If you’re a new business owner in the UK, the prospect of establishing an overseas branch might seem terrifying. With the looming threat of the UK’s exit from the EU and a lot of economic uncertainty in the global markets, you may well think that the best course of action is to stick with your current operation and wait to see what happens.
In truth, there’s never going to be an ideal time to branch out overseas, nor will it ever be a non-starter (no matter the uncertainty) if you do you research, check the numbers, and build a comprehensive action plan.
And of all the places a UK-based entrepreneur could venture today, Canada stands out as a beacon of opportunity. Offering close ties to huge markets — including that of the United States — plus welcoming business regulations, an exemplary global image, and competitive tax rates, it continues to attract interest from businesses across the globe.
If you’re a UK business owner and you think that Canada could be the next destination for your business ventures, here’s how you should approach the overseas setup.
Get a certificate of status
Regardless of where you choose to set up in Canada, you’ll need a viable certificate of status. This is an official certificate created to prove that your business is registered in your own country, and it needs to show:
- The name, address and official stamp of the authorising body.
- Your own name and address and any trading name you use.
- What your business does.
- Your business registration number.
Each certificate of status is only valid for 12 months, after which you must apply for another, but I recommend pursuing it as your first step to ensure that you have it ready in case a golden opportunity to move quickly presents itself (unlikely, but possible).
Choose your target province
Canada is a large country, and features a lot of environmental and technological diversity. The most popular areas are at the southmost edges, with British Columbia to the west and Ontario to the east, so those are obvious choices for businesses with big-city ambitions. But the country has a lot to offer, and you’ll need to investigate the pros and cons of the different areas.
Ottawa, the capital city, has much to offer for tech-based companies — indeed, it is considered Canada’s de facto tech hub — while more northern cities might be more suitable if you welcome peace and quiet and have a business model that could thrive in more rural settings. As we’ll shortly look at, there are provincial requirements to be considered, so take those into account when you do your research.
Meet the provincial requirements
Much like American states, Canadian provinces have different rules and regulations that affect the foreign business registration procedure. Having selected the province in which you’d like to set up your business, you’ll need to figure out what exactly is required for the local process.
Thankfully, the processes are mostly the same, though things can change so you’ll need to check. At a minimum, aside from the certificate of status you should have by this point, you will need to secure the following:
- An agent for service: this must be a person older than 18 who lives in the province you’ve selected, or a business with a registered office there. In the event that you can’t be contacted about your business, this party will be the next port of call.
- A name search report: to avoid confusion, it must be determined that your business name will not overlap with any other in the region. In some provinces such as Ontario and Alberta, the report will need to consult the NUANS database. In others, it will need to consult the appropriate provincial database.
Create a regional web presence
There are two approaches you can take to establishing an online presence for the overseas branch of your business: you can add a regional section to your existing site, or you can create a new one. The former will be considerably easier, but not nearly as effective in the long run — particularly if there ends up being some meaningful divergence between the two branches.
If you go with the former, be sure to update some of your content to include region-specific keywords, and include NAP information, but mark it clearly to avoid confusion. List separate offices, and serve a different homepage to a user visiting you from Canada than you’d serve to a user visiting you from the UK. Regional differences are not to be taken lightly.
If you go with the latter, aim to get a strongly-relevant domain, ideally with an extension that works very well (such as .ca). To get off the ground quickly, something you might want to consider is finding a relevant local business that’s for sale, buying it, and either reworking the site or scrapping it and keeping the domain name: the reason for this is that search engines tend to be very sluggish in ranking new websites, and if your ‘new’ website has a history in the search index, it will be perceived as relatively trustworthy and ranked much more quickly.
Consult experts if you need to
Branching out overseas is complicated and often exhausting, so you may find that you get stuck at a particular point and can’t determine how to proceed. If that happens, be sure to reach out to some experts in Canadian immigration law who can point you in the right direction.
However you get there, if you can manage to get your business established in both the UK and Canadian markets, you’ll be in a very strong position worldwide to target some huge markets. Good luck!
About the Author
Half-Finnish, half-British marketer based in Bristol. I love to write and explore themes like entrepreneurship, global business, and women in tech. I manage a small team of writers at a boutique agency.