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Canadian permanent residency via the start-up visa program

An entrepreneur working on her laptop

Canada could be a great choice if you are an entrepreneur seeking to establish a new business in North America. The Canadian start-up visa program offers permanent residency for entrepreneurs, regardless of nationality, who obtain a certain amount of investment from a designated investment organization (either a venture capital fund, angel investor group, or business incubator). This could be a great choice if an entrepreneur has a business concept and is seeking capital investment from an external organization. On the other hand, an entrepreneur who seeks to open a business with personal funds or loans from family or friends may not be able to benefit from this program.

To be eligible for permanent residency via the start-up visa program, an entrepreneur must meet ownership requirements of a new business incorporated in Canada and must obtain a minimum investment from at least one designated investment organization from a list published by the IRCC (Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada). The investment must be made by a venture capital fund, angel investor group, or business incubator, from the IRCC’s list of designated organizations, which can be found here.

Ownership

Up to 5 applicants, who each hold 10% or more of voting rights attached to all shares of the corporation, can apply for permanent residency as an “owner” of the business. They do not have to be from the same country. The Applicant(s) and the “designated organization” which provides the investment must together own more than 50% of voting rights attached to all shares of the corporation.
The business must be incorporated in Canada, an essential part of the operations of the business happens in Canada, and the applicant will manage the business from within Canada in an active and ongoing basis.

Commitment from a Designated Entity

Applicants must obtain a Letter of Support from one of the designated investment organizations from the IRCC’s list, which must show a commitment towards one of the following:

  • $75,000 CAD or greater cumulative investment from one or more designated angel investor group(s);
  • $200,000 CAD or greater cumulative investment from one or more designated venture capital fund(s);
  • Acceptance of the business into a designated business incubator program.

The organization, once an agreement is made to support the business, will issue a Letter of Support to the applicant and also send a Commitment Certificate directly to the IRCC.

Language Skills and Settlement Funds

Mirroring the requirement that applies to many other permanent residency application streams, applicants must show a minimum proficiency in English or French (one of Canada’s official languages) through language test results from an approved agency that pass the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) Level 5 threshold for all four skills (speaking, reading, listening, writing), that are less than two years old. See the details here.

In addition, each applicant must show a minimum of personal funds, called “settlement funds” to support the applicant and his/her family when they first arrive in Canada. In January 2022, the requirement was $13,213 CAD for one applicant, and $24,553 CAD for a 4-person family.

Start-up Entrepreneur Work Permit

Once a prospective applicant succeeds in obtaining an agreement with a designated investor organization, listed above, and have obtained a Commitment Certificate and Letter of Support from such an organization, the applicant is eligible to apply and receive a work permit, which enable the applicant to enter Canada to start working while their permanent residency application is processing.

Work permits are usually processed much faster than a permanent residency application. A typical work permit application takes an average 3 months to process at the time of writing. This can considerably speed up the time where the entrepreneur can enter Canada and begin working on their business.

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