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Immigration Corner | How to set up a business in Canada

Published:Tuesday | June 4, 2019 | 12:08 AM
Deidre Powell
Deidre Powell

Dear Miss Powell,

I read in one of your articles that it is easy to set up business in Canada. I’m a businessman in my country and I would like to set up a business in Ontario. May I have some guidance please? Thanks in advance.


Dear KL,

The Canadian government and all province are welcoming to people who are eager to establish businesses. Your approach will no doubt depend on your status in Canada, the type of business, the amount of money you have for investment, among other things.


If you are not a resident or citizen of Canada, to establish a business you will need to have the support of an individual who is at least 18 years old or a corporation with its registered office in Ontario. This individual or corporation would need to be registered as your agent. You will be required to register your business as an extra provincial corporation.

Before applying to register your business in Ontario, you would need to do an Ontario-based NUANS name search report. This is a very important step. A NUANS search is required is to ensure that the proposed business name is available for use and not used by other people as a trademark or a corporate name.

Another requirement could be that you present an original Certificate of Status issued by the government of your home jurisdiction, if you are looking to establish a branch or subsidiary of a company that is already established in your home company. Essentially, as a non-resident/citizen, your options are limited.

Resident/Citizen of Canada

If you are not a resident or citizen of Canada, you could also take steps to become a permanent resident based on your education, language skills and work experience and the amount of funds you have, to name a few requirements. If you are living in Canada, there are many more options available to you.

Options to become a permanent resident and ultimately citizen may be available to you. You may be eligible under the Federal Skilled Worker Programme, Federal Skilled Trades Programme or under the Provincial Nominee Programme.

Many entrepreneurs have gained permanent residence under the Start up Visa and Self-employed persons category. The critical factors are that you will need to provide proof of language skills, educations, skill and experience in the area that you are looking to establish.

Many individuals such as athletes and cultural performers have been able to get permanent residence by demonstrating that they are able to make a valuable contribution in Canada. Additionally, if you have experience and funds to buy or invest or manage a farm in Canada, you could apply to Immigration Refugee and Citizenship Canada to grant you permanent residence.

Types of Business

There are essentially four main types of businesses that can be established in Ontario. They are the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation and the cooperative.

If you live in Canada, you may set up a small business and get a master business licence to sell product or services. You should bear in mind the various requirements and risks associated with each type of business and therefore should choose the one which will most satisfy your needs and which you can manage.

If you are interested in establishing a corporation, you should be aware that the Canada Business Corporations Act requires that at least 25 per cent of the directors must be resident Canadians. If you have less than four directors, at least one must be a resident.

Additionally, you will need to decide if you are going to register your business provincially or federally.

The above is just to help you to start a conversation with an authorised Canadian lawyer with experience in both immigration and business law.

Deidre S. Powell is an immigration lawyer, mediator and notary public with office in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Submit your questions and comments to or call 613.695.8777/ 876.922.4092. You can also find her at, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.