If you are an entrepreneur with an innovative business idea, you may be eligible to immigrate to Canada through the start-up visa program. 

Canada is on the lookout for newcomers who have the entrepreneurial experience, the talent, and the innovation to start, manage, or buy a business in the country. With new foreign investments, Canada can ensure the continued success of its economy through diversification and development.

Start up visa program

Startup Business

A start-up business must be a new business intended to be operated in Canada which meets the criteria of a qualifying business, meaning that the new start-up business has received a commitment from:

  • 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;
  • 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; or
  • a designated business incubator confirming that it is accepting the applicant into its business incubator program.

Eligibility requirements for the Start-up Visa Program

To qualify for the Start-up Visa Program, you must meet all 4 eligibility requirements, as well as the admissibility requirements to enter Canada.

You must:

  • have a qualifying business
  • have a letter of support from a designated organization
  • meet the language requirements, and
  • have enough money to settle and live in Canada before you make money from your business

Business Requirements

Once a designated organization commits to your business, all applicants (up to 5 people can apply as owners) must each hold at least 10% of the voting rights attached to all outstanding shares of the business; and together with the designated organization, they must hold more than 50% of the voting rights attached to all outstanding shares of the business.

Once you receive permanent residence, you must make sure that you play an active role in the ongoing management of your business while living in Canada; the essential operations of the business must partly take place in Canada; and your business is incorporated in Canada.

Letter of support

You must get a letter of support from a designated organization that proves they are willing to invest in and support your start-up. These organizations include Venture Capital Firms ($200,000 investment); Angel Investor Groups ($75,000 investment); and Business Incubators. 

In order to do this, you must pitch your business idea and convince the organization that it is worth supporting. The process of pitching your business idea will be different for each organization. If your pitch is successful, you will receive a letter of support from the organization which must be included in your start-up visa application.

Language requirements

You must take a language test from an approved agency and show that you meet the minimum level of the Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 5 in either English or French in speaking, reading, listening, and writing.

Settlement money

Because the Canadian government doesn’t give financial support to “investor” visas, you will have to be able to prove that you have enough money to settle yourself and your family in Canada. 

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • 1. I have a business idea, how do I apply for the Start-Up Visa?

    Having an idea or plan is unfortunately not enough but certainly a step in the right direction. Before you can apply for the Start-Up Visa, you must have proof of financial backing in the form of an investment from a designated organization. From there, other basic criteria must be met.

  • 2. Who can I get to invest in my business idea?

    IRCC has designated angel investor groups or venture capital funds that can invest in your business plan. You must obtain a letter of support from them after convincing them that your business plan is a model worth investing in. Each organization is different and has different requirements. You should research each before making a proposition.

  • 3. How much money do I need from an investor for my business idea? Is there a difference between angel investor groups and venture capital funds?

    If your investment comes from a venture capital fund, you must secure a minimum of $200 000 CAD. If your investment comes from an angel investor group, you must secure a minimum of $75 000 CAD. The reason for the difference is because of the type of investment and the nature of your business. Angel investment groups typically assist at the inception of a business and are often groups that are using their own money. On the other hand, venture capital groups have pooled financial resources allocated for investment and usually assist a business that has been in operation.

  • 4. Are there any other requirements for the Start-Up Visa besides investment?

    There are language and educational requirements along with the required letter of support from a group willing to invest in your business. You will need to meet a minimum language score and have attended at least one year, in good standing, at a post-secondary institution. Documentation will be required to demonstrate this. There is also a financial responsibility as well. Depending on whether or not you are travelling alone or with a family and the size of your family, funds available to support your stay in Canada must also be demonstrated.

  • 5. How can I qualify to get a start-up visa?

    Your application to come to Canada through the Start-Up Visa Program will be assessed on a pass/fail basis on four requirements. You must have:

    • A commitment of support from a designated Canadian venture capital fund or angel investor group;
    • An ability to communicate in either French or English;
    • Completion of one year of study at a post-secondary institution; and
    • An adequate amount of money in order to settle and provide for the cost of living prior to earning an income.
    If those requirements are met, your application would then be reviewed on Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s standard admissibility criteria; including health, criminality and security.

  • 6. What do I need to do to get support from an investor organization?

    You will need to contact an angel investor group or venture capital fund that has been designated by the Minister as eligible to participate in the Start-Up Visa Program. You will need to convince them that you have a business idea that is worth investing in. If you reach an agreement, they will send you a letter of support. This is proof required by Citizenship and Immigration Canada to show that the angel investor group or venture capital fund will support your business idea.

  • 7. What level of language proficiency do I need to apply for the start-up visa?

    To apply for a start-up visa, you must be able to show that you have reached Canadian Language Benchmark 5 in listening, reading, writing and speaking. With your application, you must submit the results of a third-party language test that shows that you meet the requirement.

  • 8. Do I need to have completed studies at a post-secondary institution to apply for a start-up visa?

    No, you do not need to have completed a program at a post-secondary institution to apply. To meet the education requirements, you need to demonstrate only that you were a student in good standing for at least one year at a post-secondary institution.

  • 9. Can an entrepreneurial team immigrate to Canada together?

    Citizenship and Immigration Canada understands that business ventures are often developed by an entrepreneurial team. Therefore, a commitment certificate and letter of support may identify up to five persons.

  • 10. Will I have to invest my own money if I want to apply for a start-up visa?

    No, you are not required to invest any of your own money. The minimum investment required is an investment that comes from a Canadian venture capital fund or angel investor group that has been named as a participant in the program. You will only need to obtain this investment to qualify.