In April 2013, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC”) introduced the Start-up Visa, designed to attract the best and brightest entrepreneurs from around the world, with ideas for new business ventures. With the cancellation of the Entrepreneur and Investor programs in early 2014, the Start-up Visa is the best available option for entrepreneurs wishing to immigrate to Canada and who have no other family or business class options available to them.

Under the Start-up Visa, a start-up business is a business that is intended to be operated in Canada, which has received a commitment from a designated angel investor group, venture capital fund or business incubator. The business needs to operate in Canada and either is or will be incorporated in Canada.

To be eligible for permanent residence under the start-up business class, in addition to the standard admissibility criteria of health, criminality and security, the following four requirements must be met:

  1. Letter of support from a designated organization;
  2. An ability to communicate in either English or French;
  3. Completion of one year of study at a post-secondary institution; and,
  4. An adequate amount of financial resources to settle and provide for cost of living prior to earning an income.

Candidates must prove their business venture or idea is supported by obtaining a letter of support from a designated organization. The letter is valid for 6 months from the date it was issued; therefore, the start-up visa application must be submitted to CIC within 6 months of the letter of support being issued. (Check the CIC website for the list of designated organizations.)

In addition, to meet the designated organization requirement, one of the following is required:

  1. Designated venture capital fund: the start-up must secure a minimum investment of $200,000 from one or more of the designated venture capital funds; or,
  2. Designated angel investor: the start-up must secure a minimum investment of $75,000 from one or more of the designated angel investors; or,
  3. Designated business incubator: the start-up must be accepted into one of the designated business accelerators.

The applicant must also prove that they have the financial resources, without borrowing it from another person, to support himself or herself, along with the individual’s dependants, while in Canada. The amount of financial resources required depends on the number of family members immigrating to Canada.

Only 2,750 start-up visa applications will be processed per year. There is currently no estimate available for how long an application will take to be processed. It is important that the application be complete and accurate to avoid unnecessary delays.

Deanne Sowter and Gord Hunter