Opportunities in Canada for Innovative Entrepreneurs – the Start Up Visa Program

Have you ever thought of moving to another country as a way of boosting your success as an entrepreneur?

Many entrepreneurs are learning that there are better opportunities for them to start and build a business outside of their home country.

What are the factors that go into this consideration?  Here are a few:

  • Quality of life and cost of living
  • Stable economy and banking system
  • Quality of education system
  • Trade agreements with other regions
  • Income tax rates

Canada checks all of the boxes as evidenced by the fact that Canada is consistently ranked as one of the 10 best countries in the world due to:

  • its support of entrepreneurs & business;
  • quality of education;
  • stable economy;
  • health care system;
  • cultural diversity and social norms; and
  • scenery and wildlife.
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Canada’s economy is highly developed and diverse

In addition, Canada has a developed economy that has high levels of protection of intellectual property and sophisticated industry sectors such as information and communication technology (ICT), as well as professional and other service industries.

Canada welcomes innovative business ideas and invites entrepreneurs to come to Canada to benefit from what it has to offer and contribute to the strong Canadian economy.  There are many immigration programs that are geared towards entrepreneurs and successful international business owners.

One of these programs is the Start Up Visa Program through immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).   This program is designed to encourage individuals with innovative business ideas to start and operate their businesses in Canada.  This program allows for expedited migration of foreign owned businesses by providing up to five (5) founders or core team members the opportunity to become permanent residents in Canada.

In order to be eligibile for the Start Up Visa Program you must:

  1. Have a qualifying business
  2. Have a letter of support from a designated organization
  3. Meet the language requirements
  4. Have enough money to settle and live in Canada before you make money from your business


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 1.  Qualifying Business

You created a business that meets the following conditions:

  • At the time you get a commitment from a designated organization:
    • Each applicant holds 10% or more of the voting rights attached to all shares of the corporation outstanding at the time (up to 5 people can apply as owners)


    • Applicants and the designated organization jointly hold more than 50% of the total voting rights attached to all shares of the corporation outstanding at that time


  • At the time you receive permanent residence:
    • You provide active and ongoing management of this business from within Canada
    • An essential part of the operations of the business happens in Canada
    • This business is incorporated in Canada


2.  Have a Letter of Support from a Designated Organization

A designated organization is a business group that has been approved to invest in or support possible start-ups.

There are a number of organizations that are on the list of Designated Organizations.  They are broken down into 3 groups:

  • Venture Capital funds
  • Angel Investor groups
  • Business incubators

For a list of the Designated Organizations click here.

Organizations have the discretion to choose which business proposals to review.  Each organization has its own intake process and criteria used to assess the proposals.

If an organization decides to review your business idea, it will assess the potential of your proposal and whether or not it will succeed.

If the organization thinks you have a good idea and supports your business idea, it will give you a Letter of Support.


3.  Meet the Language Requirements

Each applicant must take an approved language test and meet the minimum level of the Canadian Language benchmark (CLB) score of 5 or higher in either English or French in the following four (4) areas:

  • Speaking
  • Reading
  • Listening
  • Writing

There are two (2) approved English language tests.  These are the Canadian English Language proficiency Index Program (CELPIP) and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

There are two (2) approved French language tests.  These are the TEF Canada: Test d’évaluation de français and the TCF Canada – Test de connaissance du français.  For more information on these tests click here.


4.  Have enough money to settle and live in Canada before you make money from your business

At the time of your application, you will need to show that you have enough money to support yourself and your dependents after you arrive in Canada.  You cannot borrow this money from another person.

The amount you will need depends on the size of your family.  Currently, the amounts are as follows:

Number of Family Members Funds required (Canadian Dollars)
1 $12,475
2 $15,531
3 $19,093
4 $23,181
5 $26,292
6 $29,652
7 $33,014
For each additional family member Add $3,361


Proof of funds can be in the form of official letters from any banks or financial institutions where you are keeping your money.  Letter(s) must:

  • Be printed on the financial institution’s letterhead
  • Include their contact information (address, phone number and email address)
  • Include your name
  • List outstanding debts such as credit card debts and loans
  • Include, for each current bank account and investment account:
    • Account numbers
    • The date each account was opened
    • The current balance of each account
    • The average balance for the past six months

In addition, you must meet the admissibility requirements to enter Canada.  These requirements include, but are not limited to:

  • your country of origin;
  • your age;
  • your education;
  • your personal history.

Additionally, you will be asked to provide Biometrics, Medical Exam Results, Criminal Record Checks, and other documents to prove that you meet the admissibility requirements to Canada.

If you meet all of the requirements as above and your applications is successful, you will be approved as a Permanent Resident of Canada.

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Expedited migration to Canada for Entrepreneur teams

Interim Work Permit for Start Up Visa Applicants

During the time that your application for permanent residency is processing, you are eligible for a work permit so that you can come to Canada and start building your business.

In order to apply, you will need the following:

  • A Commitment Certificate from the Designated Organization that is supporting your Start-Up Visa Application indicating that you are essential to the operation of the business and there are urgent business reasons for your early entry to Canada
  • A Letter of Support from the Designated Organization

To be eligible for a work permit you must:

  • Plan to live in a province or territory other than Quebec
  • Pay the employer compliance fee
  • Have received the Commitment Certificate and Letter of support from the Designated Organization
  • Have sufficient funds to meet the low income cut off for your family for 52 weeks.

Additionally, if you are bringing your family with you and they are a part of your permanent residency application, your spouse or common law partner can apply for an open work permit.  Your dependent children can also apply for a visitor visa or electronic travel authorization, work permit or study permit, depending on their eligibility and situation.

At Salloum Watts Lawyers we can guide you through the lengthy application process and assist you in meeting the requirements for the Start Up Visa Program.  We will connect you with a Designated Organization that best suits your business idea and entrepreneurship goals.  Additionally, we will provide you with professional advice on how to meet the legal requirements of Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada, prepare the required documentation, and liase with all parties on your behalf to facilitate the application process.  We have the skills and experience necessary to help you realize your international entrepreneurship and Canadian immigration goals.

To find out more about the programs available for entrepreneurs and whether your qualify contact us for a consultation today.