Canada’s Start-Up Visa (SUV) offers unique business immigration opportunities for foreign entrepreneurs. Owners of innovative businesses and established startups may be able to use this program to secure permanent residency in Canada. Under this program, up to 5 founding partners of a startup can obtain Canadian residency statuses.
It is one of the top three most popular immigration options available to immigrant entrepreneurs. In this guide, you will learn all about the program, including who it is best suited for, its pros and cons, and alternatives to the program.
Start-Up Visa Canada: Eligibility Requirements
Below is the list of requirements for you to assess and conclude whether you have a qualifying business under the SUV program:
- Foreign nationals must get a letter of support or investment commitment from one of the designated Canadian organizations;
- Each foreign national must hold a minimum of 10% of voting rights in the startup. Foreign nationals and their designated organization must jointly have more than 50% of the total voting rights in the business;
- Each applicant must meet the minimum English or French language skill at CLB level 5; and
- Each applicant must have sufficient funds to settle in Canada (at a minimum, between $12,960 – $34,299, depending on the size of the applicant’s family).
Who Should Apply for Canada’s Startup Visa?
Many successful applicants for this program have the following distinguishing qualities:
- Have access to liquid cash to invest in their venture (around $150,000+);
- Have highly specialized knowledge or unique experience in their field or have solid managerial experience.
- Have an upper-intermediate level of English and/or French language skill(s); and
- Have ownership of a successful, high revenue-generating company in their home country or a fast-growing company in a niche industry.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Start-Up Visa
It would be best to consider the benefits and drawbacks of this program before taking any further steps. It is crucial to fully understand what this program offers and whether this is the right program for you.
Advantages of the Program
Below are some of the pros of the SUV program:
- A direct pathway for permanent residence in Canada;
- Open to all nationalities;
- No limitations on business activities in Canada;
- No net worth requirement or verification;
- Allows for a partnership of 5 individuals in the same startup (min. 10% of ownership for each partner is required); and
- Opportunity to relocate to Canada by obtaining a work permit while the permanent residence application is processed.
Disadvantages of the Program
Below are some of the cons of the SUV program:
- High competition to obtain support from designated organizations in Canada; thus, it can be challenging to get such support;
- Lengthy processing times (2+ years) to obtain permanent residence;
- High capital investments by the founding partners are often required to secure support from a designated organization;
- An extremely well-developed, viable and scalable business model is needed with a proven track of success; and
- Moderate risk of refusals at the permanent residence stage and/or delays due to peer reviews.
Comparison to Other Business Immigration Programs
There are various immigration programs in Canada, and they are all created to attract specific types of business immigrants to Canada. Like the SUV is tailored towards startup founders, so is the C11 Entrepreneur Work Permit program.
It is very often that entrepreneurs have to choose between the two. Below is our professional opinion as to which program might suit you better.
Start-Up Visa vs C11 Work Permit
SUV is mainly designed and benefits entrepreneurs that already have a business that has been scaled. You already have a good sales record and evidence of revenue. Your reason for immigrating to Canada would be to grow your startup even further with the support of angel investments, venture capitalists, and accelerators! You see Canada as a country that can better facilitate the growth of your already successful company.
The C11 Significant Benefit program, on the other hand, is ideally suited for entrepreneurs whose startup business idea has not yet been scaled. Your company has solid business foundations but has not yet been established as a successful enterprise. C11 is ideal for entrepreneurs that want to come to Canada to set up and successfully build their business in Canada. Through the C11 program, you will also be eligible for permanent residency but must wait one year after you receive your work permit to apply.
How to Apply for Canada’s Startup Visa Program?
To apply for a Canadian Startup Visa Program, you need to follow the steps below:
- Prepare your Pitch Deck (business concept);
- Submit an application to designated Venture Capitalists, Angel Investors, or Incubators;
- Obtain a Letter of Support from the designated organization(s);
- Submit your application for permanent residency and work permit;
- Arrive in Canada and run your business;
- Receive your Permanent Residence; and
- Become a Canadian citizen in 3 years (optional).
List of Designated Organizations
Depending on the type of designated organization you partner with, you will need to either complete a startup development program or receive funding from them in exchange for equity in your company to receive your letter of support. It is one of the most critical requirements of the SUV. You must obtain a Commitment Certificate and Letter of Support from one or more Venture Capital Funds, Angel Investor Groups, or/and Business Incubators. Here is a complete list of the designated organizations.
SUV processing times can vary depending on the workload of the IRCC. The general guidelines state that the waiting period for the final decision on an application can be between 12 months and 17 months.
You should consider many costs, such as the application fees, right of permanent residence fee, the costs of medical exams, police certificates, biometrics, and English language testing exams.
The SUV application fees are as follows:
- Main Applicant – $1,540
- Spouse – $1,040
- Dependent Child – $150
Canada Start-Up Visa Success Rate
If your SUV application is in the right hands, all of the requirements are satisfied, and the necessary documentation is provided, you will be allowed to grow your business in Canada. IRCC states that the SUV program has a general success rate of above 75%.
The rate of approval varies depending on the type of designated organization:
- 78% – for startups that are supported by business incubators;
- 80% – for startups that are supported by angel investor networks;
- 43% – for startups that are supported by venture capital funds.
Why Your Startup Visa Application May Be Delayed or Rejected?
Sometimes, the Immigration Officer may initiate a peer review if the Officer doubts the genuineness or feasibility of the enterprise. The peer review panel will verify if the designated entity has conducted the proper checks and investigations according to industry standards.
Below are some red flags that may result in peer review or even a refusal of the SUV application:
- the investing entity has a disproportionately high or low percentage of shares or has little to no role in the legal control of the business;
- the applicant has little to no control or equity in the business;
- most of the applicants are all related to each other or lack experience or education;
- there is no intellectual property brought to the project, and the business plan appears to be very “cookie-cutter”;
- the designated organization has charged unusually high fees;
- a management team has limited to no startup experience;
- the applicants fail to provide evidence confirming their essential role in the company; and
- the applicant fails to make significant progress on startup during the period when the applicant was lawfully authorized to work in Canada.
In general, make sure that your due diligence process is well-documented and that there is significant evidence available to demonstrate the genuineness and viability of your undertaking. Most importantly, make sure to follow our top tips to ensure the success of your application.
Get Experienced Advice Before You Apply for Canada’s Start-Up Visa Program
Sobirovs Law Firm team can help you bring your startup business to Canada with your family and business partners. You can focus on your startup idea, and we focus on your permanent residence in Canada.
Read more on this subject and watch a specific video about the Start-Up Program.
- FAQs and detailed answers about the Start-Up Visa Program: