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Unsponsored immigration

Highly skilled individuals

What unsponsored immigration routes are available for highly skilled foreign nationals to seek employment in your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?

There are a number of unsponsored immigration routes and their applicability would need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The Global Skills Strategy is one example, as mentioned above.


What unsponsored immigration routes are available for entrepreneurs seeking to establish a business in your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?

The Start-up Visa Programme offers permanent residency to foreign entrepreneurs who agree to bring their companies to Canada. Successful applicants are linked with private sector organisations in Canada, where they can receive funding, guidance and expertise in opening and operating their enterprise in Canada.

In order to be eligible the applicant must:

  • meet minimum language requirements in English or French (ie, Canadian Language Benchmark Level 5 in all abilities);
  • have sufficient funds to settle in Canada;
  • plan to settle in a province other than Quebec;
  • pass Canadian security and medical clearances;
  • prove that their business is supported through a designated organisation; and
  • show that their business meets ownership requirements.


What unsponsored immigration routes are available for foreign investors seeking to invest in your jurisdiction? What are the eligibility criteria, application procedures and maximum period of stay for each?

Many participating provinces and territories have an investment or entrepreneur stream for business applicants who wish to own or invest in a business. Eligibility criteria includes:

  • having demonstrated business or management experience; and
  • having the intention to reside in that particular province or territory.

Depending on the province, applicants need to have a net worth of between C$300,000 to C$1,500,000 and make a personal investment of a minimum of C$75,000 to C$1,000,000. The requirements vary by province.

Individuals who have US or Mexican citizenship and are setting up or buying a business in Canada may qualify for a North American Free Trade Agreement investor work permit. To be eligible, the following requirements apply:

  • the investor must have either US or Mexican citizenship;
  • a majority of the company must be owned by persons of US or Mexican citizenship;
  • substantial investment in the company must have already been made or be actively being made;
  • the investor must be seeking entry into Canada for the sole reason of developing and directing the business; and
  • if the investor is also an employee of the company, his or her role must be executive or supervisory in nature or involve essential skills.


Are any immigration routes open to foreign nationals based on ancestry or descent?

Canada offers citizenship by descent for individuals who have a parent that was a Canadian citizen at the time of their birth, limited to the first generation. Every situation is different and there have been many changes to the Citizenship Act, resulting in multiple scenarios leading to citizenship.

Other routes

Are there any other unsponsored immigration routes?

There are immigration categories for investors as mentioned above.

Some foreign nationals may be eligible for open work permits. The holder of an open work permit can work for any Canadian employer, without having a confirmed offer of employment. An open work permit is not job specific.

The following persons can apply for open work permits:

  • permanent residence applicants who have applied to an office in Canada;
  • dependent family members of some permanent residence applicants;
  • spouses and common law partners of some workers and international students;
  • refugees, refugee claimants, protected persons and their family members;
  • some temporary resident permit holders; and
  • some young workers participating in special programmes.

Additional criteria apply in each of these situations.

Extensions, permanent residence and citizenship

Extensions and status changes

Can short-term visa or work permit holders switch to long-term visas? If so, what conditions and procedures apply?

Visa extensions are permitted in certain circumstances. Canada has several pathways to permanent residence by virtue of gaining work experience in Canada.

Under what conditions can long-term visas be extended?

bona fide explanation is required for extensions.

Permanent residence

Can long-term visa holders apply for permanent residence? If so, what conditions and procedures apply?

There are many pathways to permanent residence. Individuals who are long-term visa holders may be suitable candidates for the Federal Express Entry Programme or one of the provincial skilled worker programmes.

Under the Federal Express Entry Programme, if a foreign national has the equivalent of at least 12 months’ full-time skilled work experience in Canada in the three years immediately preceding their application and meets certain language requirements, they may be eligible to apply for Canadian permanent residence under the Canadian Experience Class Programme.

Permanent residence applications through the Federal Express Entry Programme can be processed in less than six months.


Can long-term visa holders or permanent residents apply for citizenship? If so, what conditions and procedures apply?

Permanent residents may be eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship after being physically present in Canada for four out of six years if they also meet language and knowledge requirements. A bill to change the Citizenship Act was recently passed, reducing this requirement to three out of five years. The new changes will allow applicants who have spent time in Canada on temporary status – such as on a work or study permit – to count a portion of this time towards the three-year requirement. This change is expected to come into effect in Autumn 2017.

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