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The province has updated its immigration application system to include a points system and a stream dedicated to bringing highly qualified and motivated entrepreneurs to invest in Ontario.

The Ontario Entrepreneur Stream (OES) of the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) is for applicants from outside of Canada interested in starting a new business or buying an existing business in Ontario. It offers the chance for permanent residence once a business is established.

Under an expression of interest (EOI) system, applicant profiles are scored and the province invites chosen candidates to apply for a provincial nomination for a temporary work permit from the Canadian government.

The new system aligns with the Government of Canada’s Express Entry system for skilled workers. It will more seamlessly handle demand, making the process easier for the many people who want to immigrate to Ontario.

The OINP issued 8,054 nominations in 2020, including its first under the Entrepreneur Stream.

Requirements for starting a business

Entrepreneurs (who can apply with up to one business partner) must prove a minimum net worth, which ranges from $400,000 to $800,000 depending on location and sector of the business. They must also prove a minimum investment in their new venture in Ontario, ranging from $200,000 to $600,000, and must own at least 33 per cent of the business.

Other requirements include at least 24 months of full-time business experience in the past 60 months, as an owner or senior manager. There are also benchmark requirements for language proficiency in either English or French.

Applicants must also agree to create one or two full-time jobs for Canadian citizens or permanent residents in the proposed company.

Buying a business

If an applicant is purchasing an existing business in Ontario, they must keep all existing permanent full-time employees and must use at least 10 per cent of their personal investment towards improving or expanding the business in Ontario.

As well, the business being purchased must have been in continuous operation by the same owner for the previous 60 months.

Points system

Entrepreneurs are awarded points under an EOI based on business experience, the investment they will make in the business and personal net worth, human capital factors (including education, official language capacity) and their business concept.

Applicants are ranked in the EOI selection pool and only top-ranked candidates are invited to apply. There is no fee to submit an EOI and registration lasts for one year.

Invitation to apply

Those invited to apply for a nomination must submit a business case and supporting documents within 90 days of the invitation.

There is a $3,500 application processing fee, which applies to both applicants in the case of a business partnership.

Applicants are required to attend a mandatory in-person interview at the OINP in Toronto and must sign a performance agreement that sets out business targets. A letter of confirmation from OINP allows nominees to then apply for a temporary work permit from the Canadian government.

Establishing a business

Applicants have 20 months after arriving in Ontario to submit a report that shows they are abiding by all rules of the OES and the terms of the performance agreement.

If that report is approved, entrepreneurs will be nominated by the Ontario government for permanent residence in Canada.

Detailed requirements of the OES are found here, including a list of ineligible businesses.