Canada's Start-up Visa Program
Canada's Start-up Visa Program is a government initiative that provides a pathway for foreign entrepreneurs to obtain permanent residency in Canada by partnering with designated ecosystem actors.
The main aim of Canada's Start-up Visa Program is to promote economic growth and job creation by attracting innovative entrepreneurs from around the world to establish their start-up businesses in Canada. By providing access to Canadian investment and mentorship, the program aims to help these entrepreneurs establish and grow successful start-up businesses in Canada. In addition to supporting individual entrepreneurs, the program also aims to promote Canada's reputation as a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship.  

To be eligible for Canada's Start-up Visa Program, an entrepreneur must meet the following criteria: 

  1. A qualifying business: The entrepreneur must have a business that has the potential to create jobs in Canada and is innovative, scalable, and globally competitive. 

  1. Sufficient settlement funds: The entrepreneur must have sufficient funds to settle in Canada, which is currently set at CAD $13,213 (approx USD $9832) for a single applicant, with an additional CAD $3,492 (approx $2598) for each accompanying family member. 

  1. Proficiency in English or French: The entrepreneur must demonstrate proficiency in either English or French, which is usually done through a language test. 

  1. Education: The entrepreneur must have completed at least one year of post-secondary education, which can be a degree, diploma, or certificate from a recognized institution. 

  1. Admissibility: The entrepreneur and any accompanying family members must be admissible to Canada, which means they must not have a criminal record or pose a security risk. 

  1. Ownership stake: The entrepreneur must own at least 10% of the voting rights in the start-up business, and no other person or entity can hold more than 50% of the voting rights. 

Critically, entrepreneurs must receive a letter of support from one or more designated organizations that include venture capital funds; angel investor groups; and business incubators. However, there are different requirements for the three groups. To successfully apply through one or more venture capital funds, entrepreneurs must secure a minimum investment of CAN $200,000 (approx USD $148,000). Likewise, to apply through angel investors, entrepreneurs must secure a minimum investment of CAN $75,000 (approx $56,000). By contrast, to apply through an incubator they only need to be accepted onto the program. Each organization has its own intake process for proposals and criteria used to assess them. See the full list of designated organizations here

Successful applicants to this program will be able to emigrate to Canada as permanent residents with no conditions attached to the success of their business. They can first apply for a temporary work permit to come to Canada and start working on their business. The work permit is valid for up to 24 months and they can then apply for permanent residency through the program. 

The Canadian government does not publish the exact cost of running the Start-up Visa Program. However, there are no major costs associated with visa schemes outside of the administrative costs of processing applications, conducting background checks and maintaining the program’s infrastructure. Indeed, it is highly likely that any costs that do exist will be outweighed by the economic benefits associated with the program.  

Canada’s new Start-Up Visa is linking immigrant entrepreneurs with experienced private sector organizations that have expertise in working with start-ups.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has designated a number of venture capital funds, angel investor groups, and business incubator organizations to participate in the Start-Up Visa program.

Successful applicants are required to secure a minimum investment for their Canadian start-up. If coming from a designated Canadian venture capital fund, the investment must be at least $200,000. If coming from an angel investor group, it should be at least $75,000. 

Applicants do not need to secure any investment from a business incubator. However, applicants must be accepted into a Canadian business incubator program.

Applicants are not required to invest any of their own money. If their Canadian start-up is unsuccessful, individuals granted permanent residence through this program will retain their permanent resident status.


According to the latest available data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), over 2,600 entrepreneurs have been granted permanent residency in Canada through the Start-up Visa Program since its launch in 2013 including a record breaking 575 granted in 2022. This number includes both primary applicants and their accompanying family members. 

There is currently no available information regarding the economic impact of the companies launched in Canada through the program.  


Canada’s Start-up Visa Program is comparatively flexible with other visa schemes as it requires no minimum education, no minimum net-worth, no prior business experience, or age limit. Similarly, unlike traditional visa programs, Canada has outsourced the main bulk of the selection process to the actors from the startup community. This is an innovative use of the market to both reduce administration costs and to attract entrepreneurs more aligned with the priorities of ecosystem actors.   

However, the long waiting periods of 30+ months for approval indicate issues with the implementation of the program. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) admitted in November 2021 that they have a large backlog of applications with no serious plans to expedite the process. The program has also been criticised for a lack of transparency with customer services for those applying virtually non-existent.  


Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)


Canada's Start-up Visa Program was implemented in 2013 as a pilot program. The program was developed through a collaborative effort between Citizenship and Immigration Canada (now known as Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada), the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, and industry stakeholders, including venture capitalists, angel investors, and business incubators. These stakeholders played a key role in identifying promising start-up ideas and providing support to entrepreneurs throughout the application process. 

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is responsible for designating a number of venture capital funds, angel investor groups, and business incubator organizations to participate in the Start-Up Visa program. 

Since its launch, the Start-up Visa Program has undergone several changes and updates, including the expansion of the list of designated organizations and the introduction of new eligibility criteria. The program is currently a permanent part of Canada's immigration system. 


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