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Foreign nationals with entrepreneurship experience can immigrate to Quebec as business owners under the Quebec Entrepreneur Program (or QEP). If candidates choose to apply for the QEP by starting a business, they can either do so on their own or with one or more partners. They may also purchase an existing business that currently operates in the province.

However, the QEP is not the only immigration path for foreign entrepreneurs. In this article, we’ll be exploring all of the options on the table, including everything you need to know about the QEP.

Options to Immigrate to Canada as an Entrepreneur

If you’re not limited to Quebec as your destination, several programs exist to help people immigrate to Canada as an entrepreneur. Here are a few of the more popular options:

Canadian start-up visa program

If you want to start a business from the ground up and create jobs while you’re at it, choosing Canada as your location can earn you permanent residency.

Immigrant Investor Venture Capital class

This program is for high net worth foreigners (minimum of $10 million) who are able to make an investment of $2 million dollars. Applicants who are accepted into the program will receive permanent residency.

The Self-employed Persons Program

If you are experienced in the field of cultural activities or athletics and want to settle in Canada, you may be eligible for permanent residency through this visa. Please note that as of March 10, 2018, the government stopped accepting new applications under the farm management stream.

How difficult is it to qualify?

QEP applicants can enter the program by way of two separate streams. Here’s what makes them different.

Stream 1

  • For applicants who are starting up new businesses
  • Applicants must be supported by an accelerator, incubator, or university entrepreneurship center
  • The business can be run by an individual or group of partners
  • The partners can be Canadian or foreign
  • If there are foreign partners in the mix, there can be a maximum of three partners on board

Stream 2

  • Includes both new and purchased businesses
  • Applicants must control at least 25% of a new company’s shares, or 51% of an acquired company’s shares
  • Applicants must play an active managerial or operational role
  • Companies located outside the Greater Montreal Area (GMA): minimum capital investment of $200,000
  • Companies located inside the GMA: minimum capital investment of $300,000
  • Applicants must prove they have a net worth of at least $900,000 (on their own or with a spouse if married)
  • In addition to making the investment in their business, applicants are also required to make a $200,000 security deposit, which will be returned to them after they have demonstrated that they have run their business for at least 2 years
  • Acquired companies must have been operational for 5 years prior to the QEP application, and may not have been operated by a QEP visa applicant

Points system

The government will evaluate the strength of your candidacy based on a points system that takes into account criteria like age, education, and language proficiency. If you are applying through Stream 1, the minimum score is 41 points across all categories, while Stream 2 requires 81. Both streams also require applicants to have a high school general diploma and proof of financial self-sufficiency. To learn more about the QEP points system, click here.

Is Canada a Good Market for Business?

According to the BDC, while Canada’s economic growth was sluggish in 2019 (much like the rest of the world), 2020 has ushered in a cautiously positive outlook. This upturn is largely attributed to the real estate market, residential investment, and household consumption. The economy is expected to grow by 1.7% this year.

Despite persistent challenges like global uncertainty, trade tensions, and challenges in the oil industry, speculators have hope for the Canadian economy going forward. In the context of entrepreneurship, the current economic climate is forecasted to breathe new life into the construction industry, keep raw material prices low, and benefit exporters (due to the weak dollar).

Since interest rates are low, the BDC also believes that now is a good time to borrow and invest in Canada. Quebec and British Columbia are expected to lead the pack in terms of overall growth, making them prime targets for acquiring or starting a business in the coming years.

Between 2018 and 2019, the industries that experienced the highest increases in GDP were construction, health care/social assistance, real estate/rental/leasing, and IT. The emerging cannabis sector took the number one slot, though, out-performing all of these sectors by approximately fivefold – however, it remains to be seen whether the cannabis industry will continue to top the list in the years following its recent legalization, or if it will fall into step.

Application Process

Before you apply, make sure the QEP is currently open for applications. At the time of publishing, the current intake period ends on September 30, 2020. There will be 25 applicants accepted into Stream 1, and 35 into Stream 2. However, if you are fluent in French, you may submit an application until October 31, 2020 and you will not be subject to any quotas. Because of its limited intake, please contact an immigration professional for an assessment of your odds of getting a spot in this program before starting the process.

The application includes a detailed business plan and supporting documentation related to personal net worth, education, language proficiency, and more. After you submit your packet, there will be a two-step process that follows.

1. Selection (provincial)

The province will issue you a Certificat de sélection du Québec (CSQ) if you make it past the first round.

2. Admission (federal)

Selected candidates will submit their CSQ to the federal government. Once they are approved by both Quebec and Canada, they will receive their Canadian permanent residence.

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