Given the abundance of natural resources, access to universal health care, commitment to human rights, and general political stability and prosperity, Canada has long been viewed by immigrants around the world as a desirable location to start a new life, for themselves and their families.
The province of British Columbia serves as a gateway between East and West in both culture and commerce, making it a natural destination for Asian immigration. It’s not surprising that between 2011 and 2016, six of the top ten countries of origin for new immigrants to BC, were from Asia (China, India, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan).
The BC PNP and Entrepreneurial Immigration
Many wealthy foreign entrepreneurs have the misconception that they can easily leverage their experience in their home country to obtain permanent residency in BC, and seek to do so by applying through the "entrepreneur immigration" application process, administered by the British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program (BC PNP).
What prospective applicants may not be prepared for is how rigorous the selection process is and what they must endure in order to have the best chance of securing permanent residence in BC.
The BC PNP is responsible for reviewing skilled immigration applications from the following other sub-classes:
- international graduates
- skilled workers
- entry-level / semi-skilled workers
- international post-graduate
- healthcare professional
- express entry – international graduate
- express entry – skilled worker
- express entry – international post-graduate
- express entry – healthcare professional
According to BC PNP, in 2017 only one quarter of applicants seeking entrepreneur immigration were nominated to proceed to the next stage of the immigration process. In contrast, over one half of “skilled immigration” applicants managed to receive the Province's nomination. While it’s true that British Columbia receives many more applications annually through the skilled immigration stream, the discrepancy in successful applications is worth considering.
Pitfalls to avoid
Prospective entrepreneur immigrants should not only be aware of the statistics before making the decision to undertake the BC PNP process, but more importantly should be aware of the pitfalls to avoid once the decision has been made to proceed.
The procedure for entrepreneur immigration can be divided into the following stages:
- Invitation to Apply
- Work Permit
- Permanent Residency
To increase the odds of a successful application, the first three stages are the most crucial, because this is where one must get their proverbial "foot in the door". Any eligible individual may register through the BC PNP online portal, but only a select handful will be formally invited to submit a complete application which will give them the opportunity to receive a coveted nomination to apply for permanent residence.
There is a distinct difference between the registration process and the application process, and the language can be confusing. At the registration stage applicants must create a profile through the BC PNP's online portal. Here they will submit personal information regarding their family and personal background, and they will also be asked to provide a breakdown of their projected investment into their proposed business venture. Applicants will also be asked to provide a short summary of their business plan.
The registration stage is useful because it allows applicants to identify inconsistencies and potential weaknesses in their application, and to calculate their score to gauge whether or not they even have a chance at moving beyond the registration stage.
To secure an invitation to apply, applicants must first score high enough to be placed into a draw, from which applicants recieving invitations will be selected.
If an applicant scores high enough in the registration stage, their profile will be put into a draw for the next round of invitations to formally apply. Once an applicant receives a formal invitation to apply, which can often take up to one year, they must then prepare a formal application package to the BC PNP which must include a more detailed business plan, and must be accompanied by an audit of the applicant's world-wide financials by one of the program's approved accounting firms.
Once the application package has been submitted, the applicant will then receive a request for an interview with a BC PNP representative. During the interview, the applicant must demonstrate extensive knowledge of their business plan, and be able to defend its economic viability.
The applicant may also be asked to outline their previous business experience and financial dealings to the satisfaction of the BC PNP. Applicants should be aware that the standard way of doing business in their home country may not, and most likely will not, be the same as in Canada, and careful thought must be given to answering the interviewer's questions truthfully and in a way that will support the application.
Assuming the prospective applicant is successful at all three stages, the BC PNP will issue a work permit and a performance agreement, whereby applicants will have a two-year period to execute their business plan.
Watch out for scams! Immigration lawyers and consultants
While immigration lawyers are regulated members of the Provincial Law Society, and must abide by certain rules governing ethical procedure, the same cannot be said of the myriad of immigration "consultants" servicing the market. Membership to the regulatory body governing immigration consultants is not mandatory, and recent events in the news have cast an unflattering light on the unscrupulous practices of some immigration consultants who remain unregulated.
Given the difficult nature of securing a successful application, applicants should be wary of being the targets of immigration scams. Following are some things to watch for.
Fees up front
An applicant should never be required to pay high fees upfront to anyone assisting them with the immigration application process. As this article has demonstrated, the application procedure is divided into clear stages, and other than payment for a retainer, any request that the applicant pay a lump sum in the high five or six figures should immediately raise red flags.
Wait until your work permit is issued
Applicants should not attempt to secure or fund a business venture until a work permit has been issued. Any financial outlays of this nature will NOT count toward your application scores.
Does your proposed business make sense?
The applicant should consider the practicality of their proposed business venture and whether it is aligned with their abilities and market demand. Does your proposed business plan match with the business experience from your home country? Have you established a demand for your product or service in Canada?
Applicants must also consider whether their English skills are adequate for a successful application. (Even though a lack of fluency in English is not officially a disqualifier, in reality this can be an issue.)
It is very important for prospective immigration applicants to Canada to consider all of the challenges and potential pitfalls of the application process before proceeding, to ensure their best chance for success.
- Is the entrepreneurial immigration path the best one for you?
- Are you adequately prepared to navigate the registration and application process to maximize your chances of success?
- Is your business plan test-worthy?
- Do you understand how to manage business culture inconsistencies that may arise during the interview process?
- Do you know what scams to watch for?
This article highlights but a few of the many challenges surrounding the entrepreneurial immigration process in Canada. If you have questions about this process or any other immigration matter, including immigration appeals, please reach out to the Watson Goepel LLP Immigration Law Group.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.