Established as a pilot program in 2013, the Canadian Startup Visa is meant to help foreign entrepreneurs and their families immigrate to Canada as permanent residents.

The government gives out more and more of these visas every year – in 2014, they issued only a handful, whereas in 2017, they issued well over 100 – making it a viable option for startup owners who wish to settle in Canada.

Before you start packing your bags, though, you’ll need to determine whether you are eligible to apply for this type of Canadian visa. Read on to learn the basics.

Qualifying Businesses

Not just any business can earn you a startup visa. Applicants must meet the following criteria if they want their company to qualify:

Note: a maximum of 5 people per company can apply for the Canada Startup Visa as a business owner

Each applicant must possess at least
10% of the company’s voting rights

A combined 50% of the voting rights must be held by the applicants
AND the designated organization, at a minimum

If and when you obtain your startup visa, you will need to maintain your business according to the following visa-specific regulations. If you fail to do so, it may no longer qualify.

All applicants must continue to play an active managerial role in the business,
and must be living in Canada

The business must be incorporated in Canada
AND conduct at least part, if not all, of its essential operations in Canada

Support from a Designated Organization

A designated organization is an entity based in Canada that will help your startup integrate, operate, and develop within the country. These organizations have been approved by the government to invest in startups via the Canada Startup Visa program.

There are three categories of designated organization. For a full list of approved designated organizations, click here.

Venture capital funds

minimum investment of $200,000

Angel investor groups

minimum investment of $75,000

Business incubators

no minimum investment; must be accepted into a program

The end goal is to obtain a letter of support from one of these entities. As an applicant, you will browse through the list of groups to identify those that might be a good fit, contact them to find out how to get their support, and convince them that your business idea is viable.

Once you’ve gotten a designated organization on board, their letter of support will act as an expression of intent to back you and your business upon your arrival in Canada. You will need to include this letter with your application.

Language Requirements

Canada has two official languages: English and French. To be eligible for the Canada Startup Visa, and in order to successfully operate a business within the country, you’ll need to be able to speak at least one of the two.

To prove your proficiency, you will need to book a language test with an approved agency, and meet the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) level 5 requirements at a minimum. You will be tested on your speaking, reading, writing, and listening skills. You can refer to this chart once you have your test results to determine your equivalent CLB level.

Financial stability

The Canadian government will want to make sure you have enough money to comfortably settle in Canada. Whether you’re aiming to immigrate alone or with multiple family members, you must prove that you have sufficient funds to support yourself and whoever is coming with you.

The list below outlines how much money you will need, depending on your situation. You will need to provide proof of funds with your application.

All amounts are in Canadian dollars.

  • 1 applicant (just you): $12,960

  • 2 applicants: $16,135

  • 3 applicants: $19,836

  • 4 applicants: $24,083

  • 5 applicants: $27,315

  • 6 applicants: $30,806

  • 7 applicants: $34,299

  • For each additional dependent: $3,492

Work while you wait for your permanent residence

It takes time for the government to process visa packets and grant applicants their permanent residency. At the time of this writing, it is estimated to take between 12 to 16 months to get approved for the Canada Startup Visa.

Foreign workers who have applied for this visa may be eligible for a temporary work permit, allowing them to legally begin operating their new business within Canada while they wait.

To obtain your “early access” permit, you must:

  • Not be opening a business in Quebec (they are the only province that is not part of the federal startup visa program)

  • Pay the employer compliance fee ($230)

  • Have your letter of support (and commitment certificate) from your chosen designated organization; it must state that you are an essential business and must therefore begin operating as soon as possible

  • Have enough money to meet the low income cut off for your family for 52 weeks

If you are eligible, you will be able to apply for a temporary work permit before you submit your application for permanent residency.

This guide should have you feeling quite familiar with the eligibility criteria for the Canada Startup Visa, but there’s no replacement for personalized professional advice. The attorneys at Exeo have decades of experience helping foreign nationals successfully immigrate to Canada as investors, students, workers, and more. If you’re looking to settle in Canada, book a consultation today to discover the best possible route for you.

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