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Understanding the Self-Employed Persons Program for Business Immigration

Blog posted on by Evelyn Ackah

Understanding the Self-Employed Persons Program for Business Immigration


According to Statista, there are approximately 3 million self-employed Canadians. This number is constantly increasing thanks to a near-limitless supply of additional self-employed workers around the world. The World Bank estimates that almost half of Earth’s workforce is self-employed, and many of these individuals may eventually decide to emigrate to Canada. The True North is relatively welcoming to remote workers, digital nomads, online entrepreneurs, independent contractors, and many others. In fact, Canada has an immigration program specifically dedicated to helping self-employed individuals. Canada gets no points for creativity here – and the name of this visa is the “Self-Employed Persons Program.” While the name of this program is self-explanatory, the details are relatively complex. If you are interested in pursuing it further, take the time to understand it further:

How Does Canada Define “Self-Employment?”

The first step is to determine whether you even qualify as a “self-employed” person, according to the Government of Canada. There are several important factors that you must meet if you want to pursue the federal self-employment visa program. Note that there are other programs available for self-employed individuals, and you can pursue these programs instead if you do not meet the requirements of the federal program.


  • You Must Have Experience with Cultural or Athletic Ventures


Canada’s federal self-employment visa specifically targets people who have experience with cultural or athletic endeavors. In terms of athletics, the visa only applies if you have experience working at a world-class level. For example, the Football League Third Division in England would not classify as “world-class athletics,” but the Premier League is among the most competitive leagues in international sports.

You can either participate in athletics or cultural activities or work in these fields as a self-employed person. Participating in athletics might include playing competitively, professional refereeing, or coaching world-class teams. Participating in cultural activities might include musical performances, participating in indigenous programs, or acting. It is perhaps easier to pursue this visa with experience in cultural activities since this encompasses more possibilities. Canada specifically highlights musicians, painters, freelance journalists, and even teachers.

If you have experience in any of these qualifying fields, you can pursue this visa. However, you must have a certain amount of experience in these fields to qualify. For cultural activities, you may only need two years of experience, and this experience can be divided into two separate one-year periods. For example, a musician from Vietnam might perform full-time before pausing for three years to pursue other endeavors. If the musician performs full-time for a second year, they could apply for this visa.

It is also worth noting that Canada allows you to combine two separate one-year periods for both participating in and working in cultural activities as a self-employed person. For example, a musician from Vietnam might spend one year performing full-time and then become a professional, self-employed sound engineer for one year. This would technically meet the requirements of the self-employed visa in Canada.

The same basic logic applies to athletics. You can spend two one-year periods participating in athletics to qualify, and you can also qualify with two one-year periods of athletic-related work experience as a self-employed person. Finally, you could combine one year of participation experience and one year of athletic work experience to qualify.


  • You Must Continue Self-Employment in Canada


You must plan to continue self-employment once you arrive in Canada. The Government of Canada expects you to become a self-employed person in Canada in essentially the same way you previously worked in your home country. If you enter the country and switch to a different type of work, you may encounter serious problems.


  • You Must Get a Certain Score Based on Selection Criteria


The same basic steps apply to all Canadian immigrants, regardless of which visa they choose. As a result, the Canadian government will assess you based on various selection criteria. These factors include your experience levels, your age, your language abilities (both English and French), and your “adaptability.” You will receive a score based on all of these factors, and your score may determine whether or not you gain entry into the nation. To learn more about this selection criteria, be sure to book a consultation with a qualified Canadian immigration lawyer.

You must pass a few additional exams to gain entry into the country on a Self-Employed Persons visa. Perhaps most notably, you must pass a medical exam. Secondly, you need to get a special “police certificate,” and this process essentially involves a criminal background check. If you have been convicted of serious crimes in your home nation, it may be difficult to gain entry into Canada on any visa. Finally, you must prove that you have enough money to support yourself once you arrive in Canada. All of these additional exams and requirements apply not only to you but also to any family members you plan to bring into Canada.

Consider the Canada Digital Nomad Visa

If you do not have experience in cultural activities or athletics, consider the Digital Nomad Visa instead. This visa is relatively easy to obtain, and you can live and work in Canada for six months upon approval. Although this is a relatively short period of time, you can use this visa as a pathway toward permanent residency and citizenship.

Find a Qualified Business Immigration Lawyer in Canada

If you’ve been searching for an experienced business immigration lawyer in Canada, look no further than Ackah Law. Over the years, we have helped numerous entrepreneurs, skilled workers, and self-employed individuals relocate successfully to Canada. As a self-employed person, you can give yourself the best possible chance of permanent residency by choosing this program. However, the program is not always easy to navigate, and you can increase your chances of success by working alongside a qualified lawyer. To learn more about the Self-Employed Persons Program for business immigration in Canada, book a consultation with us and discuss the issue further


Evelyn L. Ackah, BA, LL.B.

Founder/Managing Lawyer

Ms. Ackah is passionate about immigration law because it focuses on people and relationships, which are at the core of her personal values. Starting her legal career as a corporate/commercial ...

More About Evelyn L. Ackah, BA, LL.B.

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