Starting a New Business in Canada

Considering that Canada ranks 15th in the world for total GDP ($1.85 trillion, as of 2018 estimates) and has 37 million residents enjoying a high per-capita standard of living ($49,775 per resident), you may have been considering starting a business to join the robust Canadian economy.

In this article, we’ll take a look at how to start a new business in Canada, including the traditional method for foreigners and an efficient method that more businesses are turning towards.

[Note: This article is geared towards international entrepreneurs and not residents of Canada.]

How to Start a Business in Canada as a Foreigner

Before we begin, it’s important to note whether you a) have already established a business in your country and wish to expand your business into Canada, or b) you want to start a brand new business in Canada.

If it is option a), then the process is straightforward: You must register your business in the province(s) where you seek to open new offices, as well as register for extra-provincial incorporation. Each Canadian province has a website where you can register your business. Head to the Government of Canada Provincial and Territorial Registrar Websites to start the process.

Steps for Starting a Business in Canada

However, if you’re working on option b), then the process is a bit more complicated. Here are the steps:

  • Get a work permit for Canada.
    • For those that plan to live and work in Canada, you’ll need to apply for business immigrant status (choosing either a start-up visa or as a self-employed person.)
    • For those that don’t want to move to Canada or obtain resident status, partnering with a Canadian citizen to form a partnership or corporation is a viable option. Additionally, at least 25% of the company’s board of directors must be Canadian.
  • Next, you’ll have to register your partnership in the province where you want to operate. If you plan to form a corporation, you have two choices:
    • Provincial Corporation -- You are limited to working in the province or territory where your company is registered. However, the initial costs are cheaper.
    • Federal Corporation -- You can work in all territories and provinces, (as well as reuse the same name in each province). However, costs are higher and there is more paperwork involved.
  • Choose a corporate name, which must meet a few requirements:
    • A portion of the name must identify the corporation,
    • A portion of the name must identify the activities of the corporation, and
    • A portion of the name must identify the company as a corporation using a legal element, (Co., Inc, or Ltd.)
    • The name will need to be different from all of the other corporate names already registered (in either French, English, or both)
  • After choosing a name, you’ll have to submit documents to incorporate your business, including:
    • The Articles of Incorporation (the rules that will govern the company directors and members.)
    • The Memorandum (rules for company conduct.)
    • The Notice of Offices (informs the government of the registered office and the record office of your company.)
    • Notice of Directors (only required for federal corporations.)
    • NUANS (Newly Upgraded Automated Name Search), (ensures the name of your business can be used in Canada.)

Once you’ve filled out all of the application forms, mailed in the forms, and paid the required fees, you're ready to do business in Canada.

Starting a Business in Canada with Virtual Phone Numbers

If you feel that your dreams of starting a Canadian enterprise seem insurmountable, you may want to reconsider your options. Thanks to the exceptional versatility of “virtual phone numbers,” your business has endless avenues to pursue in terms of starting a business in specific locations, without the need to be physically located there.

Virtual phone numbers are a simple but powerful concept

When a virtual phone number is dialed, the call is instantly routed to another phone number located anywhere in the world. Thanks to recent advancements in cloud computing (particularly VoIP, or “Voice over Internet Protocol”), you can call and receive calls instantly. Furthermore, virtual phone numbers are indistinguishable from any other local call, having the same country code and area/ region code that Canadians are familiar with.

This means that if you want to capture Canadian callers while your business is located in another part of the world, you can. Moreover, Canadian virtual phone numbers aren’t just limited local area phone numbers (with corresponding area/region codes). Instead, you can subscribe to toll free numbers that use the functionality of virtual phone numbers with the professional image of toll free services. You can broaden the amount of potential Canadian customers your company can accommodate while offering toll free services, allowing your business to run seamlessly.

by Tom Senkus

Author’s Bio: Tom Senkus is a freelance writer and entrepreneur with a special love of all things Canadian. When he’s not visiting Montreal or Vancouver, he can be found writing articles that empower individuals and startups to expand their business presence. For more information, visit