The Start-Up Visa Program was introduced by ministerial instruction in April 2013 as a pilot project. The Start-Up Visa program grants Canadian permanent residence to qualified immigrant entrepreneurs. The program aims to recruit innovative entrepreneurs to Canada and link them with the Canadian private sector businesses, (angel investor groups, venture capital funds or business incubators) and facilitate the establishment of their start-up business in Canada.

Successful candidates will receive a letter of support from a government designated entity (angel investor group, venture capital fund or business incubator). The government designated entity is primarily responsible to determine the viability of the applicant’s intended business and present an approved project along with a Commitment Certificate to immigration authorities. Applications are assessed under a pass fail basis.

Applicants to Canada’s Start-Up Visa program must meet four basic eligibility requirements:

  1. Obtain a commitment from a designated entity in the form of a Commitment Certificate or Letter of Support;
  2. Have sufficient unencumbered, available and transferable settlement funds;
  3. Have completed at least one year of post-secondary education;
  4. Demonstrate sufficient proficiency in English or French through standardized testing (Canadian Language Benchmark level 5) ; 

The required commitment from a designated entity must meet the following criteria:

  • A designated angel investor group must confirm that it is investing at least $75,000 CAD into the qualifying business, or two or more commitments from designated angel investor groups totaling $75,000 CAD; OR
  • A designated venture capital fund must confirm that it is investing at least $200,000 CAD into the qualifying business or two or more commitments from designated venture capital funds totaling $200,000 CAD; OR
  • A designated business incubator must confirm that it is accepting the applicant into its business incubator Program.

In order to qualify, the intended business must be incorporated and carrying on business in Canada at the time the commitment is made and:

  • The applicant owns a least 10% of the voting rights in the corporation; AND
  • No other person holds 50% or more of the total amount of voting rights in the corporation.

Up to five applicants may have their application for permanent residence supported by the same business investment. However, certain applicants may be designated essential to the intended business. If any of the essential applicants withdraw their application or are refused for other reasons, all other applicants under the same business investment will see their applications terminated.

Applicants who have secured a Commitment Certificate from a designated entity, and who wish to begin working in the business during the processing of their permanent residence application may apply for a short term work permit on the basis of their Commitment Certificate if the designated entity supports such a request.

Canada’s Start-Up Visa program does not apply to applicants who intend to reside in the province of Quebec.

At the date of publication, designated entities that may support an application under the Start-Up Visa program are:

Designated venture capital funds

  • BDC Venture Capital
  • Blackberry Partners Fund II LP (doing business as Relay Ventures Fund II)
  • Celtic House Venture Partners
    • Celtic House Venture Partners Fund III LP
    • Celtic House Venture Partners Fund IV LP
    • DRI Capital Inc.
    • Golden Opportunities Fund Inc.
    • iNovia Capital Inc.
    • Lumira Capital
    • MaRS Cleantech Fund L.P. I.
    • New Brunswick Innovation Foundation Inc.
    • OMERS Ventures Management Inc.
    • Pangaea Ventures Fund III, LP
    • PRIVEQ Capital Funds
      • PRIVEQ III Limited Partnership
      • PRIVEQ IV Limited Partnership
    • Quorum Group
      • Advantage Growth (No.2) LP
      • Ontario SME Capital Corporation
      • Quorum Investment Pool Limited Partnership
      • Quorum Secured Equity Trust
    • Real Ventures
    • Rho Canada Ventures
    • Rogers Venture Partners, LLC
    • Summerhill Venture Partners Management Inc.
    • Tandem Expansion Management Inc.
    • Vanedge Capital Limited Partnership
    • Version One Ventures
    • Wellington Financial LP
    • Westcap Mgt. Ltd.
      • Canadian Accelerator Fund Ltd.
    • Yaletown Venture Partners Inc.

Designated angel investor groups

  • Angel One Network Inc.
  • First Angel Network Association
  • Golden Triangle Angel Network

Designated business incubators

  • Communitech
  • GrowLab
  • Innovacorp
  • Innovate Calgary
  • Toronto Business Development Centre