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Unlike many other countries, Canada offers immediate permanent residency for foreign nationals who are accepted into its Startup Visa program. This is therefore an excellent immigration path for aspiring or current entrepreneurs who wish to enrich Canada’s economic ecosystem with an innovative project.

One way to get your foot in the door for a Startup Visa is through a business incubator. In this article, we’ll be exploring everything you need to know about this approach.

What is an Incubator?

A business incubator is an organization that aims to accelerate the growth of a startup or early stage company.

They typically provide helpful services like office space, mentorship, management training, and even opportunities to obtain seed funding.

If you get accepted into an incubator, it means they believe in your business concept and want to help you fast-track your success as much as possible.

What role does an incubator play in the application process?

One of the Canadian government’s main concerns regarding Startup Visa applicants is whether their business will remain viable long-term. Getting accepted into an incubator program is a great way to demonstrate that a qualified organization believes in your concept. The main advantage of taking the incubator route, though, has to do with investment capital.

For context, aside from an incubator, you can also apply for this visa if you are backed by an angel investor group or venture capital fund. For both of these options, the group or fund is required to invest a minimum amount of money into your startup in order for your application to get approved.

Angel investors must commit to a minimum of $75,000, whereas venture capital funds are on the hook for a $200,000 investment. If a foreign national applies for the Canada Startup Visa through an incubator, though, there are no dollars and cents involved: the incubator must simply confirm that they are accepting the applicant into their accelerator program and this step will be complete.

//  If a foreign national applies for the Canada Startup Visa through an incubator, though, there are no dollars and cents involved.

Incubator Accreditation Criteria

Foreign nationals who wish to open a business in Canada cannot simply submit a proposal to any incubator: they need to select one that has been accredited by the Canadian government. Currently, there are 30 “designated” business incubators that are approved for Startup Visa hopefuls. In order to obtain accreditation, a business incubator must be a member of and be recommended by the National Angel Capital Organization (NACO).

See the list of business incubators

How to apply through an incubator

If this process sounds like a good option for your immigration journey, here is how to apply for the Canada Startup Visa through an incubator.


Find out which incubator suits you best

Some programs offer industry-specific support, whereas others are location-specific. Each program also has different acceptance criteria: some will accept startups that are no more than a business idea, whereas others require a business to already be profitable. The one thing they all have in common is that they are typically very competitive. You’ll want to apply to one or more incubators that seem to be a good fit for your business proposal – in-depth research is very important at this stage! Our team at Exeo can also help you contact some incubators. Get in touch so that we may help you.

Get accepted

Once you are accepted into a business incubator program, it is very likely you will be granted a Canadian visa. At this stage, the government (and your legal representative) will begin processing the necessary paperwork. At the time of this writing, the processing time for this type of visa is between 12 and 16 months.

Arrive in Canada

If you are already in Canada, you will need to book a short interview with an immigration officer to go over your documents, confirm your address, and verify that you still meet all of the eligibility criteria.

If you land in Canada after you are accepted, a similar process will take place with an officer from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) upon your arrival.

Foreign nationals may also be eligible for a temporary work permit that allows them to work while their application is being processed. But keep in mind that if you plan to immigrate specifically to Quebec, you will have to run your application through the Quebec Immigrant Entrepreneur Program instead. You can read more about it here.

A little professional guidance goes a long way

When you are looking to immigrate to a new country, there is no substitute for professional guidance. The team at Exeo Attorneys can walk you through every step of the application process, make sure your documents are accurate and complete, and provide the type of nuanced advice that comes with decades of experience. Contact us to tell us more about you.

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