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What is an SBA Loan? & How Do SBA Loans Work?

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Small businesses are the backbone of the economy, driving innovation, creating jobs, and contributing to local communities. However, such companies, especially when young, can be vulnerable and require funding.

As a small business owner in Canada, you may have come across the term “SBA loan” and wondered what it means and how it can benefit your business. In a nutshell, SBA loans are an American financial product. However, there’s a similar alternative in Canada that can help you whether you need to expand your business, purchase new equipment, or require some working capital.

In this in-depth guide, we will explore:

  • What is an SBA loan?
  • How Do SBA Loans Work?
  • What is the Canada Small Business Financing Program (CSBFP)?
  • SBA vs CSBFP
  • The benefits of small business loans like CSBFP.

What is an SBA loan?

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is a government agency established to support and promote the growth of small businesses in the United States.

One of the ways the SBA accomplishes this mission is by providing loans to small businesses through approved lenders, such as banks and credit unions. These loans are partially guaranteed by the SBA, which mitigates the risk for lenders and makes it easier for small businesses to secure financing.

Kinds of SBA loans available

The most common types of SBA loans include:

  • 7(a) loan program: This is the SBA’s primary loan program and provides funding for general business purposes, such as working capital, equipment purchases, and debt refinancing.
  • CDC/504 loan program: This program is designed to provide long-term financing for fixed assets, such as real estate and major equipment, with the goal of promoting economic development and job creation.
  • Microloan program: As the name suggests, this program offers small loans, typically up to $50,000, to help small businesses start and grow.

Can a Canadian Citizen get an SBA Loan?

Yes, but with caveats. It is possible for a Canadian citizen to get an SBA in the United States. However, the loan must be utilized for an American business and the Canadian citizen must be lawfully in the United States. As with the CSBFP, the ultimate decision for the SBA loan lies with the lender.

What is an SBA Loan in Canada?

As mentioned, the SBA loan doesn’t exist in Canada. It is an American lending product to help American small businesses. However, there is a similar option in Canada. It’s called the Canada Small Business Financing Program (CSBFP). Getting a small business loan like CSBFP can be very beneficial.

OK, so What is the CSBFP?

The Canada Small Business Financing Program (CSBFP) is a government initiative designed to provide financial assistance to small businesses in Canada. Established by the federal government, this program aims to support entrepreneurs by facilitating access to affordable financing options.

By partnering with various financial institutions, the CSBFP helps small businesses secure loans for the purchase of equipment, real estate, and other eligible assets. The CSBFP has been instrumental in fueling the growth of numerous small businesses across the country.


In a nutshell, both the SBA loan programs in the United States and the Canada Small Business Financing Program are designed to support local businesses. Businesses that meet the criteria and satisfy the application process to financing can gain access to financing.

Like the SBA, the CSBFP does not provide direct loans. Instead, it partners with banks and other financial institutions to offer loans to businesses that qualify. Both the SBA loan and the CSBFP are partly guaranteed by the government.

How do SBA Loans in Canada work?

To qualify for the CSBFP, your business must meet the criteria. For starters, your business must be a for-profit enterprise operating in Canada. It should have a gross annual revenue of $10 million or less, ensuring that the program caters specifically to small businesses. Additionally, your business should fall under one of the following categories:

Furthermore, your business must demonstrate that the loan being sought is required for the purchase or improvement of eligible assets. These assets include commercial vehicles, equipment, machinery, leasehold improvements, and property used for commercial purposes.

Benefits of the Canada Small Business Financing Program

The CSBFP offers a range of benefits that make it an attractive financing option for small businesses. Firstly, the program allows for a maximum loan amount of $1 million, with a 90% guarantee provided by the government. This means that the financial institution only bears a 10% risk, making it easier for small businesses to obtain financing that they may not have otherwise qualified for.

CSBFP Maximum Loan Amount

Term Loans

The maximum amounts using CSBF are:

  • $1,000,000 of which a maximum of $500,000 is for a purpose other than the purchase and improvement of real property.
  • A maximum of $150,000 can be used to finance intangible assets and working capital within the maximum limit of $500,000 mentioned above.

Line of credit

In the middle of 2022, the government introduced a CSBFP line of credit option. According to the official CSBFP Guidelines, “The maximum loan amount of a CSBF line of credit is $150,000 over and above the maximum loan amount of $1,000,000 applicable to CSBF term loans.”

How to Apply for the Canada Small Business Financing Program

Just a reminder, you don’t apply for the CSBFP with the government. Instead, you apply at a financial institution that offers the loan. The exact requirements can vary from institution. That being said, applying for the CSBFP requires careful preparation and attention to detail, like any loan application.

The first step is to identify a financial institution that participates in the program. Once you have selected a financial institution, you will need to gather the necessary documents. This may include a business plan, financial statements, and details of the assets you wish to finance.

Your business must also meet the eligibility criteria:

  • It must operate or plan to operate in Canada.
  • The business must offer its products or services to the public.
  • There are no restrictions on ownership. An incorporated small Canadian business with foreign ownership is also eligible.
  • Your business must make less than $10,000 in gross revenue in the year you apply.
  • You must be a for-profit business. Charities, for example, are not eligible.
  • You must use the loan to purchase and improve eligible business assets.

Again, while the CSBFP provides a government guarantee, the decision to approve the loan ultimately lies with the financial institution. Therefore, it is crucial to present a comprehensive and well-prepared loan application that satisfies their criteria. For example, you may need to offer accurate financial projections, explain how the loan will contribute to the growth of your business, and showcase your ability to repay the loan.

Once you have submitted your application, the financial institution will review it and assess your eligibility. If approved, you will be required to sign a loan agreement that outlines the terms and conditions of the loan. As always, carefully review these terms and conditions to ensure they match your business objectives and financial capabilities.

Documents Required for CSBFP

The government has not outlined any documents required for the CSBFP. Instead, it has left this up to the lender. The documents required for CSBFP depend on the bank, credit union, or Caisse Populaire in Canada.

What happens if my Business Defaults?

As you know, the government guarantees the CSBFP loan by 90%. But that doesn’t mean that there are no repercussions if your business defaults. For starters, your lender will probably claim the equipment or property serving as collateral. In addition, your credit score may be damaged.

What is the CSBFP Processing Time?

The processing time depends on the strength of your application and the lender. Some traditional lenders can take weeks to process an application. In addition, any mistakes you make in the application can slow the process down.

While applying for the CSBFP, it is important to avoid common mistakes that can hinder your chances of approval. Firstly, providing inaccurate or incomplete information can lead to delays in the application process or even rejection. It is crucial to double-check all the information provided and ensure its accuracy.

Secondly, failing to demonstrate the viability and profitability of your business can raise concerns among lenders. It is important to present a clear and compelling case that showcases the potential for growth and success. Including accurate financial projections and highlighting your unique value proposition can greatly enhance your chances of approval.

Understanding the Importance of Capital for Small Businesses

So, why is capital important? Well, as the saying goes, capital is the lifeblood of any business, especially a small one. Having access to capital allows small businesses to invest in equipment, inventory, marketing, and other essential resources. It also provides a safety net during lean times and enables businesses to take advantage of growth opportunities.

If your business does not qualify for CSBFP, you have other options.

Other Financing Options for Small Businesses in Canada

Understanding Business Term Loans

Are you looking for an alternative to CSBFP? Explore your business term loans options. These loans are provided by traditional banks and financial institutions. Unlike CSBFP, term loans are not backed by the government, but they offer flexibility and higher loan amounts.

Unsecured vs. Secured Loans – Pros and Cons

You might be wondering about unsecured vs secured loans. Well, here’s the gist. Unsecured loans do not require collateral, while secured loans are backed by specific assets of the business. Both options have their pros and cons.

Unsecured loans can be easier to obtain as they do not require collateral. However, they often come with higher interest rates and lower loan amounts. Secured loans, on the other hand, offer lower interest rates and higher loan amounts, but require collateral, which can be a risk if the business defaults on the loan.

Short Term Financing Options

Short term business loans are pretty handy. They provide access to capital that can be used for various purposes, such as expanding operations, purchasing equipment, or hiring additional staff. Furthermore, loans can help improve cash flow and provide stability during challenging times. Additionally, timely repayment of loans can help establish or improve a business’s credit rating, making it easier to secure future financing.

If you’re not interested in applying for a small business loan, here are some other short term financing options:

  • Lines of credit provide businesses with a predetermined credit limit that can be used as needed.
  • Business credit cards offer similar flexibility, allowing businesses to make purchases and pay them off over time.
  • Merchant cash advances, on the other hand, provide upfront cash in exchange for a percentage of future sales.

The Application Process

Applying for a small business loan in Canada can seem like an overwhelming task. However, you can make the process easier by exploring your options on Levr.ai.

Levr.ai guides you through the entire loan application process. We make it quick and easy. We’ll even teach you how to apply for a business loan on our platform!

Simply create your Business profile and let us know a bit about your financial standing and funding goals. Once you share a bit of information about your business, Levr.ai customizes and matches you with the top lenders for the funding you need.

Small Business Loans in Canada

If you are a small business owner in Canada seeking affordable financing options to fuel your business growth, the Canada Small Business Financing Program is a good option. However, it’s not the only option for companies seeking small business loans in Canada.

Work with Levr.ai to match with a certified lender today. We use sophisticated algorithms to connect applicants with the best financing options. We also take care of the heavy lifting by optimizing the application process. 

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