Canada’s Start-up Visa Program helps immigrant entrepreneurs to establish businesses in Canada by allowing foreign business owners and their families to apply for permanent resident status. While waiting for their permanent residence, foreign entrepreneurs who have applied to the Start-up Visa Program are eligible for a temporary work permit, allowing them to travel to Canada to launch their business.
Since launching as a pilot program in 2013, the Start-up Visa Program has admitted hundreds of immigrant business owners to Canada, with the number of admissions increasing each year.
In 2017, the program was made a permanent option for immigrant entrepreneurs interested in moving to Canada.
As the Canadian economy continues to experience a sustained period of economic growth, the Start-up Visa Program is one of many immigration initiatives designed to help talented foreign workers find a home in the Canadian workforce.
Start-up Visa for foreign entrepreneurs
The Start-up Visa Program is ideal for entrepreneurs with an existing business that is ready for investors. In order to be eligible to apply to the Start-up Visa Program, applicants must have already created their business and secured commitment from a designated Canadian business investment organization or incubator.
How to qualify for the Start-up Visa
There are four major requirements that entrepreneurial applicants must meet in order to apply for a start-up visa.
1. Have a qualifying business
To be considered a qualifying business, entrepreneur applicants must have created a business in which each applicant for immigration holds at least 10 percent of the voting rights attached to all shares of the corporation. Up to five newcomers can apply together as owners. As well, the applicants and the designated organization must jointly hold more than 50 percent of the total voting rights.
In order to secure permanent residence through the Start-up Visa Program, applicants must ensure that the business becomes incorporated within Canada with essential activities taking place in Canada through the active management of the foreign entrepreneurs.
Before applying to the Start-up Visa Program, foreign entrepreneurs must secure the commitment of a designated organization that will support the business’ development in Canada.
There are three categories of designated organizations:
Designated angel investor groups
You must get one or more investors connected to these groups to agree to invest a minimum of $75,000:
Designated venture capital funds
You must get at least one of these groups to agree to invest a minimum of CAD $200,000:
- BCF Ventures
- BDC Venture Capital
- Celtic House Venture Partners
- Extreme Venture Partners LLP
- Golden Venture Partners Fund, LP
- Impression Ventures
- Information Venture Partners Management Inc.
- Innovation Platform Capital International LP
- iNovia Capital Inc.
- Lumira Capital
- Nova Scotia Innovation Corporation (o/a Innovacorp)
- OMERS Ventures Management Inc.
- Pangaea Ventures Ltd.
- PRIVEQ Capital Funds
- Real Ventures
- Relay Ventures
- ScaleUp Venture Partners, Inc.
- Top Renergy Inc.
- Vanedge Capital Limited Partnership
- Version One Ventures
- Westcap Management Ltd.
- Yaletown Venture Partners Inc.
- York Entrepreneurship Development Institute (YEDI) VC Fund
Designated business incubators
You must be accepted into one of these programs. No financial investment is required:
- Alacrity Foundation
- Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
- Biomedical Commercialization Canada Inc. (operating as Manitoba Technology Accelerator)
- Creative Destruction Lab
- Empowered Startups Ltd.
- Extreme Innovations
- Genesis Centre
- Highline BETA Inc.
- Interactive Niagara Media Cluster o/a Innovate Niagara
- Invest Ottawa
- Knowledge Park o/a Planet Hatch
- LatAm Startups
- Launch Academy – Vancouver
- LaunchPad PEI Inc.
- Millworks Centre for Entrepreneurship
- NEXT Canada
- North Forge Technology Exchange
- Platform Calgary
- Real Investment Fund III L.P. o/a FounderFuel
- Ryerson Futures Inc.
- Spark Commercialization and Innovation Centre
- Spring Activator
- The DMZ at Ryerson University
- Toronto Business Development Centre (TBDC)
- TSRV Canada Inc. (operating as Techstars Canada)
- Waterloo Accelerator Centre
- York Entrepreneurship Development Institute
Interested applicants can consult the above lists to find potential matches for their business venture. An designated organization’s commitment is demonstrated through a Letter of Support which must be included as part of the application. Letters of Support are valid for six months from their date of issue.
3. Prove ability in English or French
All applicants for the Start-up Visa Program must demonstrate proficiency in one of Canada’s official languages, either English or French. To qualify for the program, candidates must show results from an approved language test demonstrating ability at Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) Level 5 or higher. The test results must be less than two years old at the time of application.
Canadian immigration authorities currently accept English test results from the following test providers:
Test results from either of these two French tests may also be submitted:
4. Meet IRCC’s proof of funds requirement
Interested applicants must show that they have enough money to support settlement in Canada for themselves and their family members. To do this, applicants have to show that they meet IRCC’s proof of means of financial support requirement: