The Start-Up Visa program grants permanent residence to immigrant entrepreneurs while helping them to become established in Canada.
The program fosters immigrant entrepreneurs to develop their companies in Canada. Successful applicants link with private sector organizations in Canada, where they can get funding, guidance, and expertise in opening and operating their enterprise in Canada.
This program seeks to recruit creative foreign national entrepreneurs to start new jobs and drive economic growth.
To be eligible, applicants for a Start-Up Visa must meet the following requirements:
- Meet minimum language requirements in English or French (CLB 5 in all abilities);
- Have sufficient funds to settle in Canada;
- Plan to settle in a province other than the Province of Quebec;
- Pass Canadian security and medical clearances;
- Prove your business is supported through a designated organization; and
- Show your business meets ownership requirements.
No more than five foreign nationals may apply for permanent residence as part of the same business venture under the Start-Up Visa Program.
Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) have designated several venture capital funds, angel investor groups, and business incubator organizations to participate in the Start-Up Visa program.
Successful applicants are required to secure a minimum investment for their Canadian start-up. For example, if coming from a designated Canadian venture capital fund, the investment must be at least $200,000. If coming from an angel investor group, it should be at least $75,000.
Applicants do not need to guarantee any investment from a business incubator. However, applicants must be accepted into a Canadian business incubator program.
Applicants are not required to invest any of their own money. In addition, if their Canadian start-up is unsuccessful, individuals granted permanent residence through this program will retain their permanent resident status.
Evidence of Commitment
To demonstrate that the applicant has received support from either a venture capital fund, angel investor group, or business incubator, the investor organization must directly raise a completed Commitment Certificate to IRCC. This document includes information about the agreement between the applicant and the investment organization. Its objective is to outline the relevant details of the responsibility between the investment organization and the applicant.
In addition, the applicant will obtain a letter of support from the investment organization, which the applicant will require to submit with their application for permanent residence. If there are two or more applicants as part of the same business venture, the commitment by the investment organization can be dependent upon one or more “essential persons” receiving their permanent residence. An essential person has explicitly been recognized as crucial to the business by the investment organization. If for any reason the application of a required person is refused, the applications of all others included in the Commitment Certificate will also be refused.
Support from Multiple Organizations
Applicants may receive support from multiple designated organizations, known as syndication. In this model, all entities involved must be identified. Together, the established organizations will provide IRCC with a single Commitment Certificate, and one Letter of Support will be provided to the applicant(s).
As soon as a designated venture capital firm invests in a business, the minimum total investment amount that must be invested in that business is $200,000, even if a selected angel group also invests in the same industry.
Suppose the business receives support from at least one designated angel group but not designated venture capital groups. In that case, the minimum total investment amount invested in that business is $75,000.
Peer Review Process
A peer-review process has been included to protect this pilot program against fraud. It is designed to ensure that the deals made between the investment organizations and foreign national entrepreneurs are genuine. An immigration officer may ask for a commitment to be independently evaluated by a peer review panel. These panels have been established by an industry association that represents the type of investment the organization is committing. For example, in the case of an angel investor group, the National Angel Capital Organization would be responsible for establishing the peer review panel.
Alternatively, if the group committing is a venture capital fund, Canada’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Association would be responsible. While the peer review can be requested if the immigration officer accepts that it would assist them in making a decision, it can also be initiated randomly. The assessment made by the peer check panel is not deemed binding on the immigration officer. It will only confirm that the investment organization has carried out the proper inspections and investigations according to industry standards. It will not furnish an opinion on the understanding or feasibility of the proposal in question.
The Peer review examines the level of due diligence that the designated organization performed and:
- confirms that the company has been or will be incorporated in Canada;
- guarantees that business ownership has been verified and satisfies program requirements;
- ensures that the designated organization has considered the viability of the proposed business model, assessed the business venture’s management team, and confirmed the ownership of the intellectual property;
- makes sure the focus of the business is on a high-growth potential product and service; and
- Validates, for business incubator applicants, acceptance into an incubator program.
As this is a pilot program, it will only process a maximum of 2,750 applications per year. Moreover, the course of the program is limited to five years. However, if this pilot program proves successful, the Canadian Government may permanently inaugurate the Start-Up Visa Program before five years.
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