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Immigration Program for Self-employed Artists and Athletes

Self-employed in cultural activities or sports can immigrate to Canada under the Federal Self-employed Persons Program. Check your eligibility based on selection factors by completing the assessment form.

Canada has a very unique immigration program for artists and athletes who want to realize their cultural projects in Canada. To qualify for immigration under Self-Employed Persons Program (SEPP), a permanent resident visa applicant must have (1) at least two years of relevant experience, (2) ability and intention to be self-employed in Canada, and (3) to make a significant contribution to specified economic activities in Canada.

Qualified artists and athletes who score at least 35 assessment points under the selection criteria set for Self-Employed Persons Program, may apply for Canadian permanent residence (PR).

In this article, we describe in detail eligibility requirements, document checklist, and process of applying for Canada PR as a member of Self-Employed Persons Class. To start, answer questions in the free assessment and points calculation form below. Based on your responses, we calculate your score under the program selection criteria. If you meet the pass score (i.e., 35 from 100 points), you can then book a consultation with our immigration lawyer to assess your eligibility and discuss application.

Self-employed Persons Program Overview

Self-employed Persons Program is one of Canada’s federal business programs and is a part of economic immigration. Compared to provincial streams, it does not require sticking to and settlement in one of Canadian provinces only. SEPP offers more freedom and flexibility in terms of location selection.


SEPP is a direct pathway to becoming Canadian permanent resident and gaining citizenship after. On average, permanent resident visas under Self-employed Persons Program are processed within two to three years. Family members (spouse, partner, dependent children) can immigrate together with a self-employed artist or athlete.



Self-employed Persons Program does not require any set amount of investment. Neither a business establishment nor any other activities are required before immigration. In other words, it is about a future project that a permanent resident visa applicant will execute in Canada in the cultural activities or athletics and need a PR visa for that. For this reason, it may seem the requirements are more relaxed and less onerous compared to other business immigration programs. This is true. However, this is also the reason why a well-conceived and realistic plan is super important to succeed. When assessed, along with an applicant’s past conduct, it should prove the likelihood that a permanent resident visa applicant will proceed with the project if their PR visa is granted.


Each of Self-employed Persons Program’s requirements is described below.

Relevant Experience Requirement: Self-employment in Cultural Activities or Athletics

To qualify for immigration as a self-employed artist or athlete (i.e., a member of Self-employed Persons Class), a foreign national must have gained at least two years of relevant experience in five years before they apply for PR and meet this requirement on a rolling basis (i.e., up until the decision is made).

Self-employment in cultural activities or athletics has two components:

Being self-employed means “creating your own employment”. Self-employment may take different forms – sole proprietor, incorporated business, or any other form. It must be full-time and remunerative/paid. While each country has its own labour laws, in Canada, full-time means at least thirty hours per week.

Occupations in cultural activities or athletics are broadly defined. The list of eligible occupations under the Self-Employed Persons Program is not exhaustive. Canada National Occupational Classification (NOC) set the following occupations in art, culture, recreation and sport::

• 51 Professional occupations in art and culture
• 511 Librarians, archivists, conservators and curators
5111 Librarians
5112 Conservators and curators
5113 Archivists
512 Writing, translating and related communications professionals
5121 Authors and writers
5122 Editors
5123 Journalists
5125 Translators, terminologists and interpreters
513 Creative and performing artists
5131 Producers, directors, choreographers and related occupations
5132 Conductors, composers and arrangers
5133 Musicians and singers
5134 Dancers
5135 Actors and comedians
5136 Painters, sculptors and other visual artists
52 Technical occupations in art, culture, recreation and sport
521 Technical occupations in libraries, public archives, museums and art galleries
5211 Library and public archive technicians
5212 Technical occupations related to museums and art galleries
522 Photographers, graphic arts technicians and technical and co-ordinating occupations in motion pictures, broadcasting and the performing arts
5221 Photographers
5222 Film and video camera operators
5223 Graphic arts technicians
5224 Broadcast technicians
5225 Audio and video recording technicians
5226 Other technical and co-ordinating occupations in motion pictures, broadcasting and the performing arts
5227 Support occupations in motion pictures, broadcasting, photography and the performing arts
523 Announcers and other performers, n.e.c.
5231 Announcers and other broadcasters
5232 Other performers, n.e.c.
524 Creative designers and craftspersons
5241 Graphic designers and illustrators
5242 Interior designers and interior decorators
5243 Theatre, fashion, exhibit and other creative designers
5244 Artisans and craftspersons
5245 Patternmakers – textile, leather and fur products
525 Athletes, coaches, referees and related occupations
5251 Athletes
5252 Coaches
5253 Sports officials and referees
5254 Program leaders and instructors in recreation, sport and fitness

A visa processing officer will start an assessment from a relevant experience requirement. This is the first part of a “self-employed person” definition set in Canadian immigration law. Subsection 88(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (SOR/2002-227) reads:

self-employed person means a foreign national who has relevant experience and has the intention and ability to be self-employed in Canada and to make a significant contribution to specified economic activities in Canada.
relevant experience, in respect of
(a) a self-employed person, […], means a minimum of two years of experience, during the period beginning five years before the date of application for a permanent resident visa and ending on the day a determination is made in respect of the application, consisting of
(i) in respect of cultural activities,
(A) two one-year periods of experience in self-employment in cultural activities,
(B) two one-year periods of experience in participation at a world class level in cultural activities, or
(C) a combination of a one-year period of experience described in clause (A) and a one-year period of experience described in clause (B),
(ii) in respect of athletics,
(A) two one-year periods of experience in self-employment in athletics,
(B) two one-year periods of experience in participation at a world class level in athletics, or
(C) a combination of a one-year period of experience described in clause (A) and a one-year period of experience described in clause (B), and […]

Of note, participation at a world-class level in cultural activities or athletics intends to capture performers. This comprises those who perform in the world of sport and the arts. “World-class” means a person who is famous internationally. It also applies to persons who may not be popular worldwide but perform at the highest levels in their discipline. Permanent resident visa applicant under SEPP is therefore required to submit documents that will prove their self-employment. For example, business registration documents, financial statements, tax filings, portfolio of works, reference letters, awards, sales reports, invoices or receipts, contracts, and other evidence depending on the situation.

Requirement of Intention and Ability to be Self-employed in Canada

Once the experience has been established, the next step would be an assessment of the requirement of “intention and ability to be self-employed in Canada and to make a significant contribution to specified economic activities in Canada”.

This is the second part of a “self-employed person” definition set in subsection 88(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (SOR/2002-227):

self-employed person means a foreign national who has relevant experience and has the intention and ability to be self-employed in Canada and to make a significant contribution to specified economic activities in Canada.

At first glance, “intention and ability to be self-employed in Canada” may seem broad and very easy to prove. However, it may be the most challenging requirement to meet a definition of a “self-employed person”, on which most applications under SEPP get refused. In fact, the case is about the future project that an applicant will execute after obtaining PR. Therefore, it is essential to demonstrate a highly interested applicant will proceed with a project after they become Canadian permanent residents.

To demonstrate an “ability to be self-employed in Canada”, an applicant must prepare a well-researched and realistic plan along with the description of means they need and have to execute their project in Canada. Depending on the size of project, it may require more or fewer resources to succeed. In any case, it must be well-conceived, require an applicant’s involvement/presence in Canada, and to the greatest possible extent, be executed in Canada.

An “intention to be self-employed in Canada” constitutes a mental attribute. In other words, an intention to execute the plan. Firstly, if the project is well-conceived, researched, realistic, and potentially remunerative, the likelihood is higher an applicant would move forward with it once their PR is approved. Secondly, a visa processing officer will look into evidence of an applicant’s past conduct and past commitment to assess their intention. Intention to fulfill a future commitment depends on evidence of a significant past commitment that goes a long way in enabling the project.

In the relevant case decided by the Federal Court of Canada, the legal test for an “ability and intention to be self-employed in Canada” was explained as follows:

[43] Accordingly, the test in section 88(1) of the IRPR for what might be described as “commitment or promised intention”, in combination with considering the applicable experience and ability factors, would require an applicant to persuasively demonstrate past effort and commitment of sufficient weight such that the officer may conclude that the applicant has demonstrated that he or she will likely proceed as a self-employed person after obtaining permanent resident status to implement the project, which will make a significant contribution to the specified cultural activity in Canada. Under normal circumstances, this will require a demonstration of significant pre-application efforts taken with a view to advancing a well-conceived, researched and executed project that indicates a serious possibility of economic success, such that it is unlikely that the applicant would not proceed with the project so long as permanent residency is obtained to enable this to happen under normal circumstances. [Excerpt from Wei v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2019 FC 982]

For example, to demonstrate an “intention and ability to be self-employed in Canada”, an applicant can provide a business plan, evidence of available means required to implement the project, evidence of an applicant’s past conduct and commitment, etc.

Lastly, a “significant contribution to specified economic activities in Canada” constitutes a deliverable of the above-discussed demonstrated ability and intention to be self-employed in Canada.

Selection Criteria for Immigration to Canada as a Self-employed Artist or Athlete

As discussed above, an applicant must prove they meet the definition of a “self-employed person” set out in subsection 88(1) of the IRPR. Once an immigration officer finds that an applicant is indeed a self-employed artist or athlete, they turn to assess an applicant’s ability to become economically established in Canada based on the selection criteria. Subsection 100 (1) of IRPR reads:

100 (1) […] the self-employed persons class is hereby prescribed as a class of persons who may become permanent residents on the basis of their ability to become economically established in Canada and who are self-employed persons within the meaning of subsection 88(1).

Ability to become economically established in Canada is based on the selection criteria set in sections 102 – 108 of IRPR, namely five selection factors:

Age (maximum 10 points)
Education (maximum 25 points)
Proficiency in the official languages of Canada (maximum 24 points)
Experience (maximum 35 points)
Adaptability (maximum 6 points)

The minimum pass score is 35 from 100 points. Applicant must gain at least 35 points to be eligible for immigration under Self-employed Persons Program. Even though the “ability to become economically established in Canada” is assessed at the second stage (after assessment of “self-employment”), every interested in SEPP candidate should start by calculating their points under five selection factors to decide if it is a viable business immigration program for them. Complete our Self-employed Persons Program Assessment Form (Points Calculator) above, and get the instant eligibility assessment right away.

To claim points under SEPP, applicants must provide documents proving each of the above selection factors. For example, a language test result, an educational credential assessment report, etc.

Breakdown of Points

Relevant experience in cultural activities or athletics:

2 years – 20 points
3 years – 25 points
4 years – 30 points
5 years – 35 points

Age:

21 years of age or older, but less than 50 years of age – 10 points
20 or 50 years of age – 8 points
19 or 51 years of age – 6 points
18 or 52 years of age – 4 points
17 or 53 years of age – 2 points
Under 17 years of age or 54 years of age or older – 0 points

First language (English or French) proficiency:

CLB 8 or higher – 4 points for each language skill area
CLB 6 or 7 – 2 points for each language skill area
CLB 4 or 5 – 1 point for each language skill area, up to maximum 2 points
CLB 3 or lower – 0 points

Second language (English or French) proficiency, if applicable:<b
r>

CLB 8 or higher – 2 points for each language skill area
CLB 6 or 7 – 2 points for each language skill area
CLB 4 or 5 – 1 point for each language skill area, up to maximum 2 points
CLB 3 or lower – 0 points

Education:

Master’s Degree or Ph.D. & 17 years of full-time study – 25 points
2 or more university degrees at the bachelor’s level & at least 15 years of full-time study – 22 points
3-year diploma, trade certificate or apprenticeship & at least 15 years of full-time study – 22 points
A university degree of 2 years or more at the bachelor’s level & at least 14 years of full-time study – 20 points
2-year diploma, trade certificate or apprenticeship & at least 14 years of full-time study – 20 points
1-year university degree at the bachelor’s level & at least 13 years of full-time or full-time equivalent study – 15 points
1-year diploma, trade certificate or apprenticeship & at least 13 years of full-time – 15 points
1-year diploma, trade certificate or apprenticeship & at least 12 years of full-time – 12 points
High school – 5 points

Adaptability:<
br>

Spouse’s level of education – 3-5 points
Previous work in Canada (1 year, principal applicant or spouse) – 5 points
Previous study in Canada (2 years, principal applicant or spouse) – 5 points

Relatives in Canada (of a principal applicant or spouse: parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, child of a parent, sibling, child of a grandparent, aunt or uncle, or grandchild of a parent, niece or nephew who is residing in Canada and is a Canadian or permanent resident) – 5 points

For professional assistance with a PR application under Self-employed Persons Program,

If you would like to know more , you may call +1 587-930-7017 or email info@confidentimmigration.ca or message us using the contact form.

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