Owner-Operator Program

The owner-operator policy is not a formal immigration program. Rather, it is a work permit issued under the federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). There is no annual quota on the number of work-permits that can be issued.

The latest rules governing new business owners under the TFW program is gaining considerable local and international attention to many foreign business entrepreneurs and investors.

Read more about how wealthy immigrants are turning to temporary work visas to gain entry to Canada.

Why is the Owner-Operator Program Attractive to Foreign Investors?

Current federal permanent immigration programs, although operational on paper, are not attracting interest from foreign investors.

Opportunities under federal investment-based immigration programs are unfortunately very limited in Canada.

Most provincial investment-based residence immigration programs operate under expression of interest scheme. Most candidates must begin with a temporary work permit and then apply for permanent admission once approved by the province. These programs operate under quotas and often require candidates to invest a lot of time and money.

This leaves a large pool of international investors seeking permanent admission to Canada to compete for a relatively small number of quota-based openings under Canada’s provincial business immigration programs.

The Province of Quebec dominates this area with its Quebec Immigrant Investor Program (QIIP). However, this program is quota based and is only suitable for ultra high net worth applicants.

A foreign investor-entrepreneur, motivated to live in a particular area of Canada, can purchase a suitable business and relocate to that area of choice before the permanent residence is granted. This is far more advantageous than trying to meet provincial immigration program requirements in areas of Canada that are not desirable.

Who is an ideal candidate?

To qualify as an owner-operator, the foreign investor must have:

  1. Verifiable, transferable management experience.
  2. Sufficient assets to purchase the targeted business in Canada.
  3. Sufficient language abilities in either English or French to actively work as a manager in the business.
  4. Controlling interest in the business: own more than 50% of the shares and cannot be dismissed

Ownership of shares does not by itself guarantee that a foreign national qualifies as an owner-operator.  The offer of employment must be made to a foreign investor that will be actively engaged in the management of the business.  This will be assessed by reviewing the foreign national’s intention to operate the business as well as prior experience in managing or operating a business.

What is the process?

  1. The foreign investor identifies a Canadian business to purchase.
  2. A Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) is submitted along with a suitable business plan.
  3. Once a positive LMIA opinion is issued, the foreign investor applies for a 12-24 months, renewable temporary work permit at the management level.

How long does this process take?

Once a suitable business is found, it will take 2-3 months to complete the LMIA application process.  It will take less than 3-months in most jurisdictions to receive a work permit.

When can the work permit holder apply for Canadian permanent residence?

There is no minimum wait time.

During the first year of working in Canada, the foreign investor along with immediate family members can apply for permanent residence if they qualify under a suitable program, either the federal Express Entry or a provincial nomination program. In most cases, the process can be completed in less than 12 months.