In 2013, IRCC started the Start-Up Visa pilot program. The Start-Up Visa program is a business stream under the Economic Immigration Class which provides entrepreneurs with permanent residency and access to a wide range of business partners

On the plus side of this program, applicants do not need high language knowledge, or high net worth to be eligible for this program. There is not an official requirement for education and/or work experience.

The program aims to handpick and attract applicants with worthy business ideas to come to Canada and get the needed support. 

Who is eligible for this program?

IRCC designed and implemented the Start-up visa program to bring innovative foreign national entrepreneurs who will start a business in Canada, create new jobs and drive economic growth.

Start-up Visa applicants must meet the following requirements to be eligible for this program:

  • Having a groundbreaking business idea that is scalable, feasible, viable, socially advantageous.
  • Acquire the support of an IRCC designated organization.
  • Meet or exceed CLB 5 in all abilities for English or French language (Roughly IELTS 5)
  • Have sufficient funds to settle in Canada
  • Pass Canadian security and medical clearances
  • Plan to settle in any province other than the Province of Quebec

A maximum of five applicants is allowed to apply for permanent residency as part of the same start-up business under this program.

Investment Details

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has published a list of approved venture capital funds, angel investor groups, and business incubator organizations as designated organizations. One of these designated organizations must support this start-up business to make the related PR applications, eligible.

If a venture capital supports the start-up, it must invest a minimum of C$200,000 in the start-up. If an angel investor wants to back-up the start-up, it should invest a minimum of C$75,000 in the business.

For the business incubators, there is no investment required. However, the business incubator must accept the start-up founders into one of its accelerator programs.

Applicants do not need to invest any of their own money into their start-up business. If their Canadian start-up is unsuccessful, individuals who are granted permanent residence through this program will retain their permanent resident status.

The list of the current designated organization is as follows:

VENTURE CAPITAL FUNDS

 

ANGEL INVESTOR GROUPS

 

BUSINESS INCUBATORS

Note: For the latest list of these designated organizations please visit here

Proof of Commitment

To show that the designated organization supports the start-up business, the investor organization must submit a Commitment Certificate directly to IRCC. This document includes information regarding the agreement between the applicant and the investment organization. Its purpose is to summarize the relevant details of the commitment between the investment organization and the applicant.

At the same time, the investor organization will issue a letter of support to the applicants. The applicants must include this letter in their application package for permanent residency. With more than one applicant, the commitment can name one or more applicants as “essential persons” receiving their permanent residence. An essential person is an applicant who is deemed integral to the business by the designated organization. If for any reason the application of an essential person is refused, the applications of all others included in the Commitment Certificate will also be refused.

Support from Multiple Organizations

Sometimes the start-up company can get the support of more than one organization. This is more common in getting the support of multiple angel investors and called syndication. In these cases, the syndication should prepare a commitment certificate and letter of support indicating all parties who are supporting. Another important thing is that even if one of the supporting parties is a venture capitalist, the minimum investment requirements will raise to $200,000 as for venture capitals.

Peer Review Process

To protect this program against fraud, a peer review process has been designed. The goal is to make sure that the deals made between the designated organizations and applicants are legitimate. The 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 organization 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.

On the other hand, 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 believes that it would assist them in making a decision, they can also be initiated on a random basis. The assessment made by the peer review panel is not considered binding on the immigration officer. It will only confirm that the investment organization has carried out the proper checks and investigations according to industry standards. It will not provide an opinion on the wisdom or feasibility of the proposal in question.

The Peer review examines the level of due diligence that was performed by the designated organization and:

  • ensures that the company has been or will be incorporated in Canada;
  • ensures 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 verified the ownership of the intellectual property;
  • makes sure the focus of the business is on a high-growth potential product and/or service; and
  • validates, for business incubator applicants, acceptance into an incubator program.

Over the years from 2013 until now, the start-up visa program had several minor changes. On April 11, 2018, the pilot program became an ongoing federal program for foreign national entrepreneurs.