Overview of the Start-Up Visa Program

Published: Jun 26, 2013
Last Updated: Apr 27, 2017

There is a new Canadian visa program targeting foreign entrepreneurs that has been in the news frequently in recent weeks. Earlier this year the federal government announced the “Start-Up Visa Program” as part of the Economic Action Plan 2012. Applications began being accepted for this visa on April 1, 2013 and it is slated to run for the next five years.  The Start-Up Visa aims to connect immigrant entrepreneurs to private sector firms with experience regarding start-ups. 

The primary goals of the Start-Up visa are to:

  • Support immigrant entrepreneurs in starting “innovative companies” that will generate jobs in Canada.
  • Provide support to newcomers regarding Canada’s business environment.
  • Allow private sector firms to have access to a greater range of entrepreneurs.

One major difference of this program compared to similar ones in other countries is that successful applicants will come to Canada as permanent residents and there are no conditions based on the success of their start-up business

Before applying for the Start-Up Visa, prospective applicants will have to have the backing of a Canadian angel investor group or a venture capital (VC) fund (a list of the designated firms can be found here). The foreign entrepreneur is required to obtain a minimum $200,000 investment from a VC fund or a minimum $75,000 investment from a Canadian angel investor group before they can be considered for the visa (the VC fund or angel investor group must be from the designated firms).

Designated firms were chosen by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Canada’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA) and the National Angel Capital Organization (NACO). One of the selection criteria applied to VC funds was that they had to be a member of good standing in the CVCA. If the fund managed more than $40 million in capital they were automatically eligible to take part in the Start-Up Visa program. However, if they managed under $40 million in capital they had to apply to CVCA. Referrals from CVCA members and interviews also contributed in the decision making process. Angel investor groups applied to NACO (with which they had to be a member of good standing) to be considered for the program. Following that, they were assessed in a variety of ways including ensuring that all members were accredited investors.

During the application process foreign entrepreneurs must also demonstrate that they can communicate in either French or English and have at least one year of study completed at a post-secondary institution. In addition to these requirements, applicants are required to have sufficient settlement funds and pass the standard health and security criteria. (To learn more about the eligibility requirements visit this page.)

Some helpful links:
Start-Up Visa main page
Determine Your Eligibility – Start-Up Visa
Apply – Start-Up Visa
Check Processing Times – Start-Up Visa (because this is a new program processing times are not yet available)
After You Apply: Get Next Steps
Prepare for Your Arrival


What do you think about this new visa program? Do you think it will be successful? Would you be interested in applying?


PHOTO CREDIT: Canadian Border, created by mcclouds on June 26, 2006. Image made available under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license. Last viewed on June 26, 2013.

PHOTO CREDIT: Canadian Flag, created by Franco Folini on September 17, 2006. Image made available under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license. Last viewed on June 26, 2013.