Foreign nationals who are seeking to work for a business that they are establishing or purchasing in Canada can consider a work permit under the Owner/Operator Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) category. This has always been a hidden path with not so much information given on government outlets, being Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) or Employment Social Development Canada (ESDC)’s websites. The guidelines on Owner/Operator LMIA were issued first on ESDC bulletin in April 2011 and further new guidelines were introduced by the government on this category.
While in the normal course an employer would need to undertake extensive advertising and recruitment efforts before applying for LMIA, the Owner/Operator category is subject to advertisement and recruitment exemption. The key threshold in reviewing LMIA applications under this category remains similar to all other LMIA cases, which is creating “neutral or positive effect” on the Canadian labour market. To qualify for this category, applicants must demonstrate:
- They have a controlling interest in the business, most commonly by being either a sole proprietor or majority shareholder holding at least 50.1% of shares
- Their role in Canada will benefit Canadian citizens and permanent residents through job creation/retention, skills transfer, etc.
- They cannot be dismissed and their role is fundamental to carry on the business in Canada
To issue a positive Owner/Operator LMIA, ESDC doesn’t focus much into the skills of the candidate, but mostly into the business proposal. That’s mainly why it is critical to provide a detailed business plan as well as detailed description of how the owner/operator will be involved in the day-to-day operations of the business and contribute to job creation and skill transfer to the benefit of the Canadian labour market.
Note that there is no minimum investment required to apply for this category, but in reality, sometimes the purchase of a business is conditional on issuance of the work permit. In such cases, the officer might closely scrutinize the genuineness of the foreign national’s intent to purchase and operate the business. To this end, it will be helpful to provide a conditional share purchase agreement to strengthen the application. Also, at the time of filing application all the required licences and registration for operating the business must be obtained or in process and the location in Canada must be identified or at least secured.
As mentioned earlier in this article, the owner/operator LMIA hasn’t been the most accessible category of LMIA on the government websites. However, this category exists and might be very appealing to foreign entrepreneurs who would like to explore their business venture in Canada and start their activities sooner than later.