One of the routes to permanent residence (PR) in Canada is through the Startup Visa program. This route can be less competitive and simpler than for example the Express Entry program. With a short processing time of about 12 – 16 months, it can take less time to obtain PR than some of the usual and more popular routes. Ideally, this program is for you if you’re an innovative entrepreneur looking to build a business and create jobs in Canada.
I recently came across the refusal and approval data for study permit applications for citizens of different countries looking to come to Canada and I was surprised by the high rates of refusals for some of them. Instantly I was able to deduce two things:
- according to the UN, Canada was a top-level migration destination, I’m finding it still is in the post COVID world, and
- there are more people applying to study in Canada than the government has quotas for.
This got me thinking; what visa pathway is more welcoming? One answer that I arrived at is the startup visa since it has had the lowest application rates. Of the 2,750 startup visas earmarked annually since 2013, less than 5,000 visas have been issued in total. In other words, less than 50% of the total available visas have been issued.
Low Application Rates can Provide an Advantage
One reason for the low demand is the way the program has been advertised, typically with the goal of targeting startups who would rather move to Silicon Valley but might have problems with the US H1B visa. This would have been all fine and good if Canada could compete on all the offerings the US offers. But since it can’t it would mean that those startups would likely choose the US over Canada and that’s not how we see an innovative country, at all.
Ironically, that loophole is favorable to applicants since it means increased access to entrepreneurs looking to move to Canada. It also means that there are some advantages unique to the startup visa applicants get when applying through this route.
There are several benefits that applicants get when they apply for the startup visa program. For example, some of the benefits include:
- Over the Points Based Pathways (I.e. Express Entry) you do not get lower points if you’re past a certain age. You can apply for the startup visa program no matter how old or young you are, or whether you’re single or married.
- Successful applicants for the Startup visa Canada (and their dependents) will apply for and get PR. This doesn’t change even if a newly launched startup proves unsuccessful. You can still live in Canada for as long as you like. Compare this to other routes like the Study Permit where you have to be on top of your tuition payments for your permit to be valid.
- Applicants don’t need to secure funding, or even launch their startups to apply for the Startup Visa Canada. Applicants with bankable startup ideas can apply to one of the designated Business Incubators who will vet the ideas and issue a letter of support. The letter of support will then be presented at their local Canadian embassy where you can then apply for Permanent Residence
- Faster Processing Times: Since the Startup Visa route is not as competitive as the other routes, applications can conclude in three months, once an applicant gets a letter of support from a designated organization. Depending on the application route too, applicants may get a letter of support within two months. So most Startup Visa applications can conclude within five months.
You’re probably wondering now if this Startup Visa is so great, why don’t more people apply? There are some drawbacks, for example:
- The marketing: at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I think one of the major disadvantages of the program is how and to whom it is being targeted. Some of the fastest-growing startups in the world for the past two years have been outside of the US. However, as part of the marketing efforts for the Startup Visa, the Canadian government placed billboards in Silicon Valley. Most people (startups inclusive) in the US think about Canada like the US’ better behaved younger sibling. The thing is, no matter how much better your friends’ younger sibling acts, you’d still see them as different from your friend which will make their positives seem like they’re trying too hard.
- The idea: you’re going to hate the Startup visa Canada unless you either have a bankable business idea, a good team, can get up to $75,000 from the designated angel investors or you can get up to $200,000 from one of designated Venture Capital firms. These are the only ways you can get the letter of support that will allow you to apply for Canada PR.
If you’re still reading this post, then it’s safe to say you may want to apply. So, I’ll address the eligibility requirements.
Eligibility Requirements for Startup Visa Canada
To apply for a startup visa, you must meet these requirements:
Have a qualifying business: As a startup visa applicant, you need to have a business that would qualify for a letter of support from one of the designated organizations. A business will qualify if each of the applicants (up to five co-founders) holds more than 10% of the company’s total shares at that time.
Meet the language requirements: You need to meet the minimum Canadian Language Benchmark 5 to be eligible for this category. Applicants that score a minimum of 5 in each of the four testing categories of the IELTS can apply. Your communication skills are important to help your work in Canada.
Get a letter of support from a designated organization: The letter of support shows proof that an investor will support your business idea. The organization you apply to will depend on the:
- stage of growth that your business is in, and
- industry you operate.
Bring enough money to settle: Depending on the number of family members you are traveling with. You will need to show proof of settlement funds for your first year in Canada. If you’re going with 7 people, for instance, you will require C$34,200 as proof of settlement funds.
How to Apply
Develop a business idea: Some of the organizations have their own templates where you can answer specific questions about your business or idea. Others will request a detailed plan about your proposed activities and your experience
Submit your specific idea or business plan to your selected incubator, angel investor, or venture capital firms: You should look at the track record of the organization you decide to apply to and consider these questions:
- Have they supported businesses like yours in the past?
- Do they accept entrepreneurs in your growth stage?
- Do they take money to submit applications?
This information will inform your pitch and how you approach them. You can also apply to more than one incubator with the same or different ideas.
Get a letter of support: Once your business plan has been approved by your designated organization, the organization will then issue you a letter of support. The duration to secure a letter from an organization is anything from 10 days to four months depending on the organization you are dealing with and their admission cycles.
Fill out the application form: It’s simple, and easy to complete.
Gather all the documents listed in the documents checklist: The documents are all the forms and evidence that you require for your application. These include but are not limited to the application forms for you and your dependents, your previous travel experience, your proof of settlement funds, your language test results, your letter of support, your dependents’ identity documents, and others.
Pay your application fees: and remember to include your payment receipts when you mail your application.
Is The Startup Visa Program for You?
Startup visa Canada is ideal if you’re seeking a less competitive route to move to Canada. With an entrepreneurial spirit, this program is a great way to gain permanent residence and contribute to the Canadian economy.
For more information, tools, free webinars, and more visit our finding a job in Canada resource page. Get the help you need to achieve your career goals in Canada!