If you are thinking of immigrating to Canada in order to set up a business, you should consider the Start-Up Visa Program. Within 12 to 16 months you can have your application processed and be living in Canada and working with investors, bankers, and potential partners to put your dream into reality by building an innovative and competitive company.
Sound interesting? Here’s how it works.
Step 1: What kind of businesses are eligible for the Start Up Visa?
The range of activities that your business can be involved in is left up to you, as long as it is legal of course. Immigration authorities will focus on business that:
- Are innovative
- Will help create jobs for Canadian citizens and/or permanent residents
- Are able to compete on a global scale
Step 2: Who is eligible to apply for a Start-Up Visa?
The eligibility criteria are as follows:
The applicant must have a qualifying business. A qualifying business is one that:
- One that receives a commitment from a Designated Organization (see below) in which each individual applicant holds 10% or more of the business’s outstanding shares, and the applicants and the designated organization hold more than 50% of the business’s outstanding shares. There can be up to 5 applicants for any one business.
- The applicant(s) provide active and ongoing management of the business from inside Canada.
- An essential part of the business of the company occurs in Canada.
- The business is incorporated in Canada.
Letter of Support
The applicant must provide a Letter of Support from a Designated Organization. This involves the applicant contacting a designated organization. Each one has its own specific requirements for accepting and evaluating proposals, so the applicant needs to research this. They must then get at least 1 of the designated organizations from the following list to accept and support their proposal:
Designated venture capital funds
If you choose a designated venture capital fund, you must get at least one of these groups to agree to invest a minimum of $200,000:
- BDC Venture Capital
- Celtic House Venture Partners
- Extreme Venture Partners LLP
- Golden Venture Partners Fund, LP
- Impression Ventures
- Information Venture Partners Management Inc.
- Innovation Platform Capital International LP
- iNovia Capital Inc.
- Lumira Capital
- Nova Scotia Innovation Corporation (o/a Innovacorp)
- OMERS Ventures Management Inc.
- Pangaea Ventures Ltd.
- PRIVEQ Capital Funds
- Real Ventures
- Relay Ventures
- ScaleUp Venture Partners, Inc.
- Top Renergy Inc.
- Vanedge Capital Limited Partnership
- Version One Ventures
- Westcap Management Ltd.
- Yaletown Venture Partners Inc.
Designated angel investor groups
If you choose a designated angel investor group, you must get one or more investors connected to these groups to agree to invest a minimum of $75,000:
- Canadian International Angel Investors
- Ekagrata Inc.
- Golden Triangle Angel Network
- Oak Mason Investments Inc.
- Southeastern Ontario Angel Network
- Southwestern Ontario Angel Group
- TenX Angel Investors Inc.
- VANTEC Angel Network Inc.
- York Angel Investors Inc.
Designated business incubators
- Alacrity Foundation
- Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
- Biomedical Commercialization Canada Inc. (operating as Manitoba Technology Accelerator)
- Calgary Technologies Inc.
- Creative Destruction Lab
- Empowered Startups Ltd.
- Extreme Innovations
- Genesis Centre
- Highline BETA Inc.
- Interactive Niagara Media Cluster o/a Innovate Niagara
- Invest Ottawa
- Knowledge Park o/a Planet Hatch
- Launch Academy
- LaunchPad PEI Inc.
- NEXT Canada
- Real Investment Fund III L.P. o/a FounderFuel
- Ryerson Futures Inc.
- Spark Commercialization and Innovation Centre
- Spring Activator
- The DMZ at Ryerson University
- TSRV Canada Inc. (operating as Techstars Canada)
- Waterloo Accelerator Centre
- York Entrepreneurship Development Institute
Once an organization accepts your proposal:
- The applicants then have to convince the designated organization they have chosen from the above lists that their business proposal is worth supporting. You are likely to have to present a detailed business plan to them, which will you need in any case as part of your application for a Start-Up Visa.
- You then have to get a Letter of Support from your chosen designated organization which you will need as part of your application.
- The designated organization will also send a Certificate of Commitment directly to the IRCC. You will not receive this Certificate of Commitment nor will it be required to be a part of your application. Immigration authorities will use the Letter of Support and the Certificate of Commitment to assess your business proposal. They may also require additional information on your business plans.
The applicant is required to meet a minimum language requirement of CLB 5 in English and/or French proficiency. These are the equivalent scores for the IELTS, CELPIP, and TEF language tests:
|5||3L||5.0 except 4.0 in Reading||225 Speaking; 180 Listening; 150 Reading; 225 Writing.|
|6 – 10||3H, 4L, 4H, 5L, 5H||5.5 to 9.0, except 5.0 to 9.0 for Reading|
Personal Financial Requirements
The applicant must have sufficient funds to settle in Canada. These are the latest figures, but applicants should know that they are continually updated to reflect living costs in Canada and these figures are best seen as bare minimums necessary to live in Canada.
|Number of Family Members||Funds Required (CAD)|
|1 (just you)||$12,475|
|7 or more||$33,014|
|Funds for each additional family member above 7||$3,361|
You will need a Letter on official company letterhead from the bank or financial institution where you have your savings, investments, and any other liquid assets that can easily and legally be converted into Canadian currency and transferred to a financial institution in Canada. The letter must:
- Include the financial institutions contact information
- Include your full name
- List any debts or other financial obligations like credit card debts or loans
- Include for each account held in your name: the account number, the date it was opened, the current balance, and the average balance over the last 6 months.
Step 3: Now that you’re eligible, here’s how to apply for the Start Up Visa
The first step is to see if you need to give biometrics. Go here and choose your country from the drop-down list to see if you will be required to give biometrics. If your country is one that has the requirement for biometrics, you must then submit your application, pay you fees, and afterwards you will receive a letter from the IRCC. This is the Biometric Instruction Letter or BIL which you must bring with you to your biometric collection service point. These are:
- Visa Application Centres or VAC’s around the world, except in the USA
- Application Support Centres in the USA
- In-Canada biometric collection points will be rolled out in 2019
- You are responsible for paying the fee for biometrics
- You must provide biometrics if you receive a BIL even if you have already provided biometrics for a previous work study or visitors visa, or a permanent residence application.
You must then download and fill out the appropriate forms and gather the required documents. Go here for complete list of documents. You should print out this list (IMM5760E) and include it with your application in order to ensure you have all the necessary forms and documents.
- You will also have to provide a medical exam. After you have applied, the IRCC will mail you the necessary forms and information with instructions on how to access an approved list of doctors in your area. They must be Panel Physicians. Your medical exam cannot be more than 12 months old.
- You will have to provide a police certificate for each country, aside from Canada, that you and your family have previously lived in for more than 6 months. Go here for more information on how to obtain police certificates.
- As your document checklist (IMM5760E) states: your documents (unless otherwise stated) must be in either English or French. If the original document is in another language you must provide:
- The English or French translation.
- If the translation is not done by a certified translator in good standing with a provincial or territorial organization in Canada, you must provide an affidavit signed by a notary and swearing to the accuracy of the translation and the language proficiency of the translator.
- A certified copy of the original document certified by a notary public. In Canada, a commissioner of oaths or a commissioner of taking affidavits can also certify the copies. The certification must include the following:
- The words: “I certify this is a true copy of the original document.”
- The name of the original document
- The date of the certification
- The notary’s name, official title, and signature.
The following forms must be filled out and submitted with your application:
- IMM 5760E: Document checklist
- IMM 0008: Generic application form for Canada
- IMM 0008DEP: Additional Dependants/Declaration
- IMM 5669 Schedule A: Background/Declaration
- IMM0008 Schedule 13: Business Immigration Programs – Start Up Business Class
- IMM 5406: Additional Family Information
- IMM 5409: Statutory Declaration of Common-Law Union
- IMM 5604: Separation Declaration for Minors Travelling to Canada
- IMM 5562: Supplementary Information – Your travels
- IMM 5476: Use of a Representative.
Print out the document checklist and sign it and place it at the top of your application. Remember to place all identification and supporting documents in a sealed envelope, including proof of payment of processing fees (see below). Also, remember to press the “Validate” button when completing your forms online (this does not apply if you complete your forms by hand). When you print your application form, remember to ensure that you print out all the barcode pages that are produced when you click the “Validate” button and to place them on top of your application.
Your processing fees for the Start-Up Visa are as follows:
|Application Processing Fee||$1050|
|Right of Permanent Residence Fee||$490||$1540|
|Spouse or Partner Application Fee||$550|
|Right of Permanent Residence||$490||$2580|
Your Right of Permanent Residence Fee will be refunded if:
- You cancel your application
- Your application is not approved
- You decide not to come to Canada.
Remember to print your fee payment receipt before you leave the Online Payment page detailed in the following link, and to include 1 of the 2 copies you must print when you pay online. Go here for more information.
Submitting the Application
Mail in a 23cm x 30.5cm envelope, the completed application with all the printed and signed forms and all the supporting documents with certified translations to the following address:
For regular mail service:
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
Centralized Intake Office – Start Up Business Class
P.O. BOX 8700
Sydney, NS B1P 0G2
For courier service:
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
Centralized Intake Office – Start Up Business Class
49 Dorchester Street
Sydney, NS B1P 5Z2
Step 4: After you have applied
The IRCC will evaluate your application form based on the criteria we’ve established above. Namely that:
- Your application meets the eligibility criteria outline in Step 1.
- You have enough money to support yourself and any family members when you arrive in Canada.
- You and any family members coming with you pass the medical exam.
- You and any family members over 18 pass the police exam.
- You may be contacted by immigration authorities in order to request additional information or to submit to an interview.
If your application is approved, you will receive:
- An entry visa, and
- A Confirmation of Permanent Residence or COPR.
Remember to come to Canada before your COPR expires. Immigration authorities in Canada will NOT extend your COPR if you do not use it before it expires.
Step 5: Prepare for Arrival
When you arrive at your Port of Entry (normally the airport in Canada that you land at) you will be met by an officer from the Canada Border Services Agency or CBSA. They will ensure that you have the following on your person:
- A valid non-diplomatic passport or travel document.
- A valid permanent residence visa and COPR in your passport
- Proof of sufficient funds. Remember to declare if you are carrying over CAD$10,000 in cash, cheques, money orders, or similar financial instruments.
The officer will ask you a few questions related to your application and covering similar ground to what you were asked in your application form. This is to ensure you were being truthful and that you are still eligible to enter Canada under the Start-Up Visa program.
If you are already in Canada, you will be contacted for a short interview with an immigration official.