Canada is a wonderful place to start a business for a vast range of reasons. For one, it boasts of a skilled workforce, access to a wide array of government grants and tax credits, a considerable cost of living, and opportunities to obtain venture capital and seed money for your business.
Note that these perks are not only for Canadian citizens, especially since there are many options for foreign entrepreneurs who choose to do business in the country.
Before you start investing in the process, it’s necessary to understand that each Canadian province and territory has its own rules of business. Owing to that, the process for starting your business in Canada will vary based on where you intend to start and run your business. Coupled with registering your business provincially, you can also register on a federal level.
Note that businesses registered federally can operate all across Canada with increased name protection and a different set of annual filing rules. Even if you are registered federally, have it in mind that your business may still be expected to register as an extra-provincial corporation with each of the different provinces in which you intend to operate.
Which Canadian Province Do You Want to Start a Business?
1. Alberta | 2. British Columbia | 3. Manitoba
4. New Brunswick | 5. Newfoundland and Labrador
6. Northwest Territories | 7. Nova Scotia
8. Nunavut | 9. Ontario | 10. Prince Edward Island
11. Quebec | 12. Saskatchewan | 13. Yukon
As a foreigner, there are numerous ways to start your business in Canada. Here are three different approaches you can easily take;
Modes of Starting Business in Canada as a Foreigner
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In a case where you already have an established foreign business and want to expand into Canada, the process is quite simple. You may not necessarily need to have Canadian citizenship or permanent resident status, but you will need someone who does to proceed.
If you plan to run your business in more than one province or territory, then you will be expected to register as an extra-provincial corporation. Have it in mind that some provinces, like Ontario, mandate foreigners to use an Agent of Service to register as an extra-provincial corporation. This agent will have to be an individual who is 18 years and a resident in the province or a corporation with a registered office in the province.
Starting a Business in Canada without Living There
Even if you do not immigrate to Canada and are not a Canadian citizen or a landed immigrant (has permanent resident status), you are still allowed to start a company in Canada. Note that the most important thing to understand is the rules about who can and who can’t start certain types of businesses, which are most often determined by Canada’s provinces and are different from province to province (or territory).
Even though the rules vary from one province to another, it is almost impossible for a non-resident to run a business in Canada. Even in British Columbia, known to have the most relaxed of rules on non-residents starting a business, you will still be expected to have a physical address.
And in most provinces, no foreigner is allowed to start a business without a physical address and work permit. You’ll not be able to establish a sole proprietorship, but you can form a partnership or corporation without living in Canada.
Starting a Business in Canada by Immigrating
If you wish to live in Canada, you could apply to come to Canada as a business immigrant. This is the only way you will be able to both start a business in Canada and live there. Know that there are two ways you can do this, either with a start-up visa program or the self-employed program. The start-up visa is primarily for entrepreneurs who plan to establish a business in Canada and provide jobs.
By leveraging the above program, you can genuinely fast-track your immigration process and become a permanent resident if you qualify. But to qualify, you will be expected to have a qualifying business with support from a designated organization in Canada. These organizations could be venture capitals, business incubators, or angel investors.
Steps to Start a Business in Canada as a Foreigner
The steps necessary to start and run your business in Canada will most often depend on the province you intend to operate. In Canada, every province has its laws on the establishment of business by foreigners. Regardless of the province you intend to start your business, here are the necessary steps you have to take;
Choose a Business Entity
In Canada, there are four common types of business entities that foreigners can choose from. These are partnership, cooperative, sole proprietorship, and corporation. Note that every one of them has its pros and cons, and the one you go for will depend on the kind of business you want to establish.
Unlike the United States, Canada does not have an equivalent of an LLC (limited liability Company), therefore if you are seeking more limited liability protection, you will have to choose a corporation as your business entity type.
Conduct a Name Search
Before registering your business, you will be expected to carry out a name search to make sure the name you intend to work with isn’t in any way similar to existing company names. To do this; you will have to conduct a NUANS name search to ensure your desired business name is available.
A NUANS report is a list of existing corporate and business names, as well as trademarks, that are similar to the one being proposed. A NUANS report helps avoid selecting a name that is already in use. This search is mandatory when registering a Federal Corporation in Canada.
Prepare and Submit the Necessary Documents
You will also be expected to submit certain documents before you can register your business. These documents vary based on which business entity you’re registering as, however, here is a basic list of requirements that you should gather as a starting point:
- Certificates of Incorporation
- NUANS report conducted in the last 90 days
- Full Registered Name of the Business
- List of names and addresses for each director (minimum of 1 is required)
- List of names and addresses for each shareholder (minimum of 1 is required)
- Description of company’s business or business idea – mission statement and explanation of the purpose
- Bank reference letters
- Copies of Passports
- Business License(s)
- Resume and Photo
- Lease contracts of any Canadian office addresses
Tips for Starting a Business in Canada
After you must have understood how to start a business in Canada as a foreigner, you must consider these few helpful tips to ensure you achieve business success in the country.
Embrace the Culture
When starting a business in a new country, you must learn as much as you can about the culture of the country. Note that to successfully market your business, you will need to know your potential customers and understand their purchasing behavior. You can do this by getting involved in local groups, volunteering, or becoming a member of a business organization that offers you the platform to network with fellow business owners.
Be Financially Ready
Coupled with obtaining your visas and all other necessary permits, you may be required to prove that you are financially ready to start a business in Canada. This simply entails having adequate funds to cover your expenses while you wait for your business to start making a profit, and this can take a while. It is also recommended that you have adequate funds to cover your expenses for the first six months.
Build Your Credit Score
It is imperative to note that a good credit score is very crucial for businesses operating in Canada because banks will check your score when deciding whether or not to approve a loan for you. According to experts, one of the most convenient ways to get a credit score is by signing up for a Canadian credit card and using it to make purchases. However, ensure to pay off your balance every month, and within six months you should have a viable credit score.
Get a Mentor
Note that a good mentor or business coach will surely be an asset to any entrepreneur, more especially a foreigner who will steadily need guidance from someone with local experience. Without doubts, there are numerous organizations and groups in Canada that can assist in finding a mentor.
Canada is full of opportunities! There isn’t one specific “good” business to start in Canada as a foreigner especially since any type of business can succeed. Note that the process for starting your business will vary based on whether you’re moving to Canada, expanding your business to Canada, or establishing your business there while being a non-resident.
Even though the processes can be quite challenging and complex, it isn’t really difficult. As long as you know the sort of business you intend on starting and the mode of establishing the business, every other thing can be put in place.