The newcomer’s introduction to starting a business in British Columbia

Published: Feb 20, 2013
Last Updated: Apr 27, 2017

Starting a business can be a complicated process and is often different in different places. Newcomers or non-Canadians wishing to start a business in Canada have some extra considerations before getting started. In this blog post we will share some great resources and support services to help the entrepreneurial immigrant start a business in British Columbia. 

Ethiopian restaurantLanguage: If you are reading this post, you are probably on your way to fluency, or at least comfortable with English. Communication is an essential aspect of running a successful business. If you or someone you know wishes to improve their English skills visit the WelcomeBC website to find the nearest ELSA centre. These centres provide free English classes to newcomers.

If you are not sure whether or not you need to upgrade, it is a good idea to take the Canadian Language Benchmark Assessment. MOSAIC provides in this service in the lower mainland. This test will provide you with a clear idea of how advanced your language skills are.

Credentials: It is important to note that foreign credentials are not always equivalent to Canadian credentials. Depending on the type of business you wish to start, you may need to ensure that your degrees or license is accepted in Canada. Examples of businesses that require credentials include starting an accounting business, an architecture firm or an electrical contracting business. Use the WelcomeBC Occupational Guides to find out how your occupation is practiced in BC.

In order to have your credentials assessed first you need to get them translated. In the lower mainland MOSAIC offers free translation services. Look for a local immigrant support organization for help with translation.

Once you have your documents translated contact the regulatory body for your industry. In some cases you will have to send your credentials to the International Credential Evaluation Service (ICES). ICES will assess your credentials for a fee. However, an ICES assessment is not always required. It is a good idea to contact the regulatory authority to confirm that you need an ICES assessment first. Note: this process can take several months. It is a good idea to start early.

Additional resources on foreign credential recognition:

Immigration status: As of 2004, you do not need to be a resident of Canada to start a business in BC; however, you need to have a physical address for your business in BC. These requirements differ from province to province. Any new business in BC must follow the regular legal requirements for starting a business in BC. Small Business BC has a useful checklist to help you get started. In addition, you should visit the BC Corporate Registry to learn about registering your business. If you would like to become a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you will need to contact Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). If you plan to manage your business from outside of Canada you will also need to contact CIC to find ensure you have the right documentation for entering the country. Non-Canadians opening businesses in BC fall under the Canadian Investment Act, please visit Investment Canada for regulations and forms. For more useful tips on this topic visit Small Business BC.

Establish a credit history: Starting a new business takes funds and in order to secure them, it is helpful to have a credit history in Canada. Even if you have money saved, at some point you will be expected to demonstrate good credit to start a service, for example to set up a phone line. You can start building a credit history by contacting a local bank or credit union and getting a credit card. Find a local credit union with Credit Unions of BC.

Cultural Awareness: Establishing a successful business will depend in part, on the connections you make in the community. It is helpful to be aware of cultural differences between your home country and Canada. Be open-minded and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Visiting a newcomer support organization can be a valuable source of insight to Canadian society.

Here are a couple of immigrant support organizations in British Columbia:

Some of these services even provide workshops and courses to help new immigrants start businesses. For examples S.U.C.C.E.S.S. offers the STEP Self-Employment program. Additional low cost business workshops are available through Embers Ventures and Small Business BC.

Now you are ready for business research! The Small Business Accelerator Research Basics Guide provides a step-by-step manual to help you find the information you need. Don’t miss our industry specific accelerator guides we cover everything from Farming & Agriculture to Technology & New Media


Business InfoSource.(2011). Connections: An Immigrants Guide to Starting a Business in Saskatchewan
Eversfield, M. (2010). Do I have to be Canadian to start a business in BC. Small Business BC.

PHOTO CREDIT: Merkato Ethiopian Restaurant and Market, created by Nate Grey on December 10, 2009. Image made available under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license. Last viewed on December 12, 2012.


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