The Start-Up Visa Program was introduced by ministerial instruction in April 2013 as a five-year pilot project. It was made permanent on March 31, 2018.
The Start-Up Visa program grants Canadian permanent residence to qualified immigrant entrepreneurs. The program aims to recruit innovative entrepreneurs to Canada and link them with the Canadian private sector businesses, (angel investor groups, venture capital funds or business incubators) and facilitate the establishment of their start-up business in Canada.
Successful candidates will receive a letter of support from a government designated entity (angel investor group, venture capital fund or business incubator). The government designated entity is primarily responsible to determine the viability of the applicant’s intended business and present an approved project along with a Commitment Certificate to immigration authorities. Applications are assessed under a pass fail basis. See list of designated entities.
Applicants to Canada’s Start-Up Visa program must meet four basic eligibility requirements:
- Have a qualifying business
- Obtain a commitment from a designated entity in the form of a Commitment Certificate and Letter of Support;
- Have sufficient unencumbered, available and transferable settlement funds;
- Demonstrate sufficient proficiency in English or French through standardized testing (Canadian Language Benchmark level 5) ;
The required commitment from a designated entity must meet the following criteria:
- A designated angel investor group must confirm that it is investing at least $75,000 CAD into the qualifying business, or two or more commitments from designated angel investor groups totaling $75,000 CAD; OR
- A designated venture capital fund must confirm that it is investing at least $200,000 CAD into the qualifying business or two or more commitments from designated venture capital funds totaling $200,000 CAD; OR
- A designated business incubator must confirm that it is accepting the applicant into its business incubator Program.
In order to qualify, the intended business must be incorporated and carrying on business in Canada at the time the commitment is made and:
- The applicant owns a least 10% of the voting rights in the corporation; AND
- No other person holds 50% or more of the total amount of voting rights in the corporation.
Up to five applicants may have their application for permanent residence supported by the same business investment. However, certain applicants may be designated essential to the intended business. If any of the essential applicants withdraw their application or are refused for other reasons, all other applicants under the same business investment will see their applications terminated.
Applicants who have secured a Commitment Certificate from a designated entity, and who wish to begin working in the business during the processing of their permanent residence application may apply for a short term work permit on the basis of their Commitment Certificate if the designated entity supports such a request.
Canada’s Start-Up Visa program does not apply to applicants who intend to reside in the province of Quebec.
Designated entities that may support an application under the Start-Up Visa program are:
Designated venture capital funds
- BDC Venture Capital
- Celtic House Venture Partners
- Extreme Venture Partners LLP
- Golden Venture Partners Fund, LP
- Impression Ventures
- Information Venture Partners Management Inc.
- Innovation Platform Capital International LP
- iNovia Capital Inc.
- Lumira Capital
- Nova Scotia Innovation Corporation (o/a Innovacorp)
- OMERS Ventures Management Inc.
- Pangaea Ventures Ltd.
- PRIVEQ Capital Funds
- Real Ventures
- Relay Ventures
- ScaleUp Venture Partners Inc.
- Top Renergy Inc.
- Vanedge Capital Limited Partnership
- Version One Ventures
- Westcap Management Ltd.
- Yaletown Venture Partners Inc.
Designated angel investor groups
- Canadian International Angel Investors
- Ekagrata Inc.
- Golden Triangle Angel Network
- Oak Mason Investments Inc.
- Southwestern Ontario Angel Network
- Southwestern Ontario Angel Group
- TenX Angel Investors Inc.
- York angel Investors Inc.
Designated business incubators
- Alacrity Foundation
- Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
- Agrivalue Processing Business Incubator
- Food Processing Development Centre
- Biomedical Commercialization Canada Inc. (operating as Manitoba Technology Accelerator)
- Calgary Technologies Inc.
- Creative Destruction Lab
- Empowered Startups Ltd.
- Extreme Innovations
- Genesis Centre
- Highline BETA Inc.
- Interactive Niagara Media Cluster o/a Innovate Niagara
- Invest Ottawa
- Knowledge Park o/a Planet Hatch
- Launch Academy
- LaunchPad PEI Inc.
- NEXT Canada
- Real Investment Fund III L.P. o/a FounderFuel
- Ryerson Futures Inc.
- Spark Commercialization and Innovation Centre
- Spring Activator
- The DMZ at Ryerson University
- TSRV Canada Inc. (operating as Techstars Canada)
- Waterloo Accelerator Centre
- York Entrepreneurship Development Institute