New start-up visas for entrepreneurs

Jason Kenney
By Jasminee Sahoye

Efforts are being made to recruit innovative immigrant entrepreneurs through a new program called the start-up visa. It is aimed at attracting the world’s best and brightest to launch their companies and create new wealth in Canada.

The five-year pilot, which is set to launch on April 1, is part of a series of transformational changes to Canada’s immigration system.
“Recruiting dynamic entrepreneurs from around the world will help Canada remain competitive in the global economy,” said Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney during the announcement this week.

The new program will link immigrant entrepreneurs with private sector organizations in Canada that have experience working with start-ups and which can provide essential resources.

As a way to help these in-demand entrepreneurs fulfil their potential and maximize their impact on the Canadian labour market, they will require the support of a Canadian angel investor group or venture capital fund before they can apply to the start-up visa program.

Initially, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will collaborate with two umbrella groups, Canada’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Association and the National Angel Capital Organization. These groups will identify which members of their associations will be eligible to participate in the program. CIC is also working with the Canadian Association of Business Incubation to include business incubators in the list of eligible organizations.

Those selected for the start-up visa would be granted immediate permanent residency. “There are going to be some pretty basic criteria here for selecting these start-up newcomers. First of all, they’re going to have an intermediate language benchmark of five, which means they can basically function in the Canadian economy. It’s not perfect fluency, but it does ensure that they can get by in French or English,” Kenney said during the announcement.

The successful candidates are also expected to have completed at least one year of post-secondary education. “We thought that shows that they’ve got a bit of college, but we don’t want to penalize the future Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and company who were, of course, famous sophomore dropouts,” the immigration and citizenship minister added.

Canada’s current immigration program to attract businesses, the entrepreneur program, which started in the 1970s, has not made a big difference according to Kenney.