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Immigration Corner | How can I migrate to Canada?

Published:Tuesday | October 6, 2020 | 6:21 AM
Deidre S. Powell
Deidre S. Powell

Dear Ms Powell,

I would like to immigrate to Canada with my family as a self-employed individual. How can I qualify? How much money will I need? Is there a language restriction? I don’t speak French. Do I need to speak French? I look forward to your response.

– H.H .

Dear H.H.,

Entrepreneurs, business people and self-employed individuals may have an opportunity to live permanently in Canada if they are able to satisfy the requirements of the federal government of Canada and, in some cases, satisfy the requirements of the province of interest.

There are two most popular programmes: the self-employed programme and the start-up visa programme. You must be able to clearly demonstrate that you are able to meet the criteria for each, and pass the medical and security tests.


To qualify, you must first demonstrate that you meet the definition of a self-employed person in accordance with the immigration rules. Individuals who would qualify under this category are usually athletes and persons who have taken part in cultural activities at a world-class level.

Qualifying under the category of ‘cultural activities’ require individuals with experience as craftspeople, sculptors, creative designers, painters, musicians, creative and performing arts, authors and writers, and some jobs in motion picture, to name a few. A full list of qualifying activities and occupations are available on the government’s website.

The critical thing to prove is that you can make a significant contribution in Canada in your area of expertise.

Like most of the programmes, you will be assessed and selected based on the number of points you can accumulate. Self-employed persons must get a minimum of 35 points based on the selection grid. This means that when an application is submitted, Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada will consider factors based on the individual’s experience, education, age, adaptability, and other factors.

One of the key factors is language skills and ability. Individuals will be required to demonstrate competence in either English or French, or both. You do not need to speak French, but your ability to speak French will give you additional points in the application process.

Your experience will be critical to this application. You must be able to show that the experience being relied on is within the last five years before your application is submitted. You must provide evidence that you have a minimum of two one-year periods being self-employed in cultural activities, or one-year periods participating at a world-class level in cultural activities, or a combination of both. Individuals with three to five years’ experience will get the most points.

There is no set amount of money that is required when applying as a self-employed individual. However, you must be able to clearly demonstrate to a visa officer that you have enough money to settle in Canada with your family and to finance the work you plan to do in Canada.


The Start-up Visa Program was designed to attract immigrant entrepreneurs/business people with the requisite skills and potential to build businesses in Canada. These businesses must be geared to creating job/employment for other Canadians, be innovative, productive, and demonstrate a clear potential to compete on the world market.

The programme is supported by various organisations and provinces. Individuals who are interested in the province of Quebec must apply directly to the province to qualify under their own business immigration programme.

A critical part of the application process is to have a qualifying business, get your proposal to be accepted by a designated organisation or business group that will access the viability of your proposal and your resources to fulfil your goals. You must present a detailed plan, proof of education, skills, experience and resources so that they can access its potential for success globally.

Once you have satisfied one of the designated organisations that your innovation or plan is feasible, you will get a ‘letter of support’. This is a critical part of the application process, as this letter is proof that the organisation has vetted and approved your project and is a signal for the government to now proceed to the next level of the application process. The next level is the verification of education, skills, language ability, medical and security checks, plus other evaluations.

The above is not an exhaustive list. Canada has various economic programmes available that may be utilised by individuals, based on their ability to clearly demonstrate that they can integrate and make a valuable contribution to the Canadian economy. To find out which programme is best for you and your family, I strongly recommend that you contact an immigration lawyer to get a personal assessment of your background and assist you with choosing the best programme for you.

Deidre S. Powell is a Canadian immigration lawyer with office located in Ottawa, Ontario. Send your questions and comments to Connect with her on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram, or via