Backgrounder — The new Start-Up Visa Program: An Innovative Approach to Economic Immigration

Canada seeks innovative entrepreneurs who have the potential to build dynamic companies that can compete on a global scale. The Start-Up Visa Program will link immigrant entrepreneurs with experienced private sector organizations that have expertise in working with start-ups. 

The pilot will run for up to five years. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) expects that due to the narrow focus of the Program, initially, the number of applications will be limited. However, the focus of the Start-Up Visa will be on the quality of the applicants and on establishing a track record of success, so that the Program can be expanded quickly to fill what we hope will be a growing demand. If the Program proves successful during the five-year trial period, CIC may formally introduce it as a new economic class in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.

Benefits of the Program 

  • The Start-up Visa Program will enable immigrant entrepreneurs to launch innovative companies that will create jobs in Canada, and eventually, compete globally.
  • The Program will provide entrepreneurs with valuable assistance in navigating the Canadian business environment which can sometimes prove challenging for newcomers.
  • The Program will provide private sector firms with access to a broader range of entrepreneurs, including the best and the brightest minds from around the world.

Program Partners

  • Initially, Canada’s Venture Capital & Private Equity Association and the National Angel Capital Organization will be active partners in the Program.
  • CIC continues to work with the Canadian Association of Business Incubation to include the organization in the Program as soon as feasible.
  • These umbrella organizations—through agreements with CIC—will recommend which of their members should be designated as eligible to participate in the Start-Up Visa Program, establish expert peer review panels to assist CIC officers in case determinations and provide assurance that industry standards of due diligence were followed.
  • The process of designating which Canadian angel investor groups and venture capital funds will be eligible to participate in the Start-Up Visa will begin early this year.
  • The process of designating which Canadian business incubators will be eligible to participate in the Start-Up Visa will begin at a later date.  

Applications

  • Foreign entrepreneurs will require the support of a Canadian angel investor group, venture capital fund or a business incubator before they can apply to the Start-Up Visa Program.  
  • Foreign entrepreneurs will also have to meet certain criteria regarding language proficiency and educational qualifications. The full set of criteria will be published in the spring of 2013.
  • The Program will open for applications on April 1, 2013.

Consultations

  • CIC collaborated with industry associations representing organizations that work with entrepreneurs, such as Canadian business incubators, angel investor groups and venture capital funds. CIC also consulted with the provinces and territories throughout the Program development process.

Economic Action Plan 2012

  • Economic Action Plan 2012 highlighted Canada’s commitment to supporting entrepreneurs, innovators and world class research. It also announced the government’s intention to build a fast and flexible economic immigration system with a primary focus on meeting the new and emerging needs of the Canadian economy. The Start-Up Visa Program is an important part of this plan.

The Federal Entrepreneur Program

  • Launched in the 1970s, it became apparent in recent years that the Federal Entrepreneur Program no longer functioned effectively.
  • The Program’s criteria rested on basic factors, such as minimum net worth and business experience and granted permanent resident status conditionally upon the creation of a minimum of one job in three years—hardly a great demand. As such, the Program did not require the investors to invest in innovative enterprises but enabled them to limit investment to smaller, safer ones—the antithesis of entrepreneurship.  
  • On July 1, 2011, CIC implemented a temporary moratorium on new applications to the Federal Entrepreneur Program to limit the growth of the backlog while the Program is under review. There are no plans to lift the moratorium.  

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