Best Businesses in Canada For Immigrants

best businesses for immigrants to canada

Originally Published: Sept 24, 2019

Canada is very fortunate to have so many individuals who wish to establish and operate a business who are neither a Canadian Citizen or a Permanent Resident.  We have been assisting individuals for over 25 years to either establish or bring their existing businesses into Canada.

Canada has the 9th highest level of gross domestic product in comparison to the rest of the world with a highly developed market economy along with a very positive and a strong social fabric.  Canada is one of the most inclusive countries in the world and embraces multiculturalism and immigration as something that makes us stronger, with a first class educational system, banking stability, health care benefits for all, safety and above all, Canada is a peaceful, beautiful place to live from the mountains of British Columbia, the incredible scenery in Alberta, the prairies of Saskatchewan,  the history of Quebec, the largest body of freshwater in Ontario, the friendliness and openness of the people of Nova Scotia and the other Maritime Provinces, along with the beauty and natural resources of the Northwest Territories.

Can a Non Citizen or Immigrant Start a business in Canada?

Yes, there are a number of options available in Canada to operate a business when you are not a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident.

The government of Canada has many programs for individuals who wish to immigrate to Canada and start up or operate a business.

Self-Employed Persons
To apply under this program, qualified individuals must have two years of experience within an industry and show a desire to become a business owner within Canada.

The Canadian government provides a selection requirement allowing you to apply under this circumstance.  These include education, experience, age, language skills in English and/or French, and adaptability.

Please review the selection criteria requirements within this link to determine your qualifications for the program:

Are There Mandatory Fund Requirements to Immigrate Under the Self Employment Program?

The fund requirements are determined by the number of individuals within your family you wish to join you in Canada.

For you as the first person to immigrate $12,906
2nd person $16,135
3rd person $19,836
4th person $24.083
5th person $27,316
6th person $30,806
7th person $34,299
Each additional family member above 7 $  3,492

As an example, if you, your spouse and 3 children wish to immigrate to Canada, the financial requirement for 2020 is $27,316.00 Canadian dollars.  Dependent children are required to be under the age of 22 and cannot have a spouse or partner.

To obtain an Application for Permanent Residence with the Canadian government, please go to this link.

start a business

Start-up Visa Program

The requirements for the Start-Up Visa program in Canada are the following:

You must already have a business established in your home jurisdiction where you hold 10% or more of the voting rights of an existing corporation and if there are multiple applications, these applications must hold at least 50% or more of the voting rights.

As a business owner, you agree to provide active and ongoing management of this business from within Canada. The business must be incorporated in Canada and the majority of the operation of the business must be within Canada. You are required to obtain a letter of support from a designated organization within Canada where you have gained approval for either investment or support for the start-up in Canada. The listing of designated organizations are as provided in this link.

You are required to complete a language test for English or French to gain access to Canada. The funds required to come to Canada to continue to operate your business remain the same as what is required as Self Employed Persons. To obtain an application for the Start-Up Visa Program in Canada, here is the link.

Provincial Nominee Program (PNP)

This program is designed between you as an immigrant and the Province where you intend to live and operate your business.  Each Province has different requirements for acceptance within each Province.

The Government of Canada provides information specifically to this program.

No matter what Province you would like to reside within, you will be required to pass a medical exam and obtain a police certificate.

To understand more about the program, you can begin by reviewing the information provided by the Government of Canada through this link.

Where Do People Want to Immigrate to Within Canada?

The two most popular destinations for business opportunities within Canada are the Provinces of Ontario and British Columbia.  These two Provinces have the largest population of immigrant populations where residents within each Province were born in another country.  Ontario has an immigrant population of 3.6 million and British Columbia has an immigrant population of 1.2 million. Whether you want to operate a fast food business, care business, dog training or a huge variety of types of businesses available whether a profit or not for profit business, newcomers have a vast array of business opportunities.


Ontario is an economic hub of Canada having the largest population within Canada of any Province or Territory with the population estimated to be 14.5 million people in 2019, 40% of the overall Canadian population of 37.5 million Canadian.

The age demographic in the Province has 6 million between the ages 20 and 49 with an increasing population from European, South Asian and Middle Eastern, East and South East Asian, African, Latin, Central and South American origins coming into Ontario each and every month.  It is estimated that 120,000 new immigrants come to Toronto, the capital of Ontario each year.

Currently, Ontario’s economy has a wealth of business opportunities from manufacturing with 46% of the overall manufacturing facilities within Canada.  Ontario has a unique combination of innovations, manufacturing, both import and export and a drive for innovation with 50% of all employees in high tech, financial services and additional knowledge intensive industries.  There is a high level of skilled workers within Ontario to assist you in achieving your business opportunities and plans.

Provincial Nominee Program

The Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) assists business owners and entrepreneurs from outside of Canada to apply for permanent residence in Ontario.  The OINP Entrepreneur stream provides information to individuals who wish to start a new business or buy an existing business in Ontario.

Review of Personal Net worth requirements to come into Ontario:
To apply to start your business in Ontario, you must first have a third party review your listing of assets and obtain a verification report.

Start Your Business

When you arrive in Ontario, you must already have a valid temporary work permit and must confirm with Ontario within 7 days of coming to the Province that you have arrived.

Ontario provides you with 20 months to implement your business from the date of arrival and requires that you as the business owner have fulfilled a 10 month full time position with a Canadian employee. You must actively manage your business and be involved in the day to day operation and activities of the business.

Registering Your Business in Ontario

As a new immigrant, you can register a business as a Sole Proprietorship or General Partnership in Ontario as a Master Business Licence, now called a Business Name Registration.  A Sole Proprietorship is a business operated by one person and a General Partnership is available when there are 2 or more individuals operating the same business.

You are not required to be a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident to start this business in Ontario.  It is recommended you have an Ontario address for the physical address of the business but the individual address can be either inside or outside of Canada.

The business registration allows you the opportunity to operate a business in Ontario for a period of 5 years before renewal is required.

If you would like to operate a Sole Proprietorship or General Partnership in Ontario, here is the link to do so:


Incorporate in Ontario

Another option is to incorporate a business in Ontario where the corporation has business name protection, personal liability protection and potential tax advantages.

There is no longer a requirement for the directors of the corporation to be either Canadian Citizens or Permanent Residents.  A sole individual can be the director of an Ontario corporation, even if they are not a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident.


British Columbia

British Columbia is the most western Province in Canada and is on the Pacific Ocean.  It is Canada’s third largest population below Ontario and Quebec with 5.1 million residents with 13% of Canada’s overall population.  The largest city of Vancouver has an estimated population of 700,000. British Columbia (B.C.) is quickly becoming a tech hub for North America with a young, knowledgeable pool of potential employees who are well equipped in both software and hardware development.  The workforce in British Columbia is, in general, less expensive to hire than Ontario. An advantage to Vancouver is its close physical proximity to other tech cities such as San Francisco where Silicon Valley is located and Seattle where both Microsoft and Amazon have their head offices.  British Columbia also has the benefit of being in the same time zone as these American tech hubs.

British Columbia has the second highest population of immigrants to Canada with a significant population from the Sikh community as well as individuals from Hong Kong.  Canadian Sikhs have a population of 500,000 people and are often credited for the beginning of all South Asian immigration to Canada.

To gain further information related to immigrating to British Columbia, the Province has provided extensive information through their Provincial portal.

The Entrepreneur Immigration stream of the BC Provincial Nominee Program (BC PNP) is to assist those who wish to immigrate to the Province of British Columbia as an experienced business owner who can add economic growth and innovation.

Requirements of Personal Net worth requirements to come into British Columbia

You must have a personal net worth of $600,000.00. Have business and or management expertise.

To establish a new business or purchase an existing business, you must have a minimum of $200,000 Canadian to invest in the pursuit of that business and create at minimum one full time position for either a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident to Canada.

The Province of B.C. provides the opportunity to assist you with your business ideas and concepts.

Starting a Business in British Columbia

Registering a Business
You can register a small business in B.C. without requirement for you to be a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident by completing a business registration either as a Sole Proprietorship designed for one owner or Partnership with two or more individual owners.


Incorporation in British Columbia
You can incorporate a business in B.C. without the requirement of any person who is a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident.  This provides you the opportunity to have business name protection, personal liability protection and potential tax advantages without the requirement of any Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident on your board.


Starting a Business anywhere in Canada

Option 1 –  Register a Sole Proprietorship, Proprietorship or General Partnership in Canada

Non-Residents have the opportunity to register a small business in most Provinces and Territories across Canada.  This registration offers the opportunity for an individual or individuals who are landed immigrants to operate a business, open a bank account, advertise, and promote.

What a registered business provides:

  • Allows you to operate a business within a Province or Territory of Canada.  A Canada-wide registration is not available, as these registrations are not available as a Federal entity
  • A business licence valid for 3 or 5 years and in some Provinces continual, where a renewal is not required
  • You can register as a single individual or you may register a partnership with others who are either Canadian citizens or Landed Immigrants

What is required to register a business:

  1. Business Name (some jurisdictions require name approval from the government prior to registration)
  2. Business address (must be a physical address within the Province or Territory of the business)
  3. Legal name of Individual/s
  4. Home address of Individual/s (this address may be foreign to Canada)
  5. Business Activity for the business

Advantages of registering a business
The registration in any jurisdiction in Canada is the easiest and least expensive way to operate a business within Canada.  The business revenues are taxed as part of the individual owners tax return and therefore a secondary tax filing is not required for the business under this format.  The registration is simple to cancel if the business no longer operates.

Disadvantages of registering a business
The business name does not have name protection when registered.  This allows any other business to register or incorporate after you have registered without issue.  The registrations are inflexible, where only a few changes can occur from the original registration without the requirement of a new registration.  The business format is considered small and less likely to receive financial credit. The business owner is personally responsible for any damages, whether personal or property, caused by the business.

Ontario Business Central offers access to register in most Provinces of Canada.  If you would like our assistance, please go to the link that applies to the Province you wish to register within

Ontario Registration
Alberta Registration
British Columbia Registration
Manitoba Registration
Saskatchewan Registration

Option 2 – Incorporate in British Columbia or Ontario, Canada

British Columbia and Ontario are the only Provinces where you can incorporate a company and not be a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident.  To complete a B.C. incorporation, or Ontario incorporation, the head office address for the corporation must be within that Province.  The director or directors of the corporation may have foreign addresses where their home addresses are not within Canada.  If you require an address for the corporation, we recommend contacting a law firm or accounting firm within B.C. or Ontario to establish an address and at the same time have legal or accounting representation within this Province.

Requirements to Incorporate in British Columbia or Ontario

  1. A minimum of one person to list as a director (Canadian or Non-Canadian accepted)
  2. Name of the business to set up, unless you are establishing a numbered incorporation
  3. Address for the corporation within the Province
  4. Directors legal names and addresses.  The directors are not required to have an address within the Province.

Advantages of an Incorporated business

  • Continual existence never needing to be renewed
  • Name protection if named corporation
  • Liability protection where the corporation is a separate entity from the individual/s who own it
  • Tax savings, where a corporation is taxed at a lower tax rate than the individual directors rate when money is maintained within the corporation
  • Viewed as a more serious business than a Sole Proprietorship
  • Has its own credit and accessibility to financial support
  • Hold real estate, stocks, bonds separate from the individual owners

Disadvantages of an Incorporated business

  • More expensive to establish compared to a small business
  • Secondary tax filing required by the corporation and the individuals who operate it
  • Yearly Annual Return filings required by the Provincial Government to update corporate details
  • More administration compared to small business

Option 3 – Incorporate with a Family member or friend

For most jurisdictions across Canada, including the other jurisdictional incorporations we offer including Federal, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, to incorporate, a minimum of 25% of the directors listed are required to be either Canadian Citizens or Permanent Residents.

Often individuals who do not have status in Canada but who wish to operate a business ask either Canadian family members or friends to be listed as a director of their new corporation to gain eligibility. Although this is a viable option, having other individuals listed as directors puts a Non-Resident at risk for many potential problems. In Canada, there are no variations to incorporation or different offerings of setting up a corporation.  As an example, in the United States, you can incorporate either an LLC or S Corporation. In Canada, we have one applicable set up for incorporation.

The same advantages and disadvantages listed for British Columbia and Ontario incorporations are applicable to other jurisdictions with the exception for an individual to be a Non-Resident of Canada to incorporate. If you would like Ontario Business Central to help you in establishing one of the other Incorporation jurisdictions we offer, here are the links to establish your new incorporation:

Federal/Canada Incorporation
Alberta Incorporation
Manitoba Incorporation
Saskatchewan Incorporation

Option 4 – Bring your existing corporation into Canada

If you have or can establish an incorporated company in your existing home jurisdiction outside of Canada, another alternative is to bring that existing corporation into a jurisdiction within Canada where your business will operate.  This allows you to operate a corporation as a Non-Resident where you are required to have an Agent for Service (someone who resides in the Province you establish within who will be responsible for any legal correspondence for the corporation on your behalf).

This application brings the corporation into Canada and not the directors of the corporation. In doing this, you will have a branch office of your existing corporation listed in Canada, there are tax and legal implications to your existing corporation and you may want to gain both legal and accounting professionals before considering this option. The same advantages and disadvantages are applicable to this application as any incorporation in Canada.

Ontario Business Central offers this option in Ontario directly through our website.  If you are intending to establish a branch office of your existing foreign corporation in Ontario, we can assist you by preparing and completing an Extra Provincial Licence. The address for the corporation must be within Ontario and you must have someone in Ontario who will represent the corporation for you as an Agent of Service.

If you would like our assistance to establish an Extra Provincial Licence in Ontario, here is the link to do so:


For assistance with bringing your foreign corporation into another Province or Territory, please contact our office at 1-800-280-1913 to obtain a quote for these services.

Canada is Open For Business to You

Overall, Canada is in the forefront of providing opportunities to immigrant entrepreneurs to come to Canada to either set up a new or existing foreign business. Canada provides the first of its kind coordination between new entrepreneurs from around the world with venture capital here in Canada to provide the support to assisting those who wish to come to Canada with both business ideas and opportunities.

Canada has a strong economic growth along with low corporate and business taxes.  Canada is ranked at No. 1 when it comes to doing business, according to Forbes magazine and is the most tax competitive country out of the G7, according to KPMG.

When it comes to research and innovation, Canada has proven to be a world class leader  in research and development, along with having an incredible pool of highly trained scientific and innovative people.

According to the World Bank, Canada offers a community of a multicultural society where individuals have the highest level of success and the best standard of living within the G-20.  Canada has the highest level of education, qualified work force and above all individual freedom.

Ontario Business Central has been assisting those who wish to start a business since 1992.  We are the industry leader in making dreams a reality when it comes to entrepreneurship in Canada.

If we can be of assistance, please feel free to reach out to our staff for any clarification or assistance you may require.
Toll-Free: 1-800-280-1913
Local: 1-416-599-9009
Fax: 1-866-294-4363
Office Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Monday – Friday E.S.T.

Ontario Business Central Inc. is not a law firm and cannot provide a legal opinion or advice. This information is to assist you in understanding the requirements of registration within the chosen jurisdiction. It is always recommended, when you have legal or accounting questions that you speak to a qualified professional.