Foreign nationals wishing to come to Canada to operate a business can apply for a work permit under the Significant Benefit – Entrepreneurs/Self-employed category. Frequently, this category is referred as the “Owner-Operator work permit”.

To qualify for an Owner-Operator work permit, a foreign national must demonstrate that they:

  • Own at least 50% of the business;
  • Their admission to Canada to operate a business will generate significant economic, social or cultural benefits for Canada, or will provide opportunities for Canadians or permanent residents, such as employment or a unique service;
  • Have a viable business opportunity that will benefit Canada and the Canadian population;
  • Have a skill set or experience that will improve the feasibility of the business;
  • Have taken measures to put their business plan in place – such as financing, leasing office space, and obtaining a business number with Canada Revenue Agency; and
  • Have filed an Offer of Employer (Employer Compliance) application with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (Immigration Canada).

If a foreign national owns less than 50% of the company, it is recommended that they obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) as an employee of the company. In addition, if there are multiple owners of the business, only one owner will be allowed to obtain an Owner-Operator work permit. 

A foreign national applying for an Owner-Operator work permit can have the dual intent of coming to Canada for a temporary basis (to operate a business), as well as to eventually immigrate to Canada and become a permanent resident.  If a foreign national does have this dual intent, they will have to demonstrate to the officer reviewing the work permit application that they are willing to leave Canada at the end of their temporary stay, if required to do so.