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Permanent Start-Up Visa Program Targets Entrepreneur Immigrants

Canada’s Start-Up Visa Program officially became a permanent fixture on the immigration landscape as of March 31, 2018. The program aimed at entrepreneurs and business people made the transition from pilot to permanent, as Canada looks to attract people to set up new ventures and boost the economy.

Permanent Start-Up Visa Program Targets Entrepreneur Immigrants

The recent federal budget allocated $4.5 million to running the program over the next five years, which is expected to be spent on making the program more applicant-friendly.
About the Startup Visa Program

The Start-Up Visa Program was rare when it was launched in 2013, as a business immigration program that required no minimum investment and no minimum net worth.

This meant that a single viable business idea could lead to Canadian permanent residence for the applicant and dependent family members.

Applicants to Canada’s Start-Up Visa program must meet four basic eligibility requirements:

  1. Obtain a commitment from a designated entity in the form of a Commitment Certificate or Letter of Support;
  2. Have sufficient unencumbered, available and transferable settlement funds;
  3. Have completed at least one year of post-secondary education;
  4. Demonstrate sufficient proficiency in English or French through standardized testing (Canadian Language Benchmark level 5)

The program involves a four-step process:

  1. The applicant must pitch a business plan to more than 50 Canadian entities designated by the government to participate in the program, including venture capital funds, angel investor groups, as well as Canadian business incubators programs.
  2. To qualify for PR under the program, the applicant must secure at least $200,000 from venture capital funds or $75,000 from angel investors. Startups supported and financed by business incubator programs are exempt from the minimum funding requirement.
  3. Once the entities decide to fund the project, they are required to issue a letter of support to the applicant and submit a commitment letter to the authorities. The applicant is required to submit the letter of support obtained from the Canadian entity to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
  4. IRCC assesses the application on various parameters including:
    1. Fulfillment of the minimum funding requirements
    2. Whether applicant has submitted proof of funds to support self and dependent family members when setting up the business in Canada.

A Magnet for Attracting Entrepreneurial Talent

Putting the emphasis on quality of the startup idea has enabled Canada to attract quality entrepreneurial talent from all over the world.

Designated entities have provided close to $3.75 million in funding to new ideas submitted by potential permanent residents. More than 25 per cent of successful applicants under the pilot program are from India, showing how residents of nations targeted by Trump’s immigration rhetoric are increasingly looking to Canada as the preferred alternative destination.


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The Canadian program is by no means the only such program in the world. However, it scores over those offered by other nations on many important points. For starters, qualifying for permanent residence is not subject to the government’s discretion or the venture’s success. Fulfilling requirements related to investment funding, education, language, and financial capacity to live in Canada are enough to qualify even if the venture fails.

This is an important difference to similar programs offered by France, New Zealand, and the US where applicants qualify for temporary residence permits with the right to permanent residence contingent upon the venture’s success. Further, such programs require startups to flourish in unrealistic time frames.

The Canadian program recognizes the challenging global startup environment and looks beyond profit from startup ventures.

The Program’s Future

The Canadian government has shown its commitment to the program in its most recent budget, allocating more than $4.5 million spread over the next five years. The funding will be used to introduce various proposed changes including:

  1. A revamped and more user-friendly online portal.
  2. Preliminary evaluation of applicant’s ideas.
  3. Feedback on overall quality of the business plan as well as the proposal drafted by the applicant.
  4. Involvement of government officials in the evaluation process to help applicants connect with the right accelerator and incubator programs in Canada.

Unlike other programs, the Canadian Start-Up Visa Program has been designed to expand the country’s startup universe, attract global talent, create jobs for Canadians, and boost the country’s efforts to become a global technology powerhouse. Hence, it is essential that applicants focus on ideas and come up with proposals that fit within the program’s goals and objectives.

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