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
Getting started
Hiring employees
Importing and exporting
Other resources

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.

Contact IRCC:
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.

Use online:
Job Bank

The following resources from the federal government and inter-governmental organizations may also help you assess your foreign credentials:

Working in Ontario

The Government of Ontario provides a number of information resources on trades and professions in the province.

For more information, you can visit the following links:

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.

Contact HealthForceOntario

In My Language

You can also find general information in several languages for people who are new to Ontario.

Search online:
Information in more than 30 languages


Getting started

Getting started

When you start a business there are several things to consider before you can sell your product or service. Most businesses in Ontario need to complete a minimum of three basic steps:

  • Find out what licences and regulations apply to your type of business
  • Choose a business structure and register or incorporate your business
  • Determine if you will need to collect and remit HST

Our Starting a business guide will give you more information on these steps and other basic requirements for starting a business in Ontario.

Read online:
Starting a business

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:

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.

Read online:
Business start-up guide

Choose your language below to read more titles from the Small Business Services 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 BizPaL to find licences and regulations that may affect your business.

Use online:
Permits and licences search

Legal questions

Legal questions

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, immigration 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:

Read online:
Pro Bono Ontario - 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.

Use online:
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.

Read online:
Taxation guide

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.

Contact CRA:
Canada Revenue Agency

Hiring employees

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.

Workplace safety

Information on the requirements for safety in the workplace is available from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and from Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development Health & Safety Contact Centre.

Contact the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB):

Contact the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development Health & Safety Contact Centre:

Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development – Workplace health and safety
Find out how you can help prevent accidents in the workplace.

Employment standards

Some of the information on Employment Standards and other regulations for hiring employees is available in several languages.

Contact the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development: 
Employment standards 
Health and safety
Employment standards poster

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.

Read online:
Importing guide
Exporting to world markets

Other resources

Additional links that may be of interest to newcomer entrepreneurs include: