Immigration via Investment and Start-Up Visas
Canada’s Start-Up Visa Program is a program designed to attract foreign entrepreneurs who wish to start a business in Canada. The program is intended to create jobs and promote economic growth in Canada by attracting talented entrepreneurs from around the world.
Under the Start-Up Visa Program, an eligible entrepreneur or startup can receive a letter of support from a designated Canadian venture capital fund, angel investor group, or business incubator. This letter of support is an essential requirement for a successful application.
The program has helped many entrepreneurs establish successful businesses in Canada, contributing to the country’s economic growth and diversity. It is an excellent opportunity for innovative and talented entrepreneurs who wish to start a business in Canada.
Castlewell Canadian Immigration Services can connect you with the Designated Organizations that are authorized by the Canadian Government to assess potential investment opportunities and issue Letters of Support that form the basis of a Start-Up Visa Permanent Residence application. If you have a Start-Up idea that may attract investors or if you are looking to invest in a Start-Up company, contact us today!
To be eligible for the Start-Up Visa Program, the entrepreneur or startup must meet the following requirements:
- Have a qualifying business:
- At the time you get a commitment from a designated organization, each applicant must hold 10% or more of the voting rights attached to all shares of the corporation outstanding at that time (up to 5 people can apply as owners) AND the applicants and the designated organization must jointly hold more than 50% of the total voting rights attached to all shares of the corporation outstanding at that time
- At the time you receive your permanent residence:
- you provide active and ongoing management of this business from within Canada
- an essential part of the operations of the business takes place in Canada
- your business is incorporated in Canada
- At the time you receive your permanent residence:
- Secure a letter of support: The entrepreneur must secure a letter of support from a Designated Organization. These organizations are designated by the Canadian government and include venture capital funds, angel investor groups, and business incubators. Each organization has its own requirements. For example, you may be asked to present your business concept in person or submit a detailed business plan. If you reach an agreement with a designated organization, you will receive a Letter of Support. You need to include this letter with your application for Permanent Residence. This is the proof you need to show that the venture capital fund, angel investor group, or business incubator is supporting your business idea.
- Meet language requirements: The entrepreneur must demonstrate proficiency in either English or French, Canada’s two official languages. This can be done by taking an approved language test and achieving a minimum score of Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 5 in all four language skills (reading, writing, listening, and speaking).
- Have sufficient settlement funds: The entrepreneur must have sufficient funds to support themselves and their family members while establishing the business in Canada. The exact amount of funds required depends on the number of family members accompanying the entrepreneur and typically runs between CAD$13,000 and CAD$25,000.
- Pass background checks and medical exams: The entrepreneur and their family members must undergo background checks and medical exams to ensure they are not inadmissible to Canada on security or health grounds.
Once approved for the program, the entrepreneur can apply for a Canadian work permit and can move to Canada to start and operate their business. The work permit is valid for one year and can be renewed if the entrepreneur continues to meet program requirements.
Once the business meets the program’s criteria, the entrepreneur can apply for permanent residency in Canada. The Start-Up Visa Program is a unique opportunity for innovative entrepreneurs to start and grow their business in Canada while also gaining permanent residency in the country.
Who is a strong candidate for the Start-Up Visa program?
In order to succeed in the Start-Up Visa Program, entrepreneurs should be ready to fulfill the following requirements:
- Ownership of an inventive or successful business that is generating sustainable and scalable revenue or has substantial market validation;
- Availability of sufficient capital to finance your start-up project, which is usually at least $200,000 per applicant;
- Possession of specialized knowledge or unique experience in your area of expertise, or having a strong managerial background;
- Having upper-intermediate proficiency in either English or French language, or both.
The Start-Up Visa Program may not be the suitable option for foreign entrepreneurs with restricted capital to invest in their start-up project in Canada. Obtaining a letter of support or investment commitment from one of the Designated Organizations in Canada is one of the key prerequisites for the Start-Up Visa Program. However, if you (or your company) do not possess enough capital to invest in your venture, the chances of obtaining support from a Designated Organization are low.
Although the Start-Up Visa Program is promoted as a program that requires no minimum investment, it is essential for your venture to be sufficiently capitalized to receive support from the Designated Organizations. It would be unrealistic to assume that Venture Capital firms or Angel Investors in Canada would invest in your venture and provide you with seed capital simply because you have a brilliant idea. This is usually not the case since VCs and Angel Investors typically seek outstanding companies that have a history of success and revenue before investing any funds.
Therefore, if you are an entrepreneur with a great product or service, but have limited capital to expand your venture (less than $200,000), the Start-Up Visa Program may not be the ideal option for you.
Benefits of Immigrating to Canada via the Start-Up Visa Program and Investment
Canada’s Start-Up Visa Program offers several benefits to entrepreneurs who are looking to establish a business in Canada. Here are some of the key benefits of the program:
- Access to a stable economy: Canada is a safe and beautiful country with a stable economy and a business-friendly environment, making it an attractive destination for entrepreneurs looking to start or expand their business.
- Support from designated organizations: The Start-Up Visa Program requires entrepreneurs to secure a letter of support from a Designated Organization, such as a venture capital fund, angel investor group, or business incubator. These organizations can provide valuable support, advice, and connections to help entrepreneurs establish and grow their business in Canada.
- Pathway to Permanent Residency and Citizenship: The Start-Up Visa Program is a pathway to permanent residency in Canada, which can in turn lead to Canadian citizenship. This offers entrepreneurs and their families the opportunity to establish roots in Canada and enjoy the benefits of Canadian citizenship, such as access to world class healthcare and education and visa-free travel to 184 countries.
- Low investment requirement: Unlike many other business immigration programs, the Start-Up Visa Program does not have a minimum investment requirement. Instead, the program focuses on the potential for high growth and job creation, allowing entrepreneurs to focus on developing innovative businesses without being burdened by high investment requirements. However, entrepreneurs can expect to pay between CAD$10K-50K to pay to Designated Organizations (administrative fees for the Letter of Support) in addition to the above-mentioned investment in the business of around $200,000. Still, when compared to many other global investment immigration programs, such as the U.S.’s EB-5 program which requires a minimum investment of USD $800,000, Canada’s Start-Up visa is an extremely competitive option.
- Fast processing times: The Canadian government prioritizes the processing of Start-Up Visa applications, with an average processing time of just 12 to 16 months. This allows entrepreneurs to quickly establish their business and start contributing to the Canada’s economy.
- Business-friendly environment: Canada offers a business-friendly environment with a low corporate tax rate, strong intellectual property protections, and a supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurship.
- Access to talent: Canada has a highly educated and skilled workforce with many universities and colleges offering specialized training in technology, engineering, and other fields. Additionally, the country has a robust immigration system that allows businesses to hire skilled workers from around the world.
- Quality of life: Canada is consistently ranked as one of the best countries to live in, with a high standard of living, excellent healthcare, and a strong social safety net.
- Government support: The Canadian government offers a range of programs and incentives to support entrepreneurs, including tax credits, grants, and loans.
- Innovation ecosystem: Canada has a thriving innovation ecosystem with many incubators, accelerators, and research centers that support the development of new technologies and ideas.
- Access to global markets: Canada has strong trade relationships with many countries around the world, providing businesses with access to global markets and opportunities for growth.
How to get a Letter of Support from a Designated Organization
To get a Letter of Support for Canada’s Start-Up Visa Program, entrepreneurs must follow these steps:
- Develop a business idea: The first step is to develop a business idea that is innovative and has the potential for high growth and job creation in Canada. Entrepreneurs should also have a clear understanding of the market, competitors, and potential customers.
- Pitch to designated organizations: Once entrepreneurs have developed their business idea, they should pitch it to designated organizations, such as venture capital funds, angel investor groups, or business incubators. These organizations will evaluate the business idea and its potential for success and may provide feedback and support to help entrepreneurs refine their pitch.
- Receive a Letter of Support: If the Designated Organization is interested in supporting the business idea, they will issue a Letter of Support to the entrepreneur. The Letter of Support must be submitted with the entrepreneur’s Start-Up Visa application. It confirms that the designated organization is committed to supporting the entrepreneur’s business in Canada.
- Apply for a Start-Up Visa: With the Letter of Support, entrepreneurs can apply for a Start-Up Visa. The application will be evaluated based on a number of factors, including the business idea, the entrepreneur’s qualifications, and the designated organization’s support.
- Obtain a work permit: If the Start-Up Visa application is approved, the entrepreneur will receive a letter of introduction from the Canadian government, which they can use to apply for a work permit. Once the work permit is obtained, the entrepreneur and their family can move to Canada and begin building their business.
First, you must pitch your business idea to a designated organization and convince it to support your start-up company. Once a designated organization decides to support your business, it will send us a commitment certificate and give you a letter of support. The process to pitch your idea varies for each designated organization. You must contact the designated organization to find out what you must do to seek its support. If you meet all eligibility criteria, you can submit a completed application, which must include your letter of support.
The Start-Up Visa Program is unique in that it requires the support of a designated organization and is specifically geared towards innovative entrepreneurs. Other business immigration programs, such as the Entrepreneur Program and the Self-Employed Program have different eligibility requirements and application processes.
Yes, you can bring your family members with you to Canada under the Start-Up Visa Program. Your spouse or common-law partner and dependent children can apply for open work permits and study permits, respectively, to accompany you to Canada.
The processing time for a Start-Up Visa application varies depending on the complexity of your business idea and the volume of applications received by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. However, the government aims to process complete applications within 12 to 16 months.
A designated organization is a business incubator, accelerator, or angel investor group that has been approved by the Canadian government to support Start-Up Visa Program applicants.
You need to convince the organization that you have a business idea that is worth supporting.
The process to pitch your idea is different for each organization. Each organization has its own requirements. For example, you may be asked to present your business concept in person or submit a detailed business plan. If you reach an agreement with a designated organization, it will send you a letter of support. You need to include this letter when you submit your application to us. This is the proof you need to show that the venture capital fund, angel investor group, or business incubator is supporting your business idea. The organization will also send a commitment certificate directly to IRCC. They will use both your letter of support and the organization's commitment certificate to assess your application.
To get support from a venture capital fund or an angel investor group, you need a sizable investment from them. To get support from a business incubator, you must be accepted into a designated Canadian business incubator program. Getting into these programs is a competitive process with limited spots available.
First, the designated organization(s) that you seek support from will review the viability of your business proposal. Next, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will review your immigration application, to determine whether you have the necessary support to apply, and to make sure you are eligible to become a permanent resident. Finally, your application may also be subject to an independent peer review process. This is designed to protect against fraud and to ensure that your activities and those of the designated organization are in line with industry standards for this type of support.
No. To get a letter of support, you need to convince a designated organization that your business idea is worth supporting. Each designated organization has its own requirements.
To apply for a start-up visa, you must show that you have reached Canadian Language Benchmark 5 in listening, reading, writing and speaking. With your application, you must submit the results of a third-party language test that show that you meet the requirement.
The amount of money you need depends on how many family members will be coming with you.
In some cases, the designated organization may give you additional money to help cover your living expenses. You can’t use the investment money for your start-up business to cover your living expenses.
Yes. Up to 5 people can apply through the Start-up Visa Program as owners of a single business.
When reviewing your proposal, the designated organization will decide who is essential or non-essential to the business. An essential person is critical to the proposed start-up. Without this person, the designated organization would not invest or support the proposal. If IRCC refuses the application of an essential person, all related applicants will be refused.
An essential person is considered to be critical to the business and will be specifically identified as essential by the designated organization on the commitment certificate and letter of support.
If the investment comes from a designated Canadian venture capital fund, you must secure a minimum investment of $200,000. If the investment comes from a designated Canadian angel investor group, you must secure a minimum investment of $75,000. You don’t need to secure a financial investment from a business incubator. You must be accepted into a Canadian business incubator program.
No, you’re not required to invest any of your own money. The minimum investment required is an investment that comes from a designated Canadian venture capital fund or angel investor group.
If your business fails, it doesn’t affect your permanent resident status. IRCC recognizes that not every business will succeed and this program is designed so that the risk is shared between the public and private sector.