We are always being approached by clients asking us which country offers the best immigration programs for entrepreneurs. Canada and UK are frequently cited as being among the most desirable countries where an entrepreneur would want to start a business.

Canada has 15 different immigration programs for business owners and entrepreneurs while the UK essentially has one.

The aim of this article is to cover some of the key requirements of the Canada Startup visa and the UK Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa as they have some similarities and also some major differences.

Securing Capital

Canadian Startup Visa

The Canadian Startup visa was launched in 2013. The Canadian Startup Visa is an innovative program which aims to provide entrepreneurs with all of the tools necessary in order to build new ventures which are scale-able and which will sell massively on an international scale.

Initially, applicants had to secure funding from designated Venture Capital firms (£95,000) or Angel Investors (£36,000). This however, proved difficult for the majority of candidates. For this reason, the business incubator option was added in late 2014.

Applicants can now secure a Canadian Startup visa by demonstrating that they have been accepted into a business incubator program and received a Letter of Commitment. Designated business incubators are like elite business schools that entrepreneurs want to attend.

Since their introduction in late 2014 the number of applicants to the Startup visa program has risen and we are starting to see the huge potential of the Startup visa program.

UK Tier 1 Entrepreneur

You can apply if you have access to £50,000 in investment funds from one or more of the following:

  • a UK entrepreneurial seed funding competition endorsed by UK Trade and Investment (UKTI)
  • a UK government department making funds available for the purpose of setting up or expanding a UK business
  • If you’re from outside the UK you can also apply if your funds are from a venture capital firm registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

A prospective entrepreneur visa is available for those who need to come to the UK to secure funding from a venture capitalist firm, a UK seed funding competition or from a UK government department.

You can also apply if you’ve already invested £50,000 in a UK business. You must have invested the funds less than 12 months before you apply.

The funding rules are different if you’re inside the UK as a student or worker and attempting to switch into the Tier 1 Entrepreneur category.

Again, similar to the Canadian startup visa, many applicants have been unable to secure funding through these three specific routes and have had to instead rely on their personal funds.

Personal Investment Amount

The Canadian Startup Visa

Business incubators are for profit and all entrepreneurs have to pay fees for programs and services. Business incubators are like elite business schools for entrepreneurs. They deliver deliver curriculum and mentorship to accentuate your strengths and overcome challenges. They connect startup ventures with international customers and networks to accelerate growth.

Entrepreneurs are guided through an intensive business incubator syllabus by an experienced team of mentors who all have practical experience of establishing companies across North America and internationally.

At the conclusion of the 12 or 24 month incubation program, the international entrepreneurs business venture will be launched in Canada. Ongoing mentorship is provided to ensure that the business grows across North America.

Business incubators are for-profit and all entrepreneurs have to pay fees for programs and services. In general fees, start at £125,000.

UK Tier 1 Entrepreneur

This route allows an entrepreneur to come to the UK to invest in or set up a business with a minimum investment of £200,000 of his or her own money.

The £200,000 investment must not include the value of any residential accommodation, property development or property management and must not be in the form of a director’s loan, unless it is unsecured and in favor of the business.

Genuine  Entrepreneurs

Canadian Startup Visa

In addition to meeting the requirements for attributes, language proficiency and funds, business incubators will only provide Letters of Support to people who possess entrepreneurial characteristics. This can include:

  • Applicants with entrepreneurial experience and scalable business ideas,
  • Existing businesses looking to relocate or open a branch in North America,
  • Individuals who do not have a product or idea but who have an specific interest and entrepreneurial mindset. In this case you will be linked with an existing venture which falls within your area of interest.

The Canadian Startup visa is not a route into Canada for those who do not fulfill one of these requirements or people looking for a passive investment.

UK Tier 1 Entrepreneur

In addition to meeting the requirements for attributes, language proficiency and funds, an applicant must satisfy an immigration officer that they:

  • Genuinely intend and are able to establish, take over or become a director of a UK business in the next 6 months,
  • Genuinely intend to invest £200,000 in the relevant business or businesses,
  • Genuinely have the £200,000 available to them to invest, and
  • Do not intend to take employment in the UK.

An applicant must impress the decision maker regarding the source of funds, that they are genuinely available and that their business is viable. An applicant must submit an impressive business plan and be prepared to talk at length at a telephone or face to face interview at a British Embassy. It is worth noting that 70% of UK Tier 1 applications are now refused under the “genuine business” provisions.

Since 2008, 13,746 individuals have been granted Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) or Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visas, but according to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report, only 1,580 active companies have been set up by those granted visas.

The MAC found that the route for “graduate entrepreneurs” — those just out of university who want to set up a business — works well. “By contrast, the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route has a long tail of low-quality projects which contribute little or nothing to UK plc”, said Prof Metcalf.

“There is considerable scope to reform the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) route,” he said, arguing that government should be more selective about which entrepreneurs to admit under the scheme.

Entrepreneur Teams/Co-Applicants

Canadian Startup Visa

No more than five foreign nationals may apply for permanent residence as part of the same business venture under the Start-Up Visa Program. Each of the five foreign nationals must be essential to the business plan.

Each applicant can bring their spouse and children can accompany them to Canada as permanent residents.

UK Tier 1 Entrepreneur

An entrepreneur team of two applicants can apply together relying on the same funds and business activity.

English Ability

The Canadian Startup visa and UK Tier 1 Entrepreneur program both require that applicants have English proficiency to IELTS General Band 5.0.

Settlement Funds

Canadian Startup Visa

A single applicant with no accompanying family members must have £5,750 of personal bank savings to support themselves in Canada after being granted a startup visa. If you are married with children, you must have an additional £1,500 for each accompanying dependent. 

UK Tier 1 Entrepreneur

If you are outside the UK seeking entry clearance you must have at least £3,310 of personal savings which you must have held for a consecutive 90 day period before the date of your application.

You must have £1,890 for each dependent if you’re applying from outside the UK or have been in the UK for less than 12 months. If you’ve been in the UK for more than 12 months, you must have £630 for each dependent.

You must have proof you have the money, and that it’s been in your bank account or your dependents bank account for at least 90 days before you or they apply.

Status Granted

Canadian Startup Visa

Successful applicants to the Canadian startup visa program are granted permanent residence straight off the bat. In addition, a Letter of Commitment from a business incubator enables an Applicant to apply for and receive a work permit in one week while their substantive permanent residence application is being processed by Citizenship & Immigration Canada.

The initial work permit enables an Applicant to enter Canada, attend workshops at the incubator and incorporate their company under Canadian Federal law.

UK Tier 1 Entrepreneur

Initial applicants for a UK Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa will be granted temporary residence for 3 years and 4 months. Applicants cannot have recourse to public funds, must register with the police and cannot take up any employment other than working for the business the applicant has established, joined or taken over. 

Applicants will be granted a two-year extension to their visa where they can prove that they have fulfilled certain conditions (see below)


Canadian Startup Visa

Successful applicants to the Startup Visa program will be granted Canadian permanent residence in 6 months or less. Canadian permanent residence is unconditional.


In general, in order to maintain permanent residence a person needs to reside inside Canada for 2 years in a 5 period. After 4 years of physical residence inside Canada in any 6-year period a person is eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship.


UK Tier 1 Entrepreneur


The initial Entrepreneur visa lasts for a total of 3 years and 4 months. This can be extended for a further period of two years if you have met certain conditions in relation to investment, job creation and business generation. After 5 years residence in the UK on a Tier 1 visa you may apply for permanent residence. You can extend your visa for a further 2 years by meeting the following criteria: 

1) Investment in UK business

You have invested no less that £200,000 cash directly in one or more UK businesses.

2) Become a director or Self-Employed in a UK Business 

You have become a director or self-employed in a UK business no more than 6 months after being given a Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa and entering the UK. This can be either:

  • Registered as Self-Employed; or
  • Registered a new business in which you are a director; or
  • Registered as a director in an existing business.

3) Engaged in Business activity

You can prove that you are engaged in business activity at the time of your extension application and that you are still registered as self-employed or as a Director in a UK business.

4) Created new Jobs

The new business as created 2 full time jobs for people settled in the UK for a total of 1 year each.

When applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain at the end of the 2-year extension, an Entrepreneur must how that these two full-time jobs have been maintained. If not, two new full-time jobs for British citizens or permanent residents must have been created and existed for at least 12 months.

5) English Language

You can speak English to the required standard.

6) Maintenance

You have enough money to support yourself while in the UK.

UK Fast Track route to Permanent Residency.

Under the UK Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa, it is possible to achieve Permanent Residency after 3 years, using the fast track option. Fast track permanent residency can be achieved if the applicants business has either created 10-full time jobs in the UK which have existed for at least one year each, or the company turnover exceeds £5 Million over the 3 year period.


The UK Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa can be curtailed if the migrant has not registered themselves as self-employed within 6 months of entering the UK.