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Why does Canada need to welcome more immigrant entrepreneurs?

Updated: Apr 19, 2023

*For Vietnamese Version, please click here

According to Statistics Canada, immigrant-owned companies are younger, grow faster and have higher rates of job creation.

Canada has long been a popular immigration destination, with many immigrants then participating in entrepreneurial activities. They help to create jobs, drive innovation, attract investment and improve global trade ties to Canada. Hence, the country is highly encouraging of entrepreneurial activity and has many immigration programs, both at a federal and provincial level, whose eligibility criteria include entrepreneurial experience or proposed related activities in Canada (e.g., the establishment of a new business). Such programs are also often linked to job creation in particular areas, to specific financial investments in a proposed business, or to the establishment of new and innovative businesses likely to benefit Canada generally or even specific demographics of Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

Based on comparisons between the immigrant and native workforce in Canada, a recent study by the Research and Evaluation Branch of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, and Statistics Canada, provides some interesting insights:

Entrepreneurialism in immigrants and Canadian-born individuals

Statistics suggest that immigrants are typically more entrepreneurial than the Canadian-born population. In 2016, 11.9% of immigrants owned their own businesses in Canada, compared with only 8.4% of those born in Canada to Canadian parents. This situation is also true in relation to the number of immigrants who were self-employed (6.9%) and the number from the Canadian-born population (4.6%).

Characteristics of Immigrant Entrepreneurs

The statistics also show that many of the immigrant entrepreneurs in Canada are graduates of courses in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (though those with other qualifications are, of course, still welcome and able to participate in businesses in Canada).

Immigrants in the 45-to-54 age range are more likely to own a private incorporated business than immigrants in other age groups.

The single largest group of immigrants owning businesses in Canada are those who have participated in a worker program (e.g., Federal Skilled Worker or Canadian Experience Class) or provincial nominee programs such as the Entrepreneur Streams of the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program or the Nova Scotia Immigrant Nominee Program. These groups together make up 40% of all immigrant business owners in Canada. It should be noted that the Start-up Visa Program is another route to bring more promising entrepreneurs to Canada.

According to the statistics of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), for the period 2015-2021, 30,745 applicants from around the world were approved for permanent resident status under the Business Category. Additionally, 5755 Vietnamese applicants were granted permanent residency in 2021, of which, 175 applicants came from the Business Stream, including: Start-up Visa, Investor, Entrepreneur and Self-employed (2).

Lifespan of Immigrant Owned Businesses

Statistics for business ownership are helpful, though they should be considered in line with those related to the lifespan of such businesses.

Immigrant-owned businesses in Canada have been shown to operate for very similar amounts of time as Canadian-owned businesses. For example, 80% of businesses owned by immigrants to Canada are still operational after 2 years of ownership. This then drops slightly to 58% after 7 years of ownership, with the majority of such businesses therefore continuing to operate for at least 7 years under immigrant ownership. These statistics are indicative of strong business opportunities and potential in Canada.

Job Creation for Canadian Citizens or Permanent Residents

The job creation rate of businesses established by immigrants is higher than that of businesses established by locals. One study found that from 2003 to 2013, business employment by immigrants accounted for 25% of total employment (3).

The report points out that one of the possible reasons for the difference between these two groups of businesses could be the advantage of relations in the immigrant community, with the understanding of the special needs of this community ultimately helping entrepreneurs to provide a better service.


(1) (21/09/2021)

(2) (31/03/2022)

(3) (21/09/2021)

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