Can a Non-Citizen Start a Business in Canada?

It stands to reason that recent immigrants in Canada hope to take advantage of the country’s prosperous opportunities. However, many are unsure if they can legally open a business in Canada without first becoming a citizen. And applying for Canadian citizenship is often a costly and time-consuming process, despite the many benefits one may reap once their application is approved.

Office buildings in Canada

If you’re currently awaiting your approval or you’re not ready to move forward with your application quite yet, you will probably be pleased to learn that you are completely capable of starting your own business in Canada without being a citizen. Here’s how.

Canada’s open business environment

Canada is a diverse and progressive country with many opportunities to grow, prosper, and build your wealth. There are few first-world countries where immigration is celebrated quite so openly and diversity is so deeply immersed in the cultural mosaic. Outperforming all the other G7 countries, this year Canada ranked as the seventh happiest nation in the world. That’s only six places behind Norway and Denmark, which consistently skyrocket to the top of the list.

Whether you are expanding a foreign business or starting from scratch as a self-employed entrepreneur, you can make use of Canada’s many fantastic opportunities for entrepreneurship, so long as you establish professional connections with Canadian citizens and register your business appropriately in the correct province.

Methods and strategies

There are a few ways to pivot into the Canadian business market without having citizenship, and the method you will use depends greatly on your intentions and your previous business model. For instance, if you intend to start a brand new Canadian business, you may need to set up a partnership or corporation with a Canadian citizen in order to establish Canadian roots.

Consider an American four-star chef opening a restaurant in Toronto. Whether they’re famous or not, they would still need to partner with a Canadian citizen in order to obtain a business license. And it would help their case a great deal if they support the domestic economy by purchasing from Canadian restaurant supply companies. The benefits of allying with a Canadian citizen are numerous. Your professional network quickly grows and your business roots in Canada make your citizenship application stand out from the crowd.

Alternatively, you might be trying to expand your existing foreign business into the Canadian market. Perhaps you’re a business owner south of the border or across the pond who is interested in opening a Canadian subsidiary. If you are shifting your foreign business into the Canadian market, you will need to register the business as an extra-provincial corporation. To do this, you will be required to find an Agent of Service with Canadian citizenship to vouch for you.

Challenges of starting a Canadian business

The challenges of launching a business in Canada are similar to those faced by Canadian citizens themselves. It’s a daunting process even if you’ve lived here your entire life. Whether you are a citizen or a non-citizen, you will need to prepare a business model, come up with a great original business name, register a business license, find financing (many people use private or bank loans), and prepare for the possibility of failure.

Yes, many startups fail within the first year. Few succeed overnight. The first few years are likely to be challenging in many ways and just because you think your business model is flawless, there may be unexpected obstacles along the way that sink your profit margins. Don’t give up; entrepreneurship is always a difficult ride, but the payoff is ultimately worth every struggle.


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