The Entrepreneur Start-Up Visa Program
The Start-Up Visa program grants permanent residence to immigrant entrepreneurs while assisting them to become established in Canada.
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.
The purpose of this program is to recruit innovative foreign national entrepreneurs who will create new jobs and drive economic growth. In order to be eligible, applicants for a Start-Up Visa must meet the following requirements: 1) Meet minimum language requirements in English or French (CLB 5 in all abilities); 2) Have sufficient funds to settle in Canada; 3) Plan to settle in a province other than the Province of Quebec; 4) Pass Canadian security and medical clearances; 5) Prove your business is supported through a designated organization; and 6) Show your business meets ownership requirements. No more than five foreign nationals may apply for permanent residence as part of the same business venture under the Start-Up Visa Program.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has designated a number of venture capital funds, angel investor groups, and business incubator organizations to participate in the Start-Up Visa program. 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.
Evidence of Commitment
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.
Support from Multiple Organizations
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.
Peer 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.
Alternatively, if the group making the commitment is a venture capital fund, Canada’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Association would be responsible. While the peer review can be requested if the immigration officer believes that it would assist them in making a decision, they can also be initiated on a random basis. The assessment made by the peer review panel is not considered binding on the immigration officer. It will only confirm that the investment organization has carried out the proper checks and investigations according to industry standards. It will not provide an opinion on the wisdom or feasibility of the proposal in question.
The Peer review examines the level of due diligence that was performed by the designated organization and:
1) Ensures that the company has been or will be incorporated in Canada; 2) Ensures that business ownership has been verified and satisfies program requirements; 3) 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; 4) Makes sure the focus of the business is on a high-growth potential product and/or service; and 5) 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. If this pilot program proves successful, the Canadian Government may choose to establish the Start-Up Visa Program permanently before the end of the five-year period.