Immigration to Canada for Athletes, Coaches, and Athletic Events Organizers

Athletes and professionals in athletic fields, such as coaches and referees, are one of the two major groups who could immigrate to Canada under the federal Self-employed Program. Self-employment is one of the immigration programs in Canada, which many applicants overlook. People who are active in cultural activities may also immigrate to Canada under the the Self-employed Program. The focus of this article is athletics.

Who is a self-employed athlete?

Subsection 88(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) defines a self-employed person in athletics based on their relevant experience, their intention and ability to be self-employed in Canada, and significant contribution to the Canadian economy in respect to their self-employment activities.

Relevant experience for athletes immigration

According to IRPR, relevant experience “means a minimum of two years of experience, during the period beginning five years before the date of application for a permanent resident visa and ending on the day a determination is made in respect of the application, consisting of

(A) two one-year periods of experience in self-employment in athletics,

(B) two one-year periods of experience in participation at a world-class level in athletics, or

(C) a combination of a one-year period of experience described in clause (A) and a one-year period of experience described in clause (B)”‘ (Source:  Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, SOR/2002-227, <> retrieved on 2017-12-25
Currency: This regulation is current to 2017-12-05 according to the Justice Laws Web Site)

Imagine you submit your application to the immigration authorities on June 1, 2018. You need to roll back five years from that date (i.e. June 1, 2013). Then you need to prove that you had at least two years of relevant experience from June 1, 2013, to the date an immigration officer decides on your case. For example, if you were a professional boxing champion in your country who covered your and your family (spouse and children) expenses through your athletic activities in 2015 and 2016, then you meet the test of relevant experience. Personal income via self-employed activities is a crucial factor in this area. Of course, if you are a world-renowned athlete and have competed at the world stage, then income becomes less critical.

Intention and ability for athletes immigration

The applicant needs to show they intend and can continue their self-employed activities in Canada. The immigration officers look into several factors to see if the applicant meets these requirements. For example, they consider the applicant’s experience, their ties to the Canadian athletic community, their correspondences with their Canadian counterparts, and if they have offered a business plan for what they intend to do in Canada. The officer also considers the net worth of the athlete and their financial stability.

Significant contribution athletes immigration

A significant contribution is a broad and subjective matter. There is no financial threshold for significant contributions under this program. My experience shows the officers look into the experience of the applicant, their net worth, and their business plan to decide whether they will significantly contribute to the Canadian economy through their athletic activities or not.

Self-employed Athlete

What activities are valid for athletes’ immigration?

NOC stands for National Occupational Classification. It is a classification system for jobs in Canada. Each classification has its 4-digit code. Athletic activities fall under one of the following NOC categories.

  • 5251 Athletes
  • 5252 Coaches
  • 5253 Sports officials and referees
  • 5254 Program leaders and instructors in recreation, sport and fitness

Use this list as a guideline only.  Falling under one of these categories is not adequate for immigration under this group. You need to pass the relevant experience, intention and ability, and significant contribution tests to meet the requirements for this category of immigration to Canada. There might be some exceptional situations where a person’s job does not fall under any of these categories, yet the person may apply.

Selection points for athletes immigration

Applicants must meet the following three criteria to immigrate to Canada as self-employed persons in athletics. If the applicant does not meet any of the following, they won’t receive the permanent residency of Canada.

  • They need to meet all the requirements of a self-employed applicant (i.e. the relevant experience, the intention and ability, and the significant contribution elements).
  • They need to acquire at least 35 points out of 100 points (see below)
  • They can’t be inadmissible to Canada due to security, criminality, financial matters, or medical issues (both the applicant and their dependent family members)

The following points apply to this group of applicants:

  • Education: up to 25 points
  • Work experience: up to 35 points
  • Age: up to 10 points
  • English or French proficiency: up to 24 points
  • Adaptability: up to 6 points

If an individual has five years of self-employment experience, they will receive the minimum required 35 points and do not need points from the other categories. As for English and French proficiency, any claim by an individual regarding their level of proficiency must be accompanied by acceptable test results such as IELTS General or CELPIP for the English language and TEF for the French language.

After entering Canada

Successful applicants under this program are not under any obligations towards the Canadian government upon landing in Canada as permanent residents. However, if you genuinely do not intend to pursue self-employment, it means that you have committed misrepresentation.

The complexities of athletes immigration

I have represented hundreds of clients under the self-employed program in the past seven years. In my opinion, this is one of the most challenging methods of immigration if an expert is not on your side. A professional, seasoned immigration consultant can assess your case objectively and present your case to the immigration authorities in a professional lawful manner. Don’t take this matter lightly.

Note: The self-employment program is for individuals who can verify they have been self-employed in one of the fields of cultural or athletic fields. They need to prove they can continue their self-employment upon entering Canada. Their financial status, language proficiency, work experience, etc. must show their claims make sense. This program is not for circumventing the immigration laws.  Not only do applicants who engage in forgery or do not meet the requirements will face a refusal, but they could become inadmissible to Canada for five years. We highly recommend considering these matters into consideration.

If you wish to visit or move to Canada, please fill out our free assessment form. We will review the form for free, but we will contact you only if we find an opportunity for you. Alternatively, you may book a consultation session. Consultation sessions are not free, but you will receive formal advice from a licenced practitioner.

Al Parsai, MA, DTM, RCIC
Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant
Ashton College Instructor – Immigration Consulting
Author – 88 Tips on Immigration to Canada


This article provides information of a general nature only. It may no longer be current. It does not give legal advice. Do not rely on it as legal advice or immigration advice. We cannot be held responsible for the content of these articles. If you have specific legal questions, you must consult a lawyer. If you are looking for immigration advice, book an appointment. All the characters in the articles are fictional, unless otherwise clearly stated. Any resemblance in names, dates, and places (whether individuals, organizations, regions, or countries) is coincidental.

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Al Parsai

Al Parsai is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC) in Toronto, Canada. He also teaches the official immigration consulting courses at Ashton College in Vancouver, Canada. Al who holds a Masters degree from Yorkville University is a member of ICCRC and CAPIC organizations. Al, the CEO of Parsai Immigration Services, has represented hundreds of applicants from more than 30 countries to the immigration authorities since January 2011.

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