With President Trump’s anti-globalization stance, Canada is doing the exact opposite by ramping up its visa program for startup entrepreneurs. The Entrepreneur Start-Up Visa Program is a first of its kind in the world as it links successful applicants with private sector organizations in Canada who can provide funding and expert guidance on establishing and operating a business up north.
The following are the eligibility requirements for a startup visa:
- Letter of support and commitment certificate for a designated investor organization, either a venture capital fund or an angel investor group.
- There must be at least a $200,000 CAD if the investment is from a designated venture capital fund or a minimum of $75,000 CAD if the investment is from a designated angel investor group.
- You must be able to communicate in English and/or French. Proof of this would be language test results of at least CLB 5 in either English or French from an approved agency.
- You must have completed at least one year of study at a post-secondary institution.
- There must be proof of sufficient settlement funds to support yourself and your family once you immigrate to Canada.
- You and your accompanying family must pass a security clearance and medical examination.
Although introduced in 2013, and with a 5-year initial running period, the startup visa has only been given to a handful of individuals. In fact, 20 months after the start of the program, there were only five startup visas handed out to two companies.
“MAKE CANADA THE CHOICE DESTINATION OF THE WORLD’S BEST AND BRIGHTEST ENTREPRENEURS”
According to former Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, the idea of the startup visa came out of the desire to make Canada the choice destination of the world’s best and brightest entrepreneurs to launch their companies. Of course, there’s the tax benefits that the government will reap out of this setup.
Supposedly, a maximum of 2,750 visas should be given every year but it seems that the efforts to move in the desired direction may have failed.
Mr. Alexander remains confident, though, stating that “We’re confident that the flow into the program will continue to grow but we want it to happen organically. We can’t force these things.”
WHAT SLOWS THE PROGRAM?
Sources in the industry believe that widespread knowledge of the startup visa among international startups is not just strong enough. In addition, the best international startups would most likely prefer to raise venture capital from reputable firms instead of going through the hassle of applying for a startup visa.
But the biggest problem could be the fact that designated third-party investors are simply not interested in vetting foreign business plans for the government. In addition, less than half of the 11 designated investors have the ability to directly invest in the companies they accept into the program as several merely offer mentorship and office space.
“I’m not sure what the CIC was expecting of these independent third-parties, but certainly they’re not, from what I see, going to spend a whole lot of resources in vetting all potential immigrants who are knocking on their door,” says Betsy R. Kane, an Ottawa-based senior practitioner in Canadian immigration law at Capelle Kane Immigration Lawyers.
LAUNCH ACADEMY OFFERS ACCELERATOR PROGRAM
Vancouver-based not-for-profit startup accelerator, Launch Academy has started a new program in partnership with the Canadian government wherein it will vet applicants and recommend them for the startup visa and permanent residency processes. With Launch Academy’s help, entrepreneurs can do away with the monetary requirements of $200,000 CAD or $75,000 CAD.
Successful applicants, their families and core team will be eligible to apply for visas and permanent residency, with their visas arriving in just a few weeks and the residency process lasting not more than six months.
Though a paid program, Launch Academy has already received over 100 pre-applications with more than 20 promising candidates. These candidates come from all over the world, including MIT, Yale and Harvard graduates as well as former Facebook and Google employees.
Launch Academy says it will re-invest the program’s proceeds into the Canadian tech and talent ecosystem. It also will not take a stake in the companies it supports.