Do I Qualify for the Federal Self-Employed Stream to Canada?

Work your way through this breakdown to determine if you qualify for the Canadian federal self-employed program stream.

The federal self-employed stream is just one of the many ways through which people can immigrate to Canada.

This stream is specifically for persons who have been self-employed in certain professions for a minimum of 2 years.

The self-employed stream used to include farm management as well but it was suspended in March 2018. In this article, I’m going to break down:-

  • Exact definition of the Canadian federal self-employed stream
  • Occupations that fall under the Canadian federal self-employed stream
  • How you can be considered under the Canadian self-employed stream even if you are working full time
  • Some other FAQs I receive about the Canadian federal self-employed stream

If you’re interested in how I immigrated to Canada under the federal self-employed stream, you can read my story HERE.

Do I Qualify for the Federal Self-Employed Stream Program to Canada?

What Exactly is the Canadian Federal Self Employed Stream?

The Federal Self-Employed program is for people who have been self-employed for at least 2 years in certain cultural activities or athletics.

These people should also show an intention to become self-employed in Canada under the same activity.

Canadian Federal Self-Employed Program Points

You need to score at least 35 points on a selection grid to qualify for this program. The five selection criteria and point system include:-

  • Education – maximum points of 25
  • Experience – maximum points of 35
  • Age – maximum points of 10
  • Ability in French and/or English – maximum points of 24
  • Adaptability – maximum points of 6

Do I Qualify for the Canadian Federal Self-Employed Stream?

You must meet the definition of a self-employed person to qualify under this program.

IRCC defines this as, “a person who has at least two one-year periods of experience in the period from five years before the application date to the day a decision is made on the application.”

The experience must be in one of the following areas – self-employment in cultural activities or athletics or participating in cultural activities or athletics at the world-class level.

There are two classifications above. The second is for people who are world-renowned or international athletes like Olympians for instance.

The first classification is what would probably apply to most people but it is left to IRCC to determine where you fall into based on the content in your application.

What Professions Falls Under Cultural Activities?

So for the first category, what kind of cultural activities are they referring to? The main professions here are:-

  • Authors and writers
  • Creative and performing artists
  • Musicians
  • Painters
  • Sculptors and other visual artists
  • Technical support and other jobs in motion pictures
  • Creative designers
  • Craftspeople

This is the main framework. Under this framework, you can find many other occupations.

Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) has a complete breakdown of these professions HERE so don’t be nervous if you don’t see your profession above. 

Knowing your specific NOC, title, and description will also help you put together a more composite application for whoever handles your case.

What Professions Falls Under Athletics?

The main professions that fall under athletics include:-

You can also have a combination of experience under cultural activities and athletics.

However, you must pick one NOC code. You cannot apply with several NOC codes.

Whichever profession you have the most experience under is your appropriate NOC code. Your CV can include all the other details.

Do You Require the IELTS for Canadian Federal Self-Employed Stream?

No, you do not. The minimum points to qualify are 35 so if you achieve that without IELTS, you don’t need to submit IELTS results.

Don’t start jubilating yet. 🙂

I recommend submitting IELTS results with your application anyway for the following reasons:-

  • IELTS may be what tips your application over into acceptance if it isn’t as strong as it should be.
  • IELTS gives you up to 24 additional points anyway so it doesn’t hurt to include it.
  • You may need your IELTS results for something else when you arrive in Canada and it might be a hassle to start getting it together then.

I was at 60 out of 100 when I calculated my points without the IELTS but I added it for good measure.

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

Do I Qualify for the Canadian Federal Self-Employed Stream if I Have a Full-Time Job?

If you have a full-time job but have been working for yourself on the side (aka side hustle) as well for at least 2 years out of the 5 years preceding your application, yes you qualify.

Working full-time doesn’t automatically exclude you from this category.

However, you should have documentation that proves you have been working on the side under cultural activities or athletics for these two years in order to qualify.

What do I mean by documentation? Registered business, invoices, receipts, payment of taxes, etc.

For instance, if you work as a customer service executive during the day but you are also a special events photographer during the evenings and on weekends, and make income from your photography and intend to continue doing this in Canada, then yes you qualify.

How you represent all of this clearly on your application is what will help the officer who gets your file to make an informed decision about your case.

If you have a full-time job and your side hustle is just a hobby that you work on from time to time then you do not qualify.

If your only clients are your family then you are not self-employed. You are a hobbyist.

It’s important to understand this distinction before you start investing time and money in putting together an application that is destined to be rejected.

Please note the province of Quebec runs its own Self-Employed Program. You can access this program HERE.

I hope it’s now clear if you qualify for the Federal Self-Employed Program or not. If you have any questions, you can ask in the comments section.

Do you require assistance with putting together a thorough application that represents all your experience and future intention when you settle in Canada?

Have a look at my consulting and coaching services 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.

38 thoughts on “Do I Qualify for the Federal Self-Employed Stream to Canada?”

  1. Thanks for all this info. I have a question about IELTS: I Amply qualify for the self-employed program without any points for language proficiency. I’d be happy to take the IELTS but it’s not available anywhere near me due to COVID closures and I’d prefer not to delay my application for months waiting for testing centers to re-open.

    The official immigration website seems to indicate that I need to wait to apply until I can take the IELTS. Do you know if my application will be processed without language testing results?

    • As far as I’m aware, you can submit your application without language results if you meet the cut-off. I suggest you submit but add an LOE about why you can’t take the IELTS yet. Can you please provide a link to the page that indicates you can’t submit the self-employed application without IELTS results?

  2. Hello,
    I am a textile designer( Make Adire fabrics ) what NOC do i qualify under? I see fabric makers and fashion designers but it states that you need to have a first degree in fine arts and visual arts.
    My first degree is in another course and I have like 5years experience running my business.
    I have no big investments to show, or landed properties.
    Do you think this is still a good pathway for me to go through?

  3. Hi Abi! First off, thank you so much for your resources and advice! I’ve been writing professionally for the past three years on Patreon (I also have a book I self-published in 2019), and my worry is, does my income need to meet a specific criteria or does it not matter as long as I’ve been working and earning money regularly since I began my self-employment? (I earn on average $125/month for my writings on Patreon; in Nigeria, this is well above minimum wage, but I’m afraid that this earning might affect my application.)
    Thank you in advance,

  4. Hi
    I am an electrical engineer And I have been running e-commerce stores for the last two years is that a good profile to apply with?

  5. Hi Abi,

    Your story is very inspiring and I’m s grateful that I came across your blog because there’s close to none testimonials/success stories for this program until I found yours. I also sent you an email. I was just wondering if I should include all invoices? What if there’s more than a hundred invoices? Btw, I am a freelance graphic designer and illustrator since 2015. Thank you!

    • You shouldn’t include those in your initial application. There will be an additional request if this is required later on or they might ask you to bring it to the interview.

  6. Hi Abi,

    Thank you so much for providing these info. Can you tell me how much funds or bank balance is required to show for this self employed program? It’s written “$12,960” cad dollars on their website so do we have to show exact or like double?

    Thanks in advance😊

  7. Hi Abi
    I’m a musician and a singer. I’m recognized by the cultural ministry of culture , I have my professional artist card. Is it eligible to prove my experience? or do I still need a reference letter from people I’ve worked with all these years of experience?
    also I would like to know if a reference letter is going to be enough to prove my experience? Because I’ve got no invoices. All my work was paid by cash.

  8. Hy Abi.

    I m an author. I write educational books used in schools. Pls I was told for an application to be successful one must keep btw 75 to 100 thousand Canadian dollars in the account for 6 months untouched.

    Pls I LL like to know how true it is.

    Awaiting your response pls. Thank you.

  9. Hi Abi!

    I have two blogs ( one is a lifestyle self-improvement blog and the second is a skincare + beauty blog) that I currently make money from, It is my full time job but I do not have a university degree in writing or digital marketing, I have a degree in Business Administration. Do I still qualify? When I read in The NOC section, It said TEER 1 requires a University degree…does it require a degree in the field you will be applying for? Please let me know!

    Thank you

  10. Hello, there. Please, is it mandatory to write IELTS? Will it affect the odds of getting PR? I calculated my points and i have around 60 points already.

    • It’s not mandatory to provide IELTS results but it can’t hurt. You will also need those results when you apply for citizenship BTW. If time is a factor for you, you can submit the IELTS results later on in the application process. HTH.


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