Ottawa, March 30, 2013: The New Start-Up Visa Program comes into force!
Canada’s Start-Up Visa Program is the first of its kind in the world. By providing sought-after entrepreneurs with permanent residency and access to a wide range of business partners, Canada hopes to become a destination of choice for start-up innovators which will help Canada remain competitive in the global economy. The best and brightest entrepreneurs from around the world, with ideas for new business ventures and financial backing from Canadian investors, can apply to this brand-new visa program as of April 1, 2013.
To initiate the implementation of the new program, a fresh set of Ministerial Instructions was published in Canada Gazette on March 30, 2013. According to these instructions, a foreign national is a member of the start-up business class if they
(a) have obtained a commitment from
(i) a designated angel investor group confirming that it is investing at least $75,000 in a qualifying business or two or more designated angel investor groups confirming that they are together investing a total of at least $75,000 in such a business, or
(ii) a designated venture capital fund confirming that it is investing at least $200,000 in a qualifying business or two or more designated venture capital funds confirming that they are together investing a total of at least $200,000 in such a business;
(b) have attained a level of proficiency of at least benchmark level 5 in either official language for the four language skill areas, as set out in the Canadian Language Benchmarks and the Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens, as demonstrated by the results of an evaluation conducted by an organization or institution designated by the Minister for the purpose of evaluating language proficiency;
(c) have completed at least one year of post-secondary education during which the applicant was in good standing at the educational institution, whether or not the applicant obtained an educational credential; and
(d) have in the form of transferable and available funds, unencumbered by debts or other obligations, an amount that is equal to one half of the amount identified, in the most recent edition of the publication concerning low income cut-offs published annually by Statistics Canada under the Statistics Act, for urban areas of residence of 500 000 persons or more as the minimum amount of before-tax annual income necessary to support a group of persons equal in number to the total number of the applicant and their family members.
A qualifying business means a corporation that is incorporated in and carrying on business in Canada if, at the time the commitment is made,
(a) the applicant holds 10% or more of the voting rights attached to all shares of the corporation outstanding at that time; and
(b) no persons or entities, other than qualified participants, hold 50% or more of the total amount of the voting rights attached to all shares of the corporation outstanding at that time.
A business that is not incorporated at the time the commitment is made is still considered to be a qualifying business if its incorporation is conditional on the issuance of a permanent resident visa to one or more of the applicants in respect of that business.
A full list of designated venture capital funds and angel investor groups is now available on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website.
In conclusion, CIC appears to have switched from a rigid set of criteria that were aimed at selecting established foreign entrepreneurs with elevated financial capabilities and extensive business experience to a system that opens the doors to bright innovative individuals who manage to persuade Canadian investors that their ideas deserve the latter’s financial support. Thus:
- The Start-up Visa Program will enable immigrant entrepreneurs to launch innovative companies that will create jobs in Canada, and eventually, compete globally.
- The Program will provide entrepreneurs with valuable assistance in navigating the Canadian business environment which can sometimes prove challenging for newcomers.
- The Program will provide private sector firms with access to a broader range of entrepreneurs, including the best and the brightest minds from around the world.
The Start-Up Visa Program is a pilot program that will run for five years. It is expected that due to the narrow focus of the program, initially, the number of applications will be limited. However, the focus of the program will be on the quality of the applicants and on establishing a track record of success.