The Entrepreneur Start-Up Visa Program

The program encourages immigrant entrepreneurs to grow their companies in Canada. Successful applicants link with private sector organizations in Canada, where they can receive funding, guidance and expertise in opening and operating their enterprise in Canada.

Note: No more than five foreign nationals may apply for permanent residence as part of the same business venture under the Start-Up Visa Program.

Minimum 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; and
  • Show your business meets ownership requirements.

Investment Requirements:

Successful applicants are required to secure a minimum investment for their Canadian start-up. If coming from a designated Canadian venture capital fund, the investment must be at least $200,000. If coming from an angel investor group, it should be at least $75,000.

Applicants do not need to secure any investment from a business incubator. However, applicants must be accepted into a Canadian business incubator program.

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

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.

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.

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.

This program is to:

  • 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.

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.