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The Quebec Entrepreneur Program (or QEP) is an opportunity for foreign nationals with entrepreneurship experience to immigrate to Quebec as business owners. As a QEP applicant, you can either purchase an existing business or start a new business in this dynamic Canadian province. Applicants may start a business on their own or with one or more partners.

Quebec Entrepreneur Program vs. Quebec Investor Program

There are a number of key differences between these two immigration paths. As an investor, the financial requirements are much higher, and you must meet strict eligibility requirements including: 

  1. A legally-acquired personal net worth of at least $2 million
  2. Two years of management or business experience within the 5 years prior to the application
  3. A $1.2 million investment into a passive government guaranteed investment for a period of five years

On the other hand, as an entrepreneur, you are only required to have a net worth of $900,000 (with a spouse if applicable) and there is no requirement to make an interest-free, five-year investment with the government. You will also play a more active role in a new or existing company inside Quebec as a manager and stakeholder.  

QEP eligibility

There are two different streams through which you can settle in the province of Quebec as an immigrant entrepreneur.

Stream 1

This stream is specifically for applicants who are starting up new businesses. Candidates who are supported by an accelerator, incubator, or university entrepreneurship center are eligible, and the business in question can be run by either an individual or group of partners. The partners can be Canadian or foreign. In the latter case, there can be a maximum of three partners on board.

Stream 2

This stream includes both new and purchased enterprises. Business owners who apply via this route must control at least 25% of a new company’s shares, or 51% of an acquired company’s shares. The applicant also needs to have an active managerial or operational role in the business.

If the company is located outside the Greater Montreal Area (GMA), the applicant must invest capital funds of at least $200,000. If it is inside the GMA, an investment of $300,000 is required. You will also need to prove that you have a net worth of at least $900,000, either on your own or with a spouse if you are married.

And no matter where your business is located, you are required to make a security deposit of $200,000 in addition to your investment. This amount will be returned to you after you have demonstrated that your business has been active for at least 2 years.

To qualify, the acquired company must have been operational for 5 years before the QEP application is submitted. During the same time period, it must also not have been operated by someone who applied for a QEP visa.

Prohibited industries

The business will not be eligible if its primary focus is salary loans or check cashing, real estate development, brokerage, or insurance, or services related to the sex industry.

How to Improve Your Chances

Even if you meet all of the eligibility criteria, nothing is ever guaranteed when it comes to being approved for a visa. If you fail to fill out a form properly, are missing documentation, or are late in submitting your paperwork, you can easily be turned away.

One of the best ways to stack the odds in your favour is to work with a professional on the required business plan (you will need to defend it during your selection interview). All candidates must submit one with their application, and if the government is not satisfied with its level of detail and depth, they may reject your application.

The deciding authorities also look at your professional background when evaluating whether they will move forward with your candidacy. If you have previous successful experience in your chosen company’s industry, that is a big plus. If you can get references from any Quebec-based business entities, you should absolutely include them with your application as well.

Other Options for Canadian Entrepreneurial Immigration

If you would like to immigrate to Canada and are not necessarily set on living in Quebec, here are a few other options you can consider.

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.

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 this visa.

What is the 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.