The Start-Up Visa Program grants Canadian Immigration (Permanent Residency) Visa to immigrant entrepreneurs while assisting them to become established in Canada. Successful applicants link with private sector organizations in Canada, where they can receive funding, guidance and expertise in opening and operating their enterprise in Canada. The purpose of this program is to recruit innovative foreign national entrepreneurs who will create new jobs and drive economic growth.
In order to be eligible, applicants for a Start-Up Visa must meet the following requirements:
Have received a Letter of Support from a government-designated organization;
Meet minimum language requirements in English or French (CLB 5 in all abilities);
Have completed at least one year of post-secondary education, during which the applicant was in good standing at their educational institution;
Have sufficient funds to settle in Canada;
Plan to settle in a province other than the Province of Quebec; and
Pass Canadian security and medical clearances.
FORM OF COMMITMENT
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has designated a number of venture capital funds, angel investor groups, and business incubator organizations to participate in the Start-Up Visa program. Successful applicants are required to secure a minimum investment for their Canadian start-up. If coming from a designated Canadian venture capital fund, the investment must be at least $200,000. If coming from an angel investor group, it should be at least $75,000. Applicants are not required to invest any of their own money. If their Canadian start-up is unsuccessful, individuals granted Permanent Residence through this program will retain their permanent resident status.
In order to demonstrate that the applicant has obtained support from either a venture capital fund, angel investor group, or business incubator, the investor organization must submit a completed Commitment Certificate directly to the CIC. This document includes information regarding the agreement between the applicant and the investment organization. Its purpose is to summarize the relevant details of the commitment between the investment organization and the applicant.
In addition, the applicant will receive a Letter of Support from the investment organization, which the applicant will need to submit with their application for permanent residence. If there are two or more applicants as part of the same business venture, the commitment by the investment organization can be conditional upon one or more “essential persons” receiving their Permanent Residence. An essential person is someone who has been specifically identified as essential to the business by the investment organization. If for any reason the application of an essential person is refused, the applications of all others included in the Commitment Certificate will also be refused.
PEER REVIEW PROCESS
In order to protect this pilot program against fraud, a peer review process has been included. It is designed to make sure that the deals made between the investment organizations and foreign national entrepreneurs are legitimate. An immigration officer may ask for a commitment to be independently assessed by a peer review panel. These panels have been established by an industry association that represents the type of investment organization making the commitment. For example, in the case of an angel investor group, the National Angel Capital Organization would be responsible for establishing the peer review panel.
Alternatively, if the group making the commitment is a venture capital fund, Canada’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Association would be responsible. While the peer review can be requested if the immigration officer believes that it would assist them in making a decision, they can also be initiated on a random basis. The assessment made by the peer review panel is not considered binding on the immigration officer. It will only confirm that the investment organization has carried out the proper checks and investigations according to industry standards. It will not provide an opinion on the wisdom or feasibility of the proposal in question.
As this is a pilot program, it will only process a limited number of applications per year. Moreover, the duration of the program is limited to five years. If this pilot program proves successful, the Canadian Government may choose to establish the Start-Up Visa Program permanently before the end of the five-year period.