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  • Andrew Carvajal

Proving Self-Employed Work Experience in Immigration Applications

A question that is often asked by clients and immigration colleagues is how to prove self-employed work experience in an economic class application. The animated short below describes what I do to document my clients’ self employment.

Demonstrating self-employed work is not easy and will require a number of documents that may be or many not be available depending on the individual case of a client. Some clients are highly organized or have been involved with businesses that maintain an extensive paper record. Others may have not kept the same number of financial records, invoices, contracts and other supporting evidence of their business, as is often the case of sole proprietors or tradespeople with small shops.

The starting point is to sit down with the client and ask them about their business. Who were the owners, what was the corporate structure, how many employees were there, how many clients did you sell to, etc. With that information, you can come up with a list of documents that are available to prove the client’s self-employment.

I normally start with an ideal list of documents that I would like to have and then narrow it down depending on what exists and what does not. Most people will not have all of the items on this list, but the more that you can get, the better.

My initial client list includes the following items:

  • Registration or incorporation documents: business licence, articles of incorporation, partnership agreements, etc.

    • You want to show any evidence that the business was registered and when, as well as any documents showing when it was dissolved.

  • Tax documents and filings

    • These are often official government documents, so they carry much weight and can corroborate the operation and size of a business depending on its tax liability.

    • Tax documents could involve corporate tax filings, as well as individual tax filings that show the revenue, costs and expenses of a business, such as in the case of a sole proprietorship.

  • Financial statements

    • If these documents exist, I want to include them and they may be part of tax documentation or independent from it.

    • Financial statements speak about the size of the business, how long it was operating for, revenues and expenses, total payroll and the remuneration received by the owner-operator.

  • Timesheets of hours worked by the self-employed person

    • These are particularly common in the case of independent contractors who bill based on time spent on a project or professionals who bill clients by the hour.

  • Invoices to third parties for good or services offered

    • In the case of an independent contractor, invoices can demonstrate the compensation received for a contract/project declared in the work history.

    • Where an applicant’s business catered to many clients, invoices show continuity of the business operations, as well as the nature and size of the company.

    • You may want to include just a selection of invoices from the period of self-employment to make the volume manageable.

  • Proof of payment/compensation

    • This includes cheques, deposits to a bank account, wire transfers, paystubs, etc.

  • Third-party contracts

    • These could be contracts with a company or organization to which self-employed services were provided, in the case of an independent contractor.

    • In the case of a larger business, you can include both contracts with clients and also with third-party providers. For example, suppliers, commercial lease agreements, contracts with the firm that provided IT services, etc.

  • Reference letters

    • If the client worked as an independent contractor for a single company, then a letter from that company confirming the information of the engagement will suffice.

    • In the case of an applicant who owned a larger business with many clients, you can obtain reference letters from business partners, suppliers, vendors, major clients, employees who worked closely with the owner, or maybe the company’s accountant.

      • You can also include other evidence such as printouts from the company’s website, social media accounts, online reviews, awards earned by the business, etc.

      • Sworn client affidavit (see below)

The primary objective of the documentation collected is to prove 6 key elements relating to the client’s work experience. These are:

  1. Exact dates of self-employment

  2. Title/position held by the client

  3. Hours of work per week

  4. Compensation received

    1. Could be a per hour rate, fixed pay per project, salary or dividends from one’s own company.

  5. Benefits received (if applicable)

  6. The main duties involved in the position

    1. This is a crucial element and they must match the National Occupational Classification (NOC) code declared in the application.

Some of the documents listed above may confirm only one or a couple of these key elements. Therefore, it is important to have several documents that collectively cover all elements.

Finally, there is a document that I always include with the evidence of self-employment and it is a sworn affidavit from my client including all 6 key elements mentioned above. This document summarizes the client’s self-employment and fills any gaps left by the other documents. However, as an affidavit is the client’s own evidence and can be considered self-serving, other documents need to be included with the application.

If the documentation is extensive and would include the production of hundreds of pages, and possibly thousands of dollars in translations, you must be selective. Include what is most important and most probative. This is where the judgment of an experienced immigration practitioner is key to selecting and preparing the right documentation.


Andrew Carvajal is a Toronto lawyer, partner and Head of Economic Immigration at Desloges Law Group. He specializes in corporate immigration, temporary permits and all types of permanent residence applications for professionals and entrepreneurs.

Twitter: @CarvajalLaw

#Selfemployment, #EE, #FSW, #CEC, #FST


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