Startup Visa Program

What is the Startup Visa Program?

The Startup Visa Program (SUV) is Canada’s flagship immigration program for entrepreneurs seeking to become permanent residents of Canada. Persons who qualify for the Startup Visa Program can apply for permanent residency for Canada.

The Start-up Visa Program is intended for foreign nationals who wish to establish an innovative business in Canada that creates jobs for Canada. Foreign nationals may establish the business alone or with a group of partners. The group can have no more than 5 foreign national partners.

The objective of the SUV program is to enhance Canada’s competitiveness in global marketplaces.


How does the Startup Visa Program work?

Persons who are interested in immigrating to Canada as entrepreneurs through the Start-up Visa Program begin by receiving the support from an organization designated by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to support their start-up business in Canada.  Designated organizations include:

  • Business incubators and accelerators;
  • Angel Investor Groups; and
  • Venture Capital Funds (VCs).

The list of designated organizations changes from time to time. These organizations are approved to invest in or support the development of an entrepreneur or a group of entrepreneurs wishing to start-up a business in Canada.

You must then meet several immigration requirements in order to qualify for the SUV program.


How do I obtain the support of a designated organization?

Designated organizations are able to exercise their discretion in determining which start-up businesses they wish to support. The specific criteria vary organization to organization. However, support must include the following:

  • If the organization is a business incubator or accelerator, the foreign entrepreneur must usually complete a program or course run by the organization. Timelines, requirements and even costs vary;
  • If the organization is an Angel Investor Group, the group must commit to investing at least $75,000 CAD in the start-up business; or
  • If the organization is a Venture Capital Fund (VC), the VC must commit to investing at least $200,000 CAD in the start-up business.

The investment of the Angel Investor Group or VC must be for the purposes of owning shares or otherwise acquiring equity in your business.

Mandelbaum Immigration Lawyers can introduce you to designated organizations or refer you to partner businesses that can help you with developing your business plans and presentation materials to obtain the support of one of the designated organizations.


How do I qualify for the Startup Visa Program?

In order to qualify for the start-up visa program, you must:

  • Have a qualifying start-up business;
  • Obtain a letter from a designated organization confirming it supports your start-up business in Canada and,
    • In the case of a business incubator, been accepted into its business incubator program, or
    • In the case of an Angel Investor Group or VC, received the minimum investment amount;
  • Pass an official English language test or French language test;
  • Have a certain minimum amount of settlement funds available for you to support your move to Canada; and
  • Not otherwise be inadmissible to Canada.

If your qualifying business has other foreign national partners, they must also meet all of the above criteria. If even one of your foreign partners fail to meet any of the requirements of the SUV program, your application may also be refused.


What is a qualifying start-up business?

For your start-up business to qualify for the Start-up Visa Program, you must:

  • Incorporate your business in Canada;
  • Carry on business in Canada;
  • Own at least 10% of the voting shares of your business;
  • Have no more than 4 other foreign national partners owning shares in your business (for a total of no more than 5 foreign nationals owning shares in the business);
  • If you have foreign national partners, each of your foreign national partners must own at least 10% of the voting shares of your business; and
  • You, your foreign national partners if you have any and your designated organization must together control more than 50% of the voting rights attached to your shares in the business.

Where do I apply for the Startup Visa Program?

Applications for the Start-up Visa Program must be made to the Government of Canada. They must be completed by paper and mailed or couriered to a Centralized Intake Office of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada located inside of Canada.  


How long does it take for a Startup Visa Program application to be approved?

Processing time for Start-up Visa Program applications vary depending on the demand for the program and the number of immigration officers assigned by the immigration department to assess the applications. However, these applications typically take about 1 year to process, plus or minus 6 months. Up to date estimated processing times  are provided on-line by the Government of Canada. These estimated processing times represent how long it has taken the Government of Canada 80% of Startup Visa Program applications submitted to date. It is important to note that estimated processing times do not necessarily tell you how long it will take for your Start-up Visa Program application to be processed. Your application can take shorter or longer than the posted estimated processing time.

Currently, the Government of Canada does not offer the option for applicants to purchase priority, urgent or express processing.


Can I obtain a Work Permit before I come to Canada?

Persons who have applied for the Startup Visa Program may also be eligible to apply for a Work Permit while they wait for their application for permanent residency to be approved. In order to qualify, you must demonstrate that:

  • You have received a Commitment Certificate and the support from a designated organization;
  • Your letter of support from the designated organization describes you as essential to the business;
  • Your letter of support also explains the urgent business reasons for your requested entry;
  • Your admission to Canada is to work for your start-up business in Canada;
  • You a certain minimum amount of settlement funds available for you to support your move to Canada; and
  • You are not otherwise inadmissible to Canada.

When can I apply to the Startup Visa Program?

Persons who wish to apply for the Start-Up Visa Program can generally apply any time of year. There are currently no program quotas or program caps for the SUV program. You should only apply for the Startup Visa Program after you have collected all of the required documentation.


How much does it cost to apply for the Startup Visa Program?

The cost of an application for the Startup Visa Program is presently $1,540 CAD per applicant. Fees for accompanying family members vary.

There may also be government application fees for certain incidental Startup Visa Program application services, such as biometrics, temporary work permits or employer compliance. Further, some applicants may be expected to pay fees for required documentation or examinations, such as the costs of starting your business in Canada (i.e., investing start-up capital), immigration medical examinations, police criminal records reports, or other records or reports.


I was refused a Startup Visa Program application for Canada. Can I appeal the decision or apply again?

It is recommended that you consult with an immigration lawyer if you have been refused or denied a Startup Visa Program application to Canada.

Appealing a refusal: An application for the Startup Visa Program can be appealed or contested in at least two ways: by submitting a request for reconsideration to the visa office, or by initiating an Application for Leave and for Judicial Review (JR) in the Federal Court of Canada (FCC).

Reconsideration request: A request for reconsideration must usually be made directly to the Centralized Intake Office or visa post which refused the application or to Case Management Branch and must be made shortly after you receive the refusal decision. Delays in submitting a request for reconsideration may result in the request being ignored or the documentation upon which the decision was based being archived or destroyed. Furthermore, requests for reconsideration made after a long passage of time may result in the presumption of a change in circumstances and the information or documentation which was submitted may no longer be considered reliable or indicative of a person’s eligibility for the Start-up Visa Program.

Application for Leave and for Judicial Review: If the refusal decision was made outside of Canada, an Application for JR must usually be made within 60 days of receipt of the decision. If the refusal decision was made inside of Canada, an Application for JR must usually be made within 15 days of receipt of the decision.

Re-applying for the Startup Visa Program: Persons who have been refused a Startup Visa Program application can also typically apply again with new or additional documentation or information at any time. There is typically no waiting period required by law.

However, there are some exceptions. Persons who have been found to have misrepresented are barred from applying for a visa for 5 years. Persons who have been found to have committed certain violations of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) may be required to apply for and obtain Authorization to Return to Canada (ARC) before they may be permitted to apply for a visa to Canada. Persons who have been found criminally inadmissible to Canada may have to apply for and obtain Criminal Rehabilitation before they may be permitted to apply for a visa to Canada. Further, persons who have engaged in unauthorized work or study in Canada may be ineligible from applying for a Startup Visa Program Work Permit until a period of 6 months has passed since they have ceased their unauthorized work or study in Canada.


Can you conduct a Startup Visa Program assessment for me?

Mandelbaum Immigration Lawyers can conduct a Startup Visa Program assessment for you. Simply provide us with your name, email address and phone number by filling out our comment card, or by emailing us at info@dmandelbaum.com, and our office will contact you to arrange a consultation with a lawyer.