Do I Have to be Canadian to Start a Business in BC?

Are you a non-resident eager to kickstart a business in British Columbia? It’s normal to have lots of questions, we’re here to help. Here are some legal and tax requirements to keep in mind as you begin your small business journey in BC. 

Starting a Business as a Non-Resident

As of March 29th, 2004, non-residents are permitted to own a corporation in British Columbia. Fortunately, BC offers the most flexibility of all Canadian jurisdictions with regard to non-Canadian business owners. But to conduct business anywhere in Canada, you must be federally incorporated.

Federal Incorporation

Some provinces require residency while others don’t. If unsure, check with the provincial office responsible for registering your business. Here are the current Canadian residency requirements if you’re looking to incorporate federally:

  • At least 25 percent of directors must be Canadian residents. But, if a corporation has less than four directors, at least one must be a resident.
  • Corporations operating in sectors subject to ownership restrictions (such as airlines or telecommunications), or those in certain cultural sectors (such as book retailing, video, or film distribution) must have a majority of resident Canadian directors.


Physical Address

In BC, you must have a physical address attached to your business. In this case, a post office box is not enough. You’ll also have to follow the usual legal requirements for starting a business. Review our Starting Your Business Checklist, and visit the BC Corporate Registry for more information.


If you don’t plan to work on your business in British Columbia, you should contact Citizenship and Immigration Canada. They’ll help determine what kind of permit you need to enter the country.

If you plan to work on your business in Canada, you’ll also need to contact the CIC to obtain working status. If you are a student and want to start a business while studying, you’ll have to apply to CIC for a modified study permit

Contact Investment Canada

Another government office non-residents will have to visit is Investment Canada. Under the Canadian Investment Act, non-Canadians acquiring control of an existing business, or those starting a new business, must submit either a notification or an application for review.  

Tax Returns

As an entrepreneur generating revenue in Canada, you must submit a tax return. First, contact the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for a business number, as you’ll need it to submit the tax return. You’ll also have to register for an HST number if you generate more than $30,000 in annual revenue.

How Small Business BC Can Help Your Business

SBBC is a non-profit resource centre for BC-based small businesses. Whatever your idea of success is, we’re here to provide holistic support and resources at every step of the journey. Check out our range of business webinars, on-demand E-Learning Education, our Talk to an Expert Advisories, or browse our business articles.