Canada was one of the first nations to create a Start-up Visa (SUV) that granted successful applicants Permanent Resident status. It was introduced as a five-year pilot program on March 30th 2013. During the entire pilot, only 132 Start-up Visas were granted.
In our opinion the launch was so muted because the government sought to attract very specific types of companies, compared to the ones that were accepted in other entrepreneur or investor categories; especially those that preceded the SUV.
As such, it was likely that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) anticipated the initial low approval rate and accepted the fact that the pilot period would be one of learning and adjustment for applicants and their representatives.
Thus, in April of 2018 the Government of Canada made the Start-up Visa a permanent Business Immigration program.
The Ideal Start-up Visa Applicant
Canada designates certain organizations to pre-screen potential immigrant entrepreneurs with respect to their fitness to apply under the SUV. These Designated Organizations (DO) are Angel Investor Groups, Venture Capital Funds or Business Incubators who have requested to fulfill this task on behalf of Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada and as such, must maintain certain requirements to achieve and keep their status as official Designated Organizations.
According to IRCC, our Start-up Visa Program “targets immigrant entrepreneurs with the skills and potential to build businesses in Canada that: are innovative, can create jobs for Canadians, can compete on a global scale”.
Up to five (5) owners / team members can apply under one SUV Application.
Each Applicant must:
Attain Canadian Language Benchmark 5 or higher in English or French
Prove they have sufficient funds to support themselves and their dependants for one year
Provide active and on-going management to the Business at the time that they are approved for Permanent Resident status.
The Application Process
An SUV Candidate(s) applies to a Designated Organization with the goal of obtaining a Letter of Support. With respect to Angel Investor Groups and Venture Capital Funds, the Letter must include a commitment to invest a minimum amount of money in the Qualifying Company, e.g. Angel Investors must provide CAD $75,000 or more, VC Funds must commit CAD $200,000 or more. If the Applicant(s) seeks the support of both an Angel Investor and a VC combined, the amount committed must reach or exceed CAD $200,000. A Letter of Support from a Business Incubator has no such investment requirement.
Once the SUV Applicant obtains their Letter of Support, they can submit their Application for a Start-up Visa which grants Permanent Resident status. They must include the Letter with their application forms, supporting documentation (IELTS test results, credentials, police certificates, etc.) and Start-up Visa fee. The applicant should pay their biometrics fee at the same time since once one receives a request for Biometrics from IRCC, you have only 30 days to comply.
The processing time for the Start-up Visa is presently one (1) year to 16 months from beginning to end. Therefore, we recommend that our clients apply for a temporary work permit as soon as they get their Letter of Support and while they await processing of their Permanent Residence application via the SUV. During the time that the applicant is in Canada as a Temporary Work Permit holder, they must meet different income thresholds than those required under the SUV Permanent Resident application.
The Qualifying Company
At Business Visa Canada, we are often asked what types of companies get approved. We advise clients that companies which operate within the following industries are most likely to be preferred by Immigration Officers:
Endeavours that are connected to STEM fields.
In addition to being innovative, the structure of the company is important as well. The proposed enterprise must:
Be incorporated in Canada.
Operate an essential aspect of its business in Canada; and,
At the time that the Business Immigrant(s) gets approved by a Designated Organization, each applicant must hold 10% or more of the voting rights attached to all shares of the corporation outstanding at that time. (Again, up to five (5) people can apply as Owners.)
The applicants and the Designated Organization must jointly hold more than 50% of the total voting rights attached to all shares of the corporation outstanding at the time they are approved for the SUV
Since the inception of the Start-up Visa Program, many of the metrics that make Canada a favourable place to do business have only improved. So, it makes sense that entrepreneurs and investors continue to choose to grow here. In response to our strong economic indicators and the marked increase of favourable International Trade Agreements between Canada and the rest of the world, IRCC has expanded the categories of business immigration available to eligible Immigrants.
When we look at the Start-up Visa Program specifically, we see this same ambition to attract more of the best and brightest international talent. For example, there are significantly more Designated Organizations than ever before and they have created industry niches with the precise aim of increasing approval rates. In fact, the best University-based Business Incubator in the world, is located in Canada and is an official DO of the Start-up Visa Program.
Therefore, we at Business Visa Canada are both practical and optimistic about the SUV. For the right Entrepreneur and/or the right Start-up team, it can provide everything you need to prosper here, i.e. from funding to contacts to office space to market intelligence.
Utilized wisely, the Start-up Visa could be your most advantageous means to: Iterate. Immigrate. Accelerate!