Canada Start-up Visa Program

Introduction to the Canada Start-up Visa Program

The Canada Start-up Visa Program is a specialized immigration pathway for foreign entrepreneurs poised to establish innovative businesses within Canada. Esteemed as one of the most successful Canadian Immigration Programs, it specifically targets individuals with the skills, creativity, and potential to contribute significantly to Canada's economy through their startup ventures.

This program is designed to attract and support entrepreneurs who propose viable, innovative business ideas that can generate employment opportunities for Canadians and remain competitive in the global market. An essential aspect of the program is its focus on entrepreneurs who demonstrate the ability to drive economic growth through new products, services, and job creation.

Significantly, the success rate of this program stands out. According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the Canada Start-up Visa Program boasts a success rate of over 75 percent. This high success rate underscores the effectiveness of the program in fostering successful business ventures, far exceeding the typical startup success rates globally. By facilitating the entry of innovative entrepreneurs into the Canadian market, the Start-up Visa Program plays a crucial role in enhancing Canada's economic landscape, fostering innovation, and promoting technological advancements within the country.

Canada Start-up visa eligibility criteria

The Canada Start-up Visa Program, noted for its effectiveness, has specific eligibility requirements set by the Canadian government. These criteria are in place to ensure that applicants have viable and innovative business ideas. To qualify for this program, individuals must demonstrate the following:  

  • That you have a qualifying business that is successful
    • Specifically, once you receive a commitment from a designated organization, you must hold at least 10 percent of the voting rights for the shares of your company. Upon receiving residence, you must manage the business in Canada and incorporate it into the country.
  • A letter of support from a designated organization
    • This means that you will need to find a business group or group of investors that are interested in supporting your startup company, and this company will subsequently need to submit a letter to the Canadian immigration authorities stating that they are willing to support or invest in your company's startup proposal.
  • The ability to meet the language requirements
    • that show your potential to communicate and work in English, French, or both languages. Specifically, you will need to take and pass a language test from an approved agency.
  • Enough economic funds to settle permanently in Canada while your business is starting up
    • Because the Canadian government does not give funds to support individuals during the startup phase, you will need to show that you have enough savings or income to support yourself and your family or dependents during this critical phase.

Key features of the Canada Start-up Visa Program

The Canada Start-up Visa Program stands out for its unique approach to fostering entrepreneurial talent and innovation. Here are some of its notable features and benefits:

Path to permanent residency

Successful applicants and their families can obtain permanent residency in Canada, providing long-term stability and access to the country's resources and opportunities.

No personal investment required

Unlike many other immigration programs, applicants are not obligated to make a personal financial investment. Funding comes from designated Canadian investors.

Access to Canadian investors

The program facilitates connections with Canadian private-sector investors, including angel investors, venture capital funds, and business incubators. These investors provide not only financial support but also valuable business networks and guidance.

Support for innovation

The program places a strong emphasis on innovative business ideas, making it an ideal choice for entrepreneurs with groundbreaking projects.

Streamlined processing

The program aims for efficient processing times, allowing entrepreneurs to start their businesses in Canada without unnecessary delays.

Inclusive for multiple founders

More than one founder of a business can apply for the visa, provided each meets the requirements and holds a significant stake in the venture.

These features and benefits collectively make the Canada Start-up Visa Program an appealing choice for entrepreneurs seeking to establish innovative businesses while enjoying the advantages of permanent residency in Canada.

Business plan requirements

By far, the hardest part of being accepted into the Canadian Start-up Visa Program is finding an investor or designated organization who is willing to join in your venture. Similarly, if you are hoping to be accepted into the business incubator program, a solid business plan will be necessary to help your startup idea stand apart from the rest.

The best way to garner real interest in your startup idea is to create and promote a comprehensive business plan that outlines who you are, what you plan to do, the innovative aspect of your business proposal, and potential long-term financial benefits for your investors. A quality business plan will guide you throughout the different stages of starting and managing your business. A business plan acts like a GPS that helps you navigate through the potential pitfalls that cause so many startups to fail. A good business plan allows startups and entrepreneurs to show that they have taken the time and effort to think through and detail all the key elements of how a business is structured, managed, and run.

You will also need to show how your startup proposal brings innovation into a given sector, and how the business idea might disrupt certain trends within the industry to push for more growth. Innovative business proposals and plans should also offer detailed information about how they plan to capture consumer trust, shift consumer preferences, or construct a solid consumer base.

Some of the designated organizations that can support Start-up Visa applicants in Canada include:

  • Angel Investor Groups
  • Venture Capital Funds
  • Incubator Programs

All of these groups, programs, and funds of investors/organizations must be a member of and be recommended by one of the partner industry associations of the Canadian immigration system. These partner industry associations include:

  • The Canadian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (CVCA): This organization makes recommendations for venture capital funds.
  • National Angel Capital Organization (NACO): This organization makes recommendations for angel investor groups and business incubators.

Supporting documents

Once you have created your detailed business plan and secured the support of a designated organization that is the prime requisite for participating in the Canadian Start-up Visa Program, you will also need to put together several other pieces of supporting documentation that will accompany your application, including:

  • your résumé
  • any other relevant documentation that showcases your unique skills
  • proof that you and your team have already applied for permanent residence (such as a letter of acknowledgment/receipt from the Canadian immigration authorities).
  • confirmation of payment of fees and submission of the online application
  • the official letter of support from a designated entity (angel investor, hedge fund, or business incubator program).
  • proof of financial stability/enough funds to support yourself and your family during the initial business startup period
  • your employment number (this can be found through the Employer Portal after you submit your offer of employment online).
  • proof of sufficient investment funds available to transfer to Canada (these funds/finances must be separate from the investor support funds from your designated entity).
  • medical examination results, if required
  • a valid police certificate/criminal record if required
  • your detailed business plan for the startup
  • a detailed staffing plan and potential for new employee positions within Canada
  • any other exploratory market research that highlights the potential for success for your startup

Application process

Once you have gathered all of the required or suggested documentation that we outlined above, you are ready to begin the application process. The application process begins by seeking out an official letter of support from the designated organization that will be supporting your startup idea. As we mentioned above, this can either be an angel investor (or group of investors), a venture capital fund, or a business incubator program.

To get this letter of recommendation or support, you must first pitch your business idea to one of the officially recognized designated organizations. Your pitch needs to convince the incubator program or investors to support your start-up company in Canada. Each of the officially recognized designated organizations will have its own set of criteria and a separate process for how you can pitch your idea. Once you decide on which organization you will be pitching to, you will need to be in contact with them regarding the exact process and criteria for receiving pitches. Once a designated organization does decide to support your startup business, it will need to send a commitment certificate to the Canadian immigration authorities along with a letter of support that you will include in your application for the Canadian Start-up Visa. Alongside this commitment from a designated organization, you can now submit your completed generic application form which can be found on the official website of the Canadian immigration authorities, along with all other necessary documentation.

Canada Immigration

Processing Time

As with all immigration programs, there is a lengthy processing time for the Canadian Start-up Visa Program. You should expect the total processing time to take somewhere between 30 and 40 months. Currently, the Canadian government mentions that the average processing time (as of August 2023) is around 37 months. To expedite the process as much as possible, you must include all necessary documentation. You can also apply for a letter of support from several designated organizations to increase the likelihood and speed of getting that certificate of investment, which is the most important piece of documentation.

Permanent residency and naturalization path

When you apply for the Canada Start-up visa, you will also be applying for Canadian Permanent Residency status. However, waiting almost three years while your startup visa processes is a long time, especially for startup entrepreneurs who want to find strategies to get their business idea up and running. If you apply for your permanent residence through the Canada Start-up Visa Program, you can also simultaneously apply for a temporary work permit that will allow you to work legally in Canada while waiting for your startup visa to process.

To obtain this temporary work permit, you will need to fill out a separate temporary work permit application. Among other things, you will need to provide documentation and proof that shows how your business startup will provide a significant economic benefit to Canada. You will also need to bring enough money to settle with your family (if they are accompanying you) throughout the processing period.

Once you are granted permanent residency through the Canadian Start-up Visa Program, you might also begin thinking about the pathway to Canadian citizenship. To be eligible for Canadian citizenship, you will need to have been a permanent resident of Canada for at least 3 of the last 5 years. Furthermore, you cannot have been physically outside of Canadian territory for more than a total of 730 days in the last 5 years.


Can I legally work in Canada during the roughly three years of processing time for my Startup visa?

Yes, but you must first apply for a short-term work permit under the Start-Up Business (SUV) category.

What is the minimum investment I need to obtain to be considered for a Canadian Start-Up Visa?

• For startups that receive support from a designated angel investor group, you will need an initial investment of at least CAD 75,000.
• For startups that receive support from designated venture capital funds, you will need an initial investment of at least CAD 200,000.
• For startups that receive support from a designated business incubator, you will not need to secure any investment.

Do I need to pass a language test for the Canadian Start-Up Visa?

Yes, you need to obtain a minimum Canadian Language Benchmark 5 in listening, reading, writing, and speaking (either English, French, or both).

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