Canada’s Start-up Visa Program enables immigrant entrepreneurs to establish businesses in Canada by offering a direct pathway to Permanent Residence. The program targets immigrants with the skills and potential to build businesses in Canada that are innovative, can create jobs for Canadians, and can compete on a global scale. As the Canadian economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing in successful and cutting-edge businesses in areas like artificial intelligence and machine learning is paramount.

Eligibility Requirements for the Start-up Visa Program:

Prospective applicants must meet the following requirements:

  1. Have a qualifying business, including a threshold of voting rights and clear plans for future active and ongoing management of the business from Canada. The business must be incorporated prior to or immediately preceding approval.
  2. Have received a Letter of Support issued by a designated organization. These organizations include venture capital funds, angel investor groups, and business incubators.
  3. Have sufficient funds to support themselves and their family after they get to Canada
  4. Meet the language requirements to communicate and work in Canada in either English or French. The minimum requirement is the Canadian Language Benchmark Level 5 in speaking, reading, listening, and writing.

Importantly, if the business fails after the applicant lands in Canada, permanent resident status is not affected.

Tips When Applying for the Start-Up Visa Program:

  • Whether an Applicant is listed as “essential” or “non-essential” is very important. The designated organization issuing a Letter of Support identifies which members of a start-up group are essential. When the application of an essential member is refused, all related applicants are refused. Further, essential members who have urgent business reasons for early entry to Canada may apply for a work permit under the program.
  • Provide proof to IRCC that your business will be successful. IRCC will often ask for updates on the progress of the business. Businesses are more likely to be approved if they can show clear and consistent development on the start-up such as market and strategy research, business development, and customer acquisition.
  • Ensure each Applicant is admissible to Canada. Criminal and medical inadmissibility concerns can create significant issues with applications under the Start-up Visa program. These issues should be dealt with early in the application process to avoid disappointment, financial costs and lengthy delays in processing.
  • All documentation submitted should be consistent, accurate, and honest. Misrepresentation in an application, either fraudulent or innocent, can lead an applicant to be found inadmissible to Canada for 5 years. Inconsistencies should not exist between past applications.
  • Plan ahead and be prepared to wait. The current processing time for Start-up Visa applicants, while historically 12-16 months, is currently listed as 31 months. While a work permit is available to essential applicants with urgent business needs in Canada, many applicants should expect to wait for an approval letter and visa issuance.

An application for Permanent Residence under the Start-up Visa Program is one of the most complex Canadian immigration applications. If you would like our assistance in processing your start-up visa,  contact our office.


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