Business guide for newcomers to Canada
If you are a new Canadian or permanent resident in Canada and are interested in starting your own business, this guide provides some of the basic requirements for starting a business in Ontario. You can also find resources and organizations that offer services and programs for newcomers to Canada. Starting your own business can be a rewarding experience and understanding what is required can help you succeed.
Note: If you are not a new Canadian or permanent resident and are interested in business immigration, you can read Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada's information on how to immigrate to Canada.
If you plan to invest or do business in Canada but not immigrate to Canada, other rules will apply. You can find more information in our Foreign investment guide.
Table of contents
Before you start
Three of the most important questions to consider before starting a business as a newcomer to Canada are:
- Are you legally allowed to own and operate a business in Canada?
- Is your business activity regulated and does it require a licence or certification?
- What is the status of your skills and qualifications in Ontario?
Your legal status in Canada
If you are uncertain of your legal status in Canada and have questions, you can contact Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to find out if you are legally entitled to work in Canada. IRCC is the only department that can officially inform you of your status.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
Job Bank – An interactive tool
The Government of Canada’s website has an online tool and information to help you identify the name of your occupation in Canada. You can also get an online report that outlines the regulations, duties, skill requirements and wage rates for your occupation in Ontario.
If your occupation is regulated and you need a licence or certification to work in Ontario, contact the listed department or organization to discuss the requirements. Your foreign credentials may need to be evaluated before they will be recognized and you may need training before you can work in Canada. Because these regulations can affect your business plan, make sure you know the requirements before you start.
The following resources from the federal government and inter-governmental organizations may also help you assess your foreign credentials:
- Get your credentials assessed
Find out what steps you need to follow to get your credentials recognized.
- An Essential Workbook for Newcomers
Use this workbook to keep track of the information you learn about working in Canada.
- Learn about qualifications recognition
Access resources to help you understand the process of evaluating and recognizing foreign qualifications in Canada.
- Learn about recognition of your academic credentials
Find out how to get credit for the education you receive abroad.
Working in Ontario
The Government of Ontario provides a number of information resources on trades and professions in the province. Once you have created a Working in Canada report, you can use it to find additional certification and regulation information from the Ontario immigration website.
Work in your profession or trade
The Ontario immigration website also offers information on:
- Education and assessment programs
- Career maps for professions and trades
- Information on mentorships
- Trade- and profession-specific language training
For more information, you can visit the following links:
- Work in your profession
Find information about your regulated profession or trade and the requirements for working in Ontario.
- Profession and trade information and resources
Review descriptions of several regulated professions and trades in Ontario.
- Find a mentor
Search for available mentoring or coaching programs designed to help you gain knowledge about your occupation and the Ontario workplace.
- Specialized language training in Ontario
Explore language training programs that help you communicate effectively in your occupation.
- Ontario Bridge Training
As an internationally trained newcomer with a post-secondary degree and international work experience you can access help to obtain the licence or certificate required for your profession or trade in Ontario.
Global Experience Ontario
If you are an internationally trained individual looking to work in your field (but not in a regulated health profession - see HealthForceOntario below), you can speak with Global Experience Ontario’s knowledgeable staff to learn more about the licensing and registration process in Ontario.
Contact Global Experience Ontario:
Global Experience Ontario
Find detailed information on the certification, licensing and registration process for health care providers or Internationally Educated Health Professionals. You can also access free services by registering on the Access Centre website.
In My Language
You can also find general information in several languages for people who are new to Ontario.
Information in more than 30 languages
Before starting a business in Ontario there are several issues to consider, such as regulations, financing, and taxation. You can start by writing a business plan that can be used to:
- Set realistic business goals
- Make informed decisions about running your business
- Forecast your business earnings
- Demonstrate your business plans and goals to bankers or other potential investors
Read our Business plan guide to find out more about business planning. The guide is available in over 10 languages.
As part of the planning and start-up process, you will need to choose a business structure, business name and business location. The following multilingual documents will give you more information on each of these topics:
- Business structure: Which one is right for you?
- Naming your business
- Choosing and setting up a location
Once you have your plan in place, there may be licensing, registration and tax accounts that you will need to set up. Our business start-up guide will give you more information on the basic steps to follow when starting a business.
Business start-up guide
Choose your language below to read more titles from the Canada Business Ontario multilingual collection:
Your business may need licences and permits from the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government.
In addition to the information you will find in this guide, you can use the Canada Business Permits and Licences Search, powered by BizPaL, to find licences and regulations that may affect your business. You can also contact us to speak to someone about starting your business.
Permits and licences search
You can contact Pro Bono Ontario’s free legal advice hotline to enquire about getting help with your everyday civil legal needs (no family law or criminal law). The service is generally aimed at those who cannot afford a lawyer.
Note that service is not guaranteed and you will be asked questions as part of the qualifying process, such as the amount of personal income earned by your household, your name, postal code and age range.
Contact Pro Bono Ontario’s Free Legal Advice Hotline:
You can also contact the Law Society of Ontario's Law Society Referral Service if you have legal questions of a business nature. The service may be able to assist you in finding a lawyer or paralegal, based on your needs.
Law Society Referral Service
Depending on your location and the type of products or services being offered, federal, provincial and/or municipal business taxes may apply.
If you sell goods and services in Ontario, you may need a business number to collect and remit the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). Most businesses that make less than $30,000 in any 12-month period are not required to charge HST; however, you can register voluntarily and claim input tax credits. Speak with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for more information.
Canada Revenue Agency
When you hire employees, there are regulations and standards that you need to follow. Most types of businesses will have to:
- Open a payroll account
- Register for and pay workplace safety and insurance premiums
- Comply with Employment Standards
- Open an Employer Health Tax account
To learn about the requirements for hiring employees, read our Employment regulations guide: Hiring.
Information on the basic requirements for safety in the workplace is available, including Fact Sheets for Employers and Occupational Disease Fact Sheets from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.
Contact the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB):
Contact the Ministry of Labour Health & Safety Contact Centre:
Ministry of Labour – Prevention
Find out how you can help prevent accidents in the workplace.
Some of the information on Employment Standards and other regulations for hiring employees is available in several languages. You can find out about the employment rights poster and the requirement to post it in the workplace (in more than one language, where necessary).
Importing and exporting
As part of your business activities, you may decide to import or export your products or services. In order to bring goods and services into Canada or send them to other countries, you need to be aware of the regulations for importing and exporting, including:
- Registering for an import-export account
- Obtaining permits for exporting and importing
- Paying Canadian duties and tariffs
- Meeting legal requirements, regulations and standards
- Complying with the laws of other counties that you are dealing with
These requirements will vary for different countries and products. When you choose to export or import, ensure that your business meets all the requirements.
For other information that relates to starting your business, you can read the following guides:
Additional links that may be of interest to newcomer entrepreneurs include:
- Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration
- Canada's International Gateway
- Office of the Fairness Commissioner
- Canadian Foundation for Economic Education (CFEE)
- Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – Canada
- Canada Business – Canadian economy
- SME Research and Statistics
- Canada – OECD Better Life Index
You can also find books, magazines and other relevant print material at business service organizations in your community. To locate a Canada Business Ontario (CBO) community partner, contact us at 1-888-576-4444.