Canadian Federal Self-Employed Entry Process – My Story

My journey to applying for the Canadian federal self-employed immigration route took longer than it should have because the first time I thought about it in 2015, I was discouraged by the timeline.

Back then, it was almost nine years. I also spoke to a few immigration consultants but they actively discouraged me from going down this route. 

Additionally, I had just started my business then and was very busy so I let it fall by the wayside.

However, in 2017, I began thinking about it again for a lot of personal reasons and started to conduct some research.

What is the Canadian Federal Self-Employed Stream? 

The federal self-employed stream is for self-employed persons with two years of relevant experience and with the intent to become self-employed in Canada.

People interested in this stream must fall into the following categories:-

  • Have relevant experience in cultural activities or athletics and
  • Be willing and able to make a significant contribution to the cultural or athletic life of Canada

Examples of professions that fall under this category include:- 

  • Authors and writers (this is my profession)
  • Creative and performing artists
  • Musicians
  • Painters
  • Sculptors and other visual artists
  • Technical support and other jobs in motion pictures
  • Creative designers
  • Craftspeople

This stream also used to include experience with farm management but this was closed/postponed on March 20, 2018.

I connected with other people who had immigrated to Canada via the self-employment program and was encouraged by their feedback and timelines.

As a result, I went back to the relevant pages on the CIC website and downloaded and studied all the application forms and requirements.

The first thing I did was ensure my occupation fell under the self-employed person category

Canadian Federal Self-Employed Stream Points

I also checked the number of points required for the self-employed stream since it’s completely different from the popular express entry. 

Under the federal self-employed program, you must score at least 35  points on a selection grid to qualify.

Once, I clarified that I fit into the self-employed category and I had more than enough points, I began collating the required documents and filling in the forms.

I did not use an immigration consultant because I didn’t like the idea of making someone else responsible for such an important aspect of my life.

They also discouraged me from going down this route. Additionally, the forms weren’t exactly rocket science.

The application forms were pretty straightforward and CIC provided a very in-depth page with step-by-step explanations on how to fill each section of every form.

It took me a few hours to fill in all the forms then I had to start putting together all the other documents such as police certificates, etc.

self employed immigration - canada

I also registered for the IELTS exam and started studying for it. Even though my first language is English, I still needed to study and take practice tests because the IELTS exam is weird.

Even if your middle name is Oxford Dictionary, you need to study for and take practice tests for the IELTS exam.

Related Content: Best IELTS Exam Tips & Tricks for Immigration to Canada

Once everything was ready, I compiled the documents according to CIC instructions, packed them up, and sent them off via UPS.

The documents were delivered about a week later and I promptly forgot about the application.

Patience and waiting are part of the application process. If you don’t take your mind off it, you will make yourself completely mad. 

I received AOR (acknowledgment of receipt) two months after I sent the application in. I  linked my application online as requested then forgot about it again.

6 months later, my online application was updated with a request for more information and things started moving along at an alarming speed.

When I sent in my application, I expected it to take almost 2 years and had planned accordingly business-wise. Having it move at such a fast speed was a bit scary. However, I rolled with it.

I updated my application with all the information requested and also went in for my medical tests.

I heard back from CIC within a few weeks with instructions about submitting my passport after I passed the medical tests. I also received an invitation to access pre-arrival services.

My passport was returned with the visa stamped and COPR documents a week after I submitted it.

I’m planning to move to Canada within the next 3 – 4 months. I’m excited and scared but looking forward to it nevertheless.

How Much Did It Cost to Immigrate to Canada?

The application itself cost CAD 1,540. However, all the other documents required to complete the application such as the IELTS exam, police certificates, bank statements, etc came as additional costs.

You can see a complete breakdown of my costs at How Much Do You Need to Immigrate to Canada?

Canadian Federal Self-Employed Program Timeline

  • Application Sent – Feb 2018
  • AOR (Acknowledgement of Receipt) – April 2018
  • Additional information & medical request – Oct 2018
  • PPR (Passport Request) – Oct 2018
  • COPR (Confirmation of Permanent Residence) – Nov 2018

You can see it was a pretty rapid timeline so I’m assuming there’s something about my application that they really loved.

Federal Self-Employed Program Application Forms

If you’re thinking of applying as a self-employed person to immigrate to Canada, here are the steps for more information on that:-

If you want to live in Quebec, they have their own self-employed program so look through their requirements HERE

If you have any questions, you can ask in the comments section.

If you require assistance with putting together a thorough application that represents all your experience and future intention, have a look at my consulting and coaching page HERE.

Pin it For Later – Canadian Federal Self-Employed Entry Process

Federal Self-Employment Entry Process – My Story

Abi has lived and worked abroad for over 13 years. She loves traveling, reading, and writing. She is a big believer in following your dreams and has been marching to the beat of her unconventional drums for a long time. She funds her adventures by making smart financial decisions and investing wisely. Her top personal finance tools include trading with Questrade, investing change on MOKA, and no-fee banking with Tangerine and Neo Financial. Learn more about Abi HERE.

This post may contain affiliate links which means I will make a small commission if you purchase through those links. Read full disclosure HERE.

66 thoughts on “Canadian Federal Self-Employed Entry Process – My Story”

  1. HI, Abi,

    thank you for sharing. this was really very helpful. I am a fashion designer and this falls under the cultural aspect. I intend to apply to the self-employed stream in April when I get my IELTS result but I was thinking of using a consultant but I no longer see the need to do so after reading your article.

    do you think your application moved very fast because you were applying from Nigeria? I reckon there are not so many self-employed applications from Nigeria.

    lastly, is it okay if I contact you privately? thanks once again for your kind support.

    • Hi Bola, I’m glad you found this helpful. I honestly don’t think anyone whose first language is English or French needs a consultant to apply. The forms are a lot but not that difficult.

      Read Can I Apply for Canada Immigration on My Own? if you’re still on the fence about using a consultant.

      I applied from UAE and my application was processed in London. I’ve never met anyone applying from Nigeria under self-employed but I have met people from Kenya, Uganda, and SA who applied under this stream.

      As long as you can prove your experience in cultural activities is on a world class level and you can continue to support yourself via this root once you immigrate, it shouldn’t be a problem. You can contact me HERE.

  2. Hello Abi,

    congratulations on getting COPR, i went through your blog and it is awesome keep this work up,
    you didn’t mention your NOC and did you include the business plan in your profile.?

    • Thanks. My NOC is 5121. Yes, I included a basic business plan. They didn’t ask for it but I felt it was important to show that I knew what I was doing and had a plan in place. A future post will share the template I used.

  3. Hello Abi,

    congratulations on getting COPR, would you tell me how many pages are there in your business plan? have you ever been to canada for a business trip?

    • My business plan was about 25 pages or so but yours doesn’t have to be that long. I’m a writer so I tend to ramble. Your business plan should be as long as it needs to be. HTH.

      • hi Abi,
        Your story gave me motivation to apply…thank you for sharing.
        i am VERy much confused about what to add in bussiness plan what are the main POInts to be covered
        also is it should BE designed and written like proper company plan or can be written In simple narration / eassy STYLE.

  4. Hello abi
    thanks for sharing.
    I would like to ask what the chances are for someone without any travel experience on a passport. because I think your 25 pages on passport might have also influenced your success.

    • My passport had nothing to do with it. The strength, temerity and substance of my application, however, had everything to do with it. Travel experience is a very small part of the entire application.

  5. Hi,

    When we applying this program , at a same time we have to submit pcc and medical or else we have to wait when they asked to submit ….


    • You can submit police certificates at the same time but I advise waiting until IRCC requests for medicals since the medical report is only valid for 1 year and this process could take up to 2 years.

  6. Hi, you have given interesting information!
    I am applying for the federal self-employed stream as author and writer. I have academic IELTS and some publications in the field. Will it serve the purpose or they can refuse my application due to general IELTS requirements?
    One more question please: How to make the payment online or send them my debit card details in some format. I did not find any specimen for it.


    • Academic is for people going to school I believe. In order not to have your application refused after spending a lot of money, I advice providing what was requested, which is general IELTS. They specifically stated they require general IELTS. Do not send DC or CC details. They specifically mentioned not to do that. There is a portal to choose your stream and make appropriate payment through a secure online portal here – Please go through the checklist before you submit your application.

  7. Hi Abi,
    How can you prove your cultural activity is on world class? I am a journalist, novelist and short story writer from egypt. Thanks in advance and sorry for cap LETTERS MY KEYBOARD WENT CRAZY.

  8. HELLO aBI,

    • I am an events photographer in Nigeria. although I have been doing this since the year 2011, After my Graduation, but I didn’t register my business until the year 2018. Do you think I should apply for the the Self Employed Stream or I should go for the Express Entry? Thanks

      • You don’t necessarily have to have a registered business but you should have documentation and proof of the work you’ve been doing. How did you bill people? You provided invoices to receive cash or bank transfers as payments, yes? Website? Client testimonials? That’s what will support your application best, not having a registered business. I can’t speak to Express Entry. Don’t have experience with that. HTH.


  10. very nice article i have one question only if someone can help me should i show the fund and bank statement amount with application or it is required only when we travel to canada

      • Thanks Abi for this write up. My question is must the POF be 3months of age b4 submitting application like in Express entry? Again do they request certificate evaluation done by WES?

        • The requirements for this and express entry are completely different. The POF can be up to 6 months preceding the date they request the information. Evaluation of certificate by WES is not required for this stream.

  11. Hello abi.

    You blog is really insightful. I a fashion designer/Tailor here in Nigeria. The business is REGISTered . It was mentioned that we provide invoices and receipts.what about transactions that were done via bank transfer. 90% of our clients make payments through bank transfer.

  12. Hi Abi, thank you so much for sharing your experience and your articles cleared so much of my previous confusions! I have always planned to DIY and your sharing gives me much courage – love your can-do attitude 😉 Special thanks to your sharing on the importance of a business plan, I didn’t think of writing one but was only thinking to outline what I plan to do (i.e. similar business model as what I currently have in my home town). Apparently it’s smarter to convince them you are good enough to go with a well thought out plan once they approve you – thanks indeed I am now concentrating on this part. Just one small question – I see them asking for “copies” for most of the supporting documents on the document checklist, does it mean normal scanned copies and that I dun needa send along certified copies? Can’t thank you enough xx

    • Thanks for your comment. Yes, you send along photocopies where it’s mentioned, no originals. If you have certified copies, you can send that instead but that’s usually not necessary unless specifically requested.

  13. Hi,
    I am ARJUN, working as a graphic designer in the media. and I do freelance work also, like motion graphics, print designs, advertising graphics, film vfx etc with 10 years of experience. Am I eligible for this self employed immigration?
    Thank you

  14. Hi Abi, This is such a RESOURCEFUL blog…thank you!
    we are looking at applying under the SE program and I wondered if you are allowed to take part time work (in a coffee house for example) whilst you find your feet with your own business, I can not seem to find any information on this. i’m also really concern about the IELTS test, I have dyslexia so the THOUGHT of an english test is frightening…any advice?
    Thanks again, martin

  15. Hi Abi, thank you very much for this write-up. It definitely gave me a great sense of relief knowing the fact that some people can get accepted into the system within a year of starting the application process. My question is regarding the Police Certificates, was your certificate in a language other than English? If yes, did you have to get them translated?

  16. Abi, hi.
    Quick question. Did you get your degree equivalent from Canada before applying? I can see this is a requirement for the skilled program but there’s no mention of it on the Self Employed page.

    Thank you.

    Kind Regards,


      • Yes! I have a degree from the UK but I’m not entirely sure if I need a credential evaluation as it doesn’t seem to be a requirement for self employed.

        Did you get one prior to your application?

        • It’s not compulsory for the self-employed program but if you plan to go back to school in Canada, it will be required and it might be a headache to acquire then. HTH.

  17. Hey, thanks for the information.

    Just wanted to confirm, is there any minimum amount that you have to earn per month/year to be eligible for self employed? I couldn’t find any information about this.

  18. Hello Abi! I am so glad I found your website as in my country there is no consultant/immigration service who is informed enough about this visa. Your website is so useful and your story motivated me so much, so Thank You for sharing!
    I also have a question, that is I am a singer and author, and I earn around (edited) per month. However, I have a lot of money saved up plus a house with my husband, and as a result, I have enough funds and net worth in my bank account to sustain myself in Canada. Obviously, I will earn a lot more in Canada as I have a solid business plan and because my business (online) is currently taking off, so do you think I can be granted the visa? Or is my current monthly income too low?
    Also, I don’t see any form that requires the NOC code, so where must I write that.

    Thanks a ton, your website is a blessing to me!

    • Glad the website could help. In order to determine if you are a good fit for this program, would be better to go over your information in greater detail as well as the two occupations. I recommend you focus on one occupation for your applicaton.

      Can you clarify what you mean by you can’t see any forms that require NOC code? What forms are you referring to?

  19. Hey Abi,

    One year is a fantastic timeline! I’m currently looking at an average of 36 months to process…

    Did you have any student debt when you applied? I have a UK degree so my student debt is around £50k (which dents my net worth quite substantially).
    I’m planning on including a description of how UK student loans work, stating that my current finances are unencumbered, and the student debt will only ever be repayed based on future income above certain thresholds.

    I’m just wondering if you had anything similar to this?

    • It doesn’t matter how much debt you’re in per se as long as the ratio of debt to savings/investments etc is not astronomical. They just want to know you’ll still have enough money to meet the financial requirements for the program if you were to clear all the debt. Including an LOE wouldn’t hurt.

  20. Hi Abi, for providing evidence of relevant experience, did your reference letters include the company’s letterhead and address of the businesses you worked with. Or was it just a letter from the specific person in the business you worked with and their personal address?

    Also, can you share a template for reference letters?

  21. Also, what documents did you use to show your experience?
    Samples of your work, invoices, receipts, bank statements..what else?

    Also, for the bank statements, did you do markups on them to identify which payment was for each client you explained in your writeup?

  22. Hi Abi, thanks again for your posts here. Do you mind sharing how you proved you’d be contributing to the cultural activities in Canada?

  23. Hi Abi,

    Could please tell was your business registered in you left country and were you a tax payer ?

    I run an online business since three years, it’s doing well and have all proofs to show it’s mine BUT it’s not registered with the government and nor am I a tax payer. It’s just Online .

    Please shed some light on, other than this problem, I am good to go.

    • What kind of business is this online business? If it’s not registered, you should have other proof that you’re self-employed as defined by IRCC.

  24. Hello, thanks for your insightful information. Please i want to know how you packaged your documents. Did you just put them in an envelope?
    Can i get a moderate sized folder that will be appropriate for my document size, perforate the documents for clipping and also find a way to separate them.
    Your response will be appreciated.

    • I don’t recommend putting them in a folder or perforating the documents as that’s not the instruction. Loose sheets arranged according to the checklist is best. You can use a plastic clip to keep the documents together but don’t staple them. HTH.

  25. Hello,Abi

    We are self employed applicant applied in Oct-21 & Received AOR-Dec-21 then after big silence. When should i accept medical & bio-metric request from them?

    It’s normal or there is waiting period for it? we already paid fees for it.



Leave a Comment