The question comes up often. Foreign entrepreneurs who want to start a business in Canada wonder if it is possible to create a company while they have the status of a mountain biker or even a closed work permit. For Jérôme Blanchet, co-founder of Conexa, lawyer specializing in immigration, the answer is simple and clear: You cannot engage in any activity other than that defined by the permit.
“Immigration law is very clear about this,” he explains. With a closed work permit, you have the obligation to respect exclusivity for the employer for whom you have obtained the permit. “
With a permit, not everything is allowed
“Open work permits, such as the WHV or sponsorship aimed at spouses or accompanying persons, allow you to work for the employer of your choice and even to set up your business,” confirms Mr. Blanchet. But these activities are permitted on a temporary basis, until your permit expires. Thereafter, it is necessary to plan its renewal. “
The Working Holiday Permit was created following international agreements. With the spirit of the open work permit, it eventually allows you to create a self-employed job or a business. “But beware,” Jérôme Blanchet recalls, “while it offers great freedom, we must not forget that the WHV is temporary. “Lasting two years for the French, it is limited to one year for Belgians and Luxembourgers. “If you are aiming for permanent residence,” he adds, “you have to prepare and plan ahead. The PVT does not offer any insurance for the long term. And with the new rules, things get more complex. “
With a closed work permit, the only possibility to start a business would be to work for it. “Among the possibilities of the closed work permit, there is the possibility of opening a branch of an already existing company,” explains the co-founder of Conexa. You will therefore have to launch and continue the activities of your branch. But you will not be able to have any other professional activity. And if one day you have to go out of business, you will no longer have status. “
“Another thing to note, insists Jérôme Blanchet, if you start your business before obtaining permanent residence, you cannot count on years of self-employment to qualify for the PEQ (Quebec Experience Program). “
There is also a specific program for self-employed workers. This allows qualified immigrants to obtain permanent residence and to create their own job upon arrival. “Note that there is currently no quota limiting the number of self-employed Francophones, which means that this is a beautiful avenue, easy to access,” says Mr. Blanchet.
> Read the article “Canada, home to digital nomads” on the program for self-employed foreign workers
Mistakes to avoid when setting up as an entrepreneur in Canada
Jérôme Blanchet has supported many young entrepreneurs on their immigration journey. He warns future candidates against frequent mistakes.
• “When the work permit or the WHV expires, you no longer have status. You are in immigration limbo and it is difficult to regain a good status, especially when more than 90 days have passed. Plan ahead and avoid going past the expiration dates before renewing your status at all costs. “
• “Be careful not to go to the wrong program based on your goals. For me, it seems clear to me that the WHV is not the right vehicle for an entrepreneur or a self-employed person, even if it is a priori an open work permit offering great freedom “
• “It is impossible to guarantee the speed of obtaining any permit. Beware of promises. ”
However, the immigration lawyer is reassuring. “As a legal representative, we liaise with federal and provincial government authorities for our clients’s immigration files,” he explains. We support them and prepare them before the selection interview if applicable. We are also present to ensure that the process is respected. We follow up on files and advise applicants for immigration throughout the process. “
Jérôme Blanchet also holds an MBA and has entrepreneurial experience that allows him to align his clients’ business projects with the market and local programs. “Beyond permanent residence or work permits,” he continues, “our role is also to support foreign entrepreneurs in their business plan to help them qualify for programs. “
What has the pandemic changed?
In 2020 and 2021, the immigration community has been strongly impacted. There have been complex situations where families have been separated for immigration, status and permit issues. “We had to navigate in the midst of the new programs,” notes Jérôme Blanchet. There have been a lot of situations that have changed along the way. We changed programs, we suspended some of them. The business immigration expert has seen it all. Its role has evolved, but it has saved would-be immigrants a lot of time and money. “Monitoring the situation closely and having the expertise in the field allows us to support our customers with efficiency and serenity,” concludes the co-founder of Conexa with satisfaction.