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


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 2 years.

The 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 Federal Self-Employed Stream
  • Occupations that fall under the Federal Self-Employed Stream
  • How you can be considered under the self-employed stream even if you are working full time
  • Some other FAQs about the 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 Federal Self Employed Program?

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.

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 Self-Employed Program?

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 Falls Under Cultural Activities in the Federal Self-Employed Program?

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 Falls Under Athletics in Federal Self-Employed Program?

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 Federal Self-Employed Application?

No, you do not. The minimum points to qualify is 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 Federal Self-Employed Program 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, business websites, social media accounts, 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.

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