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Canada’s Start-up Visa Program: Bringing Canadian Money and Foreign Entrepreneurs Together

Last year, an interesting billboard was put up alongside a busy freeway in Silicon Valley. Emblazoned with a giant red maple leaf, the billboard, which can be seen here, exclaimed “H1-B Visa Problems? Pivot to Canada. New Start-up Visa. Low taxes.”

The billboard was part of the Canadian government’s effort to promote its “Start-Up Visa” program and to take advantage of a logjam in the U.S. immigration system that is causing headaches and costing money for entrepreneurs and high tech workers from overseas who are trying to establish businesses or work in the U.S.

The Start-up Visa Program, launched last year, is designed to connect Canadian venture capital funds, angel investors and business incubators with entrepreneurs from abroad. Entrepreneurs present their business plan to Canadian private-sector firms and, if they receive support, they can apply for permanent residence in Canada. In July of this year, the first two successful applicants under the program were welcomed to Vancouver by Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander.

There are four basic requirements to qualify for a start-up visa, each one of which must be met in order to obtain the visa:

  • Support of a “designated organization.” As noted, the goal of the program is to bring Canadian money and foreign entrepreneurs together here in Canada. As such, a key requirement is proof that the entrepreneur and their ideas are backed by an organization that can and will provide adequate funding for the business. CIC has designated a number of venture capital funds, angel investor groups, and business incubators whose support can be used to qualify for the program. A designated organization must provide the applicant with a “Letter of Support” which is then provided to CIC as part of the application.
  • Language proficiency. Applicants must prove their proficiency in English or French in speaking, reading, listening, and writing by meeting the minimum level of Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 5 in either English or French for all four language abilities.
  • Proof of education. The applicant needs to have proof of having completed at least one year of post-secondary education as well as proof that they were in good standing during at least one year while they were attending a post-secondary institution.
  • Sufficient settlement funds. In addition to proof that there is money backing the entrepreneur’s idea and business, applicants must also show that they have sufficient funds to support themselves and their dependants. This money cannot be borrowed, and the amount of money that is deemed “sufficient” is based on the number of family members who will be moving to Canada.

If approved, an applicant for a start-up visa, along with their dependants, will obtain permanent resident status in Canada. If you have questions about start-up visas as either a potential applicant or a potential Canadian investor, please contact Toronto immigration lawyer Larry Butkowsky. His legal practice focuses solely on immigration law and he can assist you with all of your immigration questions, concerns, and issues.

The materials provided on this site are for information purposes only. These materials constitute general information relating to areas of law familiar to our firm lawyers. They do NOT constitute legal advice or other professional advice and you may not rely on the contents of this website as such.

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