Canadian immigration launches new entrepreneur visa stream

The new Canadian immigration minister Chris Alexander has announced a new stream of the Start-Up visa program. A Start-Up visa allows an entrepreneur to apply for a Canadian permanent resident visa if he can raise backing for his business scheme from Canadian venture capitalists.

The new 'Business Incubator Stream' will open on Monday 26th October 2013. It will, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), 'attract early stage and high growth businesses and entrepreneurs who can contribute to a culture of innovation and commercialization in Canada'.

The Business Incubator Stream will allow international entrepreneurs to apply to one of five 'business incubator and accelerator programs' (BIAPs). These will be chosen from existing business incubators in Canada.

Incubators will endorse visa applications

Applicants for Start-Up Visas under the Business Incubator Stream will be able to apply to a BIAP for endorsement. BIAPs will evaluate an applicant's business plan and make a recommendation to CIC as to whether to approve or refuse an application for a Start-Up visa.

CIC will be responsible for the final decision. Where the application is successful, a BIAP will then help the Start-Up visa holder to grow his business by providing him with mentoring and other assistance.

The five chosen BIAPs have yet to be announced. They have been chosen by CIC in collaboration with the Canadian Association of Business Incubation (CABI). The CEO of CABI Michael Donohue, told the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail 'this program is designed to attract high-growth potential firms to Canada …We're hoping to attract businesses that will create jobs and opportunities for Canadians.'

Applicants must attract venture capital

The Start-Up visa was introduced by Mr Alexander's predecessor, Jason Kenney, in April 2013 to attract budding entrepreneurs to settle in Canada. Applicants for Start-Up visas have to apply to a Canadian venture capital firm which has been designated as 'eligible to participate' in the program either by Canada's Venture Capital and Private Equity Association or the National Angel Capital Organization.

The applicant must pitch his or her business proposal to an eligible company. If he or she can attract sufficient investment from an eligible firm then, providing they meet the other selection criteria, they will be awarded a Start-Up visa.

Start-Up visas grant Canadian Permanent Resident Status which will not be withdrawn even if the business set up in Canada fails. Applicants must raise sufficient investment (a minimum of CAN$25,000 in 'angel funding or CAN$75,000 in venture capital) and also

  • Pass a language test in English or French
  • Have studied at a 'post-secondary level' for at least one year
  • Have sufficient funds to support themselves on arrival in Canada ($11,115 for a single person with no dependants)

Pilot will run for five years

The Start-Up visa scheme is currently being run as a pilot which will run for five years. Each year, 2,750 Start-Up visas will be available.

Mr Kenney travelled to Silicon Valley in California in May 2013 to publicise the Start-Up visa and to try to persuade IT entrepreneurs who are frustrated by the difficulty of getting a US 'green card' permanent resident visa to try Canada instead. He promised that Start-Up visas would be processed very quickly.

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