Canada's Startup Visa for Entrepreneur Immigrants

A Visa Program Specifically for Entrepreneurs Who Want to Come to Canada

Businessman on factory balcony looking away
Canada's startup visa program for entrepreneurs. stocknroll / Getty Images

Are you an entrepreneur who would like to come to Canada and start a business?

Then Canada's Startup Visa program for entrepreneurs is the way to do it.

The program is designed to attract dynamic entrepreneurs around the world, get them in to Canada, and give them the support they need (including funding) to build businesses that can compete on a global scale and provide jobs for Canadians.

Entrepreneurs who qualify for the Startup Visa program will be fast-tracked; the goal is to clear successful applicants for entry into Canada within weeks. And the Canadian Entrepreneur Visa grants permanent resident status which can then lead to citizenship.

While it's thought that entrepreneurs in the high-tech sector such as Silicon Valley entrepreneurs that haven’t been able to get resident status in the U.S. may be especially interested in Canada's Startup Visa program, would-be entrepreneurs from anywhere in the world are encouraged to apply.

How The Program Works

If you want to immigrate to Canada through this program, you need the support of a Canadian venture capital fund, angel investor group or business incubator that is willing to invest in your new business.

The Canadian venture capital fund, angel investor group or business incubator must be one that is designated by the Canadian government to participate in the Entrepreneur Startup Visa program. Find designated angel investor groups and/or venture capital funds here.

So step one is to convince one of these designated groups or funds that your business idea is worth investing in. The catch is that different groups or funds have different application processes for doing this, so you will have to contact whatever venture capital fund or angel investor group you choose to present your idea to directly to find out what documents they need and what you need to do to present your business idea to them. For instance, some groups will require a fully developed written business plan while others won't.

It's a good idea to spend some time researching the different groups on the list as different venture capital funds, business incubators and angel investor groups have different objectives and often prefer to invest in specific types of businesses. Start by visiting their websites. You may be able to find an outline of the application process you need to follow to present your idea to them on their website too.

If the investor, business incubator or angel investor group decides to support your business idea, they will provide you with a letter of support and send a completed Commitment Certificate directly to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). The Commitment Certificate provides the relevant details of the commitment between you and the investment organization.

You can receive support from multiple organizations, which is known as syndication. If this is the case, the organizations supporting you will get together and provide Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) with a single Commitment Certificate and you will receive one Letter of Support.

Once you have your letter of support, you will be ready to apply for a Startup Visa, assuming you meet the other qualifications. You can't apply for a Canadian Entrepreneur Startup Visa without a letter of support.

Are You Eligible for a Canadian Entrepreneur Visa?

To qualify for a Canadian entrepreneur startup visa you need to:

1) Prove your business idea is supported by a designated investor organization.

See the How The Program Works section of this article above for details. The required proof is a letter of support from one of the designated groups that says that they are going to fund your business idea.

You must secure a minimum investment of $200,000 if the investment comes from a designated Canadian venture capital fund and/or a minimum investment of $75,000 if the investment comes from a designated Canadian angel investor group. If you are accepted into a Canadian business incubator program, you don't need to secure any investment in your new business.

2) Meet the language requirements.

You must be able to communicate and work in English, French or both. Note that you must provide Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada proof of your language proficiency. This means that you must take a language test from an agency approved by Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and meet the minimum level of the Canadian Language Benchmark 5 in speaking, reading, listening and writing in either English or French. Once you've taken the appropriate language test, there are charts on this page that you can use to determine your Canadian Language Benchmark level.

3) Prove that your business meets the ownership requirements.

While up to five people can be the owners of a single business when you apply for a Canadian entrepreneur visa,

  • Each applicant must hold at least 10 percent of the voting rights in the business, and
  • The designated organization and the applicants must jointly hold more than 50 percent of the voting rights in the business.

4) Have sufficient settlement funds.

This means that you have to be able to prove that you have enough money to support yourself and your family after you come to Canada, as the Canadian government does not provide any financial support to Start-up Visa immigrants.

When you look at the chart of funds required (under ‘have sufficient settlement funds’ on this page), you’ll see that the amount of money you have to have set aside to support your family depends on the size of your family.

However, the Canadian government recommends that you bring as much money as possible when you come - businesses do not make money overnight and you will need money to find a place to live and pay the living costs for your family in the meantime.

Be aware that when you come to Canada you must tell a Canadian official when you arrive if you are carrying more than CAN $10,000. If you are and you don't tell an official, you can be fined and your funds seized.

The Application Process

If you meet all of these requirements, you’re ready to apply. Here are the details of the application process.

Once you have completed the application process, and sent it in, it will either be verified as complete and processed or sent back to you without processing if it’s incomplete.

Once your completed application has been accepted for processing, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) Centralized Intake Office will contact you and tell you what you need to do next. For more information on what happens during and after the processing of your application to immigrate to Canada, go to the IRCC's After you apply: next steps.

Hopefully at that point, it will be time to prepare for your new life in Canada. Prepare for your arrival explains what will happen when you first arrive here.

And be aware that the government of Canada appreciates that being an entrepreneur is a risky business - if your business fails, your permanent resident status is not affected.