Start-Up Visa Program


Start-Up Visa Program: An Innovative Approach to Economic Immigration

Canada seeks innovative entrepreneurs who have the potential to build dynamic companies that can compete on a global scale. The Start-Up Visa Program will link immigrant entrepreneurs with experienced private sector organizations that have expertise in working with start-ups.

The pilot will run for up to five years. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) expects that due to the narrow focus of the Program, initially, the number of applications will be limited. However, the focus of the Start-Up Visa will be on the quality of the applicants and on establishing a track record of success, so that the Program can be expanded quickly to fill what we hope will be a growing demand. If the Program proves successful during the five-year trial period, CIC may formally introduce it as a new economic class in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations.

Benefits of the Program 

  • The Start-up Visa Program will enable immigrant entrepreneurs to launch innovative companies that will create jobs in Canada, and eventually, compete globally.
  • The Program will provide entrepreneurs with valuable assistance in navigating the Canadian business environment which can sometimes prove challenging for newcomers.
  • The Program will provide private sector firms with access to a broader range of entrepreneurs, including the best and the brightest minds from around the world.

Program Partners

  • Initially, Canada’s Venture Capital & Private Equity Association and the National Angel Capital Organization will be active partners in the Program.
  • CIC continues to work with the Canadian Association of Business Incubation to include the organization in the Program as soon as feasible.
  • These umbrella organizations-through agreements with CIC-will recommend which of their members should be designated as eligible to participate in the Start-Up Visa Program, establish expert peer review panels to assist CIC officers in case determinations and provide assurance that industry standards of due diligence were followed.
  • The process of designating which Canadian angel investor groups and venture capital funds will be eligible to participate in the Start-Up Visa will begin early this year.
  • The process of designating which Canadian business incubators will be eligible to participate in the Start-Up Visa will begin at a later date.


  • Foreign entrepreneurs will require the support of a Canadian angel investor group, venture capital fund or a business incubator before they can apply to the Start-Up Visa Program.
  • Foreign entrepreneurs will also have to meet certain criteria regarding language proficiency and educational qualifications. The full set of criteria will be published in the spring of 2013.
  • The Program will open for applications on April 1, 2013.


  • CIC collaborated with industry associations representing organizations that work with entrepreneurs, such as Canadian business incubators, angel investor groups and venture capital funds. CIC also consulted with the provinces and territories throughout the Program development process.

Economic Action Plan 2012

  • Economic Action Plan 2012 highlighted Canada’s commitment to supporting entrepreneurs, innovators and world class research. It also announced the government’s intention to build a fast and flexible economic immigration system with a primary focus on meeting the new and emerging needs of the Canadian economy. The Start-Up Visa Program is an important part of this plan.

The Federal Entrepreneur Program

  • Launched in the 1970s, it became apparent in recent years that the Federal Entrepreneur Program no longer functioned effectively.
  • The Program’s criteria rested on basic factors, such as minimum net worth and business experience and granted permanent resident status conditionally upon the creation of a minimum of one job in three years-hardly a great demand. As such, the Program did not require the investors to invest in innovative enterprises but enabled them to limit investment to smaller, safer ones-the antithesis of entrepreneurship.
  • On July 1, 2011, CIC implemented a temporary moratorium on new applications to the Federal Entrepreneur Program to limit the growth of the backlog while the Program is under review. There are no plans to lift the moratorium.

To be eligible to receive a start-up visa for a business venture, you must:

  • prove your business idea is supported by a designated investor organization;
  • meet the language requirements;
  • meet the education requirements;
  • and have sufficient settlement funds.

Before you apply for the Start-up visa, you must convince a designated angel investor group or venture capital fund to invest in your business idea. If the investor organization decides to fund your business idea, they will give you a letter of support. You must include your letter of support with your application as proof that an angel investor group or venture capital fund supports your business idea.
Being able to communicate and work in English, French or both will help your business in Canada. You must prove your ability in English or French in these four areas: speaking, reading, listening, and writing. You must meet the minimum level of CLB 5 in either English or French for all four language abilities. If you do not meet the minimum language skills, we will refuse your application. You must take a language test from an agency approved by CIC and include the results when you apply. If you do not, we will not process your application and we will return your fees. You will not have another chance to prove your language proficiency. The visa officer will only use test results that you provide when you apply. Use your test results to find your CLB level. Acceptable documents for language requirements You must send us proof that you meet the language requirement for the start-up visa (Canadian Language Benchmark/Niveau de compétence linguistique canadien 5). An original of any of the following documents showing that you meet the language requirement will be accepted as proof: Designated third-party test results that you already sent to CIC for a previous application as a Federal Skilled Worker or for the Canadian Experience Class, if the results are dated no earlier than two years before you apply. New third-party test results, including: CELPIP General (Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program General test); or IELTS – General training (International English Language Testing System); or Test d’Évaluation de Français (TEF) (in French only).
You must provide proof of your education with your application. Specifically, you will need: proof of having completed at least one year of post-secondary education proof that you were in good standing during at least one year while you were attending a post?secondary institution Your proof of education may be in the form of transcripts and a letter of good standing, or certificate or diploma or degree.
The Government of Canada does not provide financial support to new start-up business visa immigrants. You must show that you have enough money to support yourself and your dependants after you arrive in Canada. You cannot borrow this money from another person. You must be able to use this money to support the costs of living for your family. You will need to provide proof of your funds when you submit your application for immigration. The amount of money you need to support your family is determined by the size of your family. These amounts are updated every year.

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