Canada seeks to lure high-tech immigrants from US with 'Dragon's Den' visa

Canadian immigration minister Jason Kenney will travel to Silicon Valley in the US this weekend to try to tempt high-tech entrepreneurs to apply for a Canadian visa program that could see their business dreams become a reality, as in the popular TV show The Dragon's Den.

In the show, which has been shown in more than 40 countries worldwide, entrepreneurs with a business idea who need funds to develop their business, give a presentation to four wealthy businessmen known as 'The Dragons'. If one or more of the Dragons likes a business plan, he or she (or they) will offer investment capital in return for a share in the business.

Mr Kenney will tell ambitious young tech entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley that, if they go to pitch their business ideas in Canada, they may get financial backing and a Canadian permanent resident visa as well.

Visas awarded to entrepreneurs who attract investors

Mr Kenney announced in January 2013 that Canada would launch its new Start-Up Visa on 1st April 2013. The new visa program seeks to unite international entrepreneurs with attractive business plans with Canadian venture capitalists with money to invest. Candidates pitch their business plans to investors who decide whether to invest. If any candidate can show that their business plan has attracted sufficient investment then the Canadian government has undertaken to provide that candidate with a Canadian permanent resident visa providing that they also
  • Meet the language requirements – They must speak English or French to the required standard which is Canadian Language Board level 5 (CLB 5). They will need to take a language test to prove this.
  • Meet the educational requirements – They must be able to prove that they have completed at least one year of 'post-secondary' education and
  • Possess at least the minimum level of funding to meet the Canadian settlement funds threshold - For a single person with no dependants this will be CAN$11,115.
Mr Kenney will seek to persuade tech-workers from around the world who are frustrated at their failure to get a US visa that if they cannot work in the US, they should try moving to Canada instead. There will be fast processing times for the new visa which Canada hopes will make the start-up visa an attractive option for entrepreneurs.

High-tech workers wanting to work in Silicon Valley are experiencing lengthy delays in getting visas. Many people, particularly people from India and China, have to wait for eight or nine years to get a work related green card (or permanent resident visa).

US H-1B visas also oversubscribed

The US temporary work visa, the H-1B visa, which allows graduate level international workers to work in a 'specialty occupation' in the US is also heavily over-subscribed. H-1B visas last for three years and can be renewed once for a further three years.

The US issues 85,000 H-1B visas each year. This year, it received 124,000 applications within one week. Tech industry figures in the US including Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Eric Schmidt of Google have pressed the US government to reform the system and warned that skilled workers will go elsewhere if the system is not reformed. Mr Kenney is trying to encourage them to do just that.

The Canadian government has purchased an advertising hoarding on the freeway between the airport and Silicon Valley. Backed by a huge Canadian maple leaf, the advert reads 'H-1B problems? Pivot to Canada. New Start-Up Visa. Low Taxes'.

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