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Federal Start-up Visa

Federal Start-up Visa

federal startup visa

Federal Start-up visa

Many countries offer visas to entrepreneurs who can make a significant investment in their country, provide jobs and transfer skills, all of which benefits the economy. The start-up visa is an immigration program offered by Canada for foreign business owners and entrepreneurs.

Once you obtain a start-up immigration visa, you qualify for a temporary work permit that enables you to travel to Canada to set up your business. 

What is the Canadian start-up visa program?

The Start-Up Visa is a pathway for immigration and permanent residence in Canada for qualified foreign entrepreneurs.  Although the official name of the program is Canada Start Up Class, it is commonly referred to as SUV or Start-Up Visa program.

The start-up immigration visa was launched in 2013 as a pilot program. Since then, hundreds of foreign business owners have obtained start-up visa and moved to Canada. In 2017, the federal immigration program was converted to permanent route for immigrant entrepreneurs looking to move and settle in Canada.

Eligibility Requirements

The purpose of this program is to recruit innovative foreign national entrepreneurs who will create new jobs and drive economic growth.

In order 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
  • 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.

Evidence of Commitment

In order to demonstrate that the applicant has obtained support from either a venture capital fund, angel investor group, or business incubator, the investor organization must submit a completed 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.

In addition, the applicant will receive a letter of support from the investment organization, which the applicant will need 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 conditional upon one or more “essential persons” receiving their permanent residence. An essential person is someone who has been specifically identified as essential to the business by the investment 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.

If there are two or more applicants as part of the same business venture, the commitment by the investment organization can be conditional upon one or more “essential person(s)” receiving their permanent residence. An essential person is someone who has been specifically identified as essential to the business by the investment 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

Applicants may receive support from multiple designated organizations, known as syndication. In this instance, all entities involved must be identified. Together, the designated 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 designated angel group also invests in the same business.

If the business receives support from at least one designated angel group, but not designated venture capital groups, then the minimum total investment amount that must be invested in that business is $75,000.

Peer Review Process

In order to protect this pilot program against fraud, a peer review process has been included. It is designed to make sure that the deals made between the investment organizations and foreign national entrepreneurs are legitimate. An immigration officer may ask for a commitment to be independently assessed by a peer review panel. These panels have been established by an industry association that represents the type of investment organization making the commitment. 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 making the commitment 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
  • 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 duration of the program is limited to five years. If this pilot program proves successful, the Canadian Government may choose to establish the Start-Up Visa Program permanently before the end of the five-year period.

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