Canada: A Closer Look into the Provincial Nominee Programs

The provincial governments in Canada are actively looking for entrepreneurs and skilled immigrants to meet their anticipated commercial and labor market needs.  

Canada’s current programs are flexible and based on projections for the next few years. Increasing numbers of places should become available in these categories within the Canadian immigration program. Canada may be the right destination for entrepreneurs looking to manage their own business in a new and prosperous country that welcomes immigrants.  

Each province and territory in Canada, with the exception of Quebec, has its own Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), which nominates individuals interested in settling in that particular province for fast-tracked immigration. Each of these programs has its own streams, criteria and guidelines, targeting precise demographics of skilled workers, students and business professionals.  

This means that the rules for each province vary and there are also quotas that limit access to the programsIt is vitally important that intending immigrants not only consider which province they would like to live in, but also the criteria for that province and the availability of places within the quota. It is probably a good idea to consider more than one destination and it’s perfectly fine to express an intention for more than one province.  

The availability of programs, various criteria and flexible financial arrangements makes these programs highly attractive to immigrants. The assessment against the core criteria is made by each provincial government and then the final processing passes to the government of Canada, so that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the relevant federal agency, can assess the applicants against general public-interest criteria, like health and character.   


The path to permanent residency starts with the applicant expressing interest in a province and submitting an application for nomination at the provincial level. The expression of interest application will take into account a few factors indicated below. In most instances, applicants are granted temporary entry to Canada with the right to work. They would subsequently apply for permanent resident status after two years on the basis of entering and managing their business, or apply for permanent resident status within six months of receiving the nomination approval.    

Applicants are assessed on the basis of net worth, business plans, professional experience and adaptability. While speaking English or French in Canada is important, the threshold for the language ability is the lowest on the Canadian Language Benchmark scale (4 out of the maximum 10).  

The business options available to intending applicants are enormous, financial arrangements are flexible, and the government processing times are advantageousThe applicants can set up a business in the selected province or purchase an existing business. Identifying the right business to buy and working with reputable partners is of primary importance.   

The large numbers of existing businesses for sale in Canada can be a good solution for people looking to transition into a new business environment.    

These programs lead to permanent residency for the main applicant and the applicant’s spouse and dependent children.  


The provincial nominee programs are actively looking for successful businesspeople to immigrate and to run a business in their province. These immigrants will not qualify for permanent resident status on the basis of passive investments, but on the basis of holding equity in a business and managing its operations.   

  • Each province has its own requirements relating to the assets held by the applicant and the minimum level of investment in the business in Canada. There will generally be an assessment of the equity in the applicant’s business in their own country. 
  • The applicant is required to actively participate in the management of the business on an ongoing and daily basis. 
  • The applicant is expected to have at least three to four years of experience as business owner or manager. 
  • The business is expected to result in benefits to the local communitya requirement most commonly met by creating or maintaining employment for Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada. 
  • An exploratory visit may be required for some provinces and is advisable in all cases. 
  • Having adequate resources to establish a life and enter a businessThe financial thresholds vary, from a maximum of $1.5 million Canadian dollars in assets in the greater Toronto area to the lesser amount of C$500,000 in Saskatchewan and C$350,000 in Manitoba. 
  • Financial commitment to the business in Canada also varies from C$1 million  in the greater Toronto area to figures such as C$100,000 in Manitoba. 
  • Most programs allow for a work permit and grant of permanent resident status after two years, on the provision that the applicant enters Canada and is managing a business. 
  • Some programs confer permanent resident status up front. For example, in Prince Edward Islandthe applicants are required to comply with the conditions of the escrow agreement and successfully meet the conditions of such agreement after becoming Canadian permanent residents. In British Columbia, entrepreneurs are required to sign performance agreements and the estimated time frame to meet conditions is approximately 18 to 20 months. 


Life in Canada opens up educational and employment opportunities for immigrants and their families in a safe, well-ordered and open society. There is respect for the rule of law and the rights of the individual.   

But contemplating migrating to another country is a major undertaking. One approach is to work with intending migrants and examine the criteria for different provinces to determine the best chances of qualifying. Investors should consider which of those provinces can offer a good life for all of the family. This should also include an assessment of the local business environment and involve the applicants visiting that province. With the knowledge of options and how to approach them, each applicant can prepare for long-term success, for both the applicant and family members. 

About the Author

David Crawford
David Crawford
David Crawford is the managing partner of Fragomen in Toronto, Canada. There, he provides immigration assistance to a variety of businesses. He works with general counsel, human resource professionals and mobility teams on policies and procedures for recruitment, retention and other immigration requirements. Crawford has been a partner in the Fragomen’s London office, where he was responsible for operations and business development in the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions, as well as a founding partner of the Fragomen Australia practice.

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