The two most common ways in which foreigners register to operate their businesses in Canada are through the registration of a Canadian branch or the incorporation of a Canadian subsidiary. When a foreign company is looking to expand its business into other markets, it usually just opens a branch office to test the waters – because the cost of registering a branch office with the government is less expensive than potential legal fees involved with incorporating a subsidiary. Having only a branch office allows foreign companies an easier exit from Canada if they do not see the results they were expecting in their expansion.

Often companies looking to open a branch office in Canada will look to set up office space at a serviced office business centre where they are not tied to a long-term lease. Besides not needing to sign a long-term lease, companies benefit from serviced office providers by not having to make capital cost layouts for office furniture or equipment.

What many companies wanting to expand into Canada sometimes fail to realize, is that you do not need to have a physical office in Canada to have a branch office. Virtual office providers can give a company an address and a live receptionist who can send calls to a company employee or employees who are servicing the Canadian market. They can even forward the local calls to the head office in the country of origin. Having someone at the virtual office provider who speaks the local dialect, has the local accent and knows the local geography, can be more persuasive to potential customers that it truly is a physical branch office.

If a company has a branch office and local sales representatives that are local hires, or ICT’s (Intra-Company Transfers) that do not need a full-time office (but may meed the services of the virtual office provider), they can have them. Yes, if a sales rep needs to have an in-person meeting with a client, he or she can arrange to have a boardroom or meeting room at the same address the client or customer sees on their business card. Maybe that on-the-road salesperson needs a place to work from for a day. Well, their virtual office provider can offer them the rental for one day only.

For small business owners who are not planning to make local hires or to go through the process of immigrating to Canada, a virtual office provider could set them up with a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocols) handset that allows them to receive and make local Canadian phone calls, regardless of where they are in the world. Basically, if a client was to call the Toronto telephone number of the branch office, the call would be routed as if it was a local call. If the small business owner is physically in say California or Chicago, the recipient would see the call coming in as a local telephone number to the city where the VoIP service is registered (i.e. a Toronto 416 area code).

Most virtual office providers offer international mail forwarding services that get the mail to foreign customers. Some are starting to offer more modern solutions such as: Fax to email, where local faxes are sent to the company by email; Mail scanning services, where, for a small administrative charge, mail is scanned and emailed; and Cheque/Check depositing by photo (this is relatively new, but banks are now accepting photos of Cheques/Checks as a means of depositing money into a business account). Not all branch offices require these additional services and not all virtual office providers offer them. Knowing that these additional services are available may help a small business owner to open a branch office without having to physically come to Canada.