Canada’s Start-Up Visa: How Does It Compare To Other Countries?

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Canada's Start-Up Visa: How Does It Compare To Other Countries?
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Canada immigration news: Countries throughout the world have their arms open to entrepreneurs, including Canada whose Start-Up Visa Program offers both the flexibility to start a wide variety of businesses and the opportunity to gain permanent residency.


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Five of the top contenders for the best country to start-up a business are Estonia, Australia, the United Kingdom, Ireland – and Canada. 

Estonia Has Already Attracted 1,000 Start-Ups

Estonia’s start-up program has so far attracted a reported 1,000 fledgling enterprises and offers visas for either three months or one year. Its start-up program, though, is limited to tech-based businesses and these have to be scalable. 

The country is looking for the next Airbnb or Uber, not for restaurants.

The start-up visa in Estonia requires a minimum of about $2,770 for every year in the country but living expenses significantly drive up those costs.


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Much like Estonia, the United Kingdom also limits the kind of business foreign nationals can start. They cannot join an existing business and whatever business plan they put forward must be for something entirely new and different from anything else in that market. 

Under the United Kingdom’s start-up visa, foreign nationals can stay for two years.

Australia Takes Up To 34 Months To Process Applications

Down under in Australia, investor and entrepreneur visas allow foreign nationals to own and manage businesses in the country. Each program has its own capital requirements but all require the entrepreneur to know English and have a business plan – and typically allow them to stay up to five years.

Processing times for these Australian programs are significant. For those streams in Australia where the government does offer estimated processing times, these typically range from 30 to 34 months. 


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The investor stream for example, requires an investment of $2.33 million in Australian investments that meet the government’s requirements and allows a stay of five years with an application fee of about $5,662.

Ireland’s equivalent program, the Start-up Entrepreneur Programme, demands the foreign entrepreneur have about $72,104 and be able to start an innovative business to remain the country full-time. 

Canada’s Start-Up Visa Program goes a step beyond that. It allows foreign entrepreneurs to gain permanent residency and, eventually, citizenship.

To receive permanent residence in Canada, the following criteria must be met under the Start-Up Visa Program:

  • Applicants must be actively involved in the management of the business within Canada;
  • The operations of the business, or an essential part, must take place in Canada; and
  • The business must be incorporated in Canada.

Successful candidates to the Canadian Start-Up Visa Program receive a letter of support from a government-designated entity (angel investor group, venture capital fund or business incubator). 

The government-designated entity is primarily responsible to determine the viability of the applicant’s intended business and present an approved project along with a Commitment Certificate to immigration authorities. Applications are assessed on a pass-fail basis. See the list of designated entities.

Applicants to Canada’s Start-Up Visa program must meet four basic eligibility requirements:

  1. Have a qualifying business
  2. Obtain a commitment from a designated entity in the form of a Commitment Certificate and Letter of Support;
  3. Have sufficient unencumbered, available and transferable settlement funds, updated each year (the requriements identical to those for skilled workers);
  4. Demonstrate sufficient proficiency in English or French through standardized testing (Canadian Language Benchmark level 5) ;

The required commitment from a designated entity must meet the following criteria:

  • A designated angel investor group must confirm that it is investing at least $75,000 CAD into the qualifying business, or two or more commitments from designated angel investor groups totaling $75,000 CAD, or;
  • A designated venture capital fund must confirm that it is investing at least $200,000 CAD into the qualifying business or two or more commitments from designated venture capital funds totaling $200,000 CAD, or;
  • A designated business incubator must confirm that it is accepting the applicant into its business incubator Program.

In order to qualify, the intended business must be incorporated and carrying on business in Canada at the time the commitment is made and:

  • The applicant owns a least 10 per cent of the voting rights in the corporation, and;
  • No other person holds 50 per cent or more of the total amount of voting rights in the corporation.

In the 2021 Global Start-up Ecosystem Index Report, Canada again ranked fourth – and boasted more cities in the top 50 than any other countries with only two exceptions: the much-larger United States and China.  

“Canada is fortunate to have three cities in the top 50 globally, with the ecosystem of Montreal increasing three spots to rank 46th globally. Only the U.S. and China have more cities in the top 50 than Canada, showing the diversity of the nation’s strong global and regional hubs.”

In the education technology industry and energy and environmental technology sector, Canada ranks even higher, in third place globally.

Through its Toronto based facilities, Immigration.ca works extensively with industry-acclaimed designated entities in the Canadian start-up ecosystem. The firm provides a range of hands-on business advisory services to help intending entrepreneur immigrants and their start-up business concept meet all industry requirements.

To find out if you qualify for the Start-Up Visa program, click here.

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Colin Singer is an international acclaimed Canadian immigration lawyer featured on Wikipedia. Colin Singer is founding director of the Canadian Citizenship & Immigration Resource Center (CCIRC) Inc. He served as an Associate Editor of ‘Immigration Law Reporter’, the pre-eminent immigration law publication in Canada. He previously served as an executive member of the Canadian Bar Association’s Quebec and National Immigration Law Sections and is currently a member of the Canadian Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Colin has twice appeared as an expert witness before Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. He is frequently recognized as a recommended authority at national conferences sponsored by government and non-government organizations on matters affecting Canada’s immigration and human resource industries. Since 2009, Colin has been a Governor of the Quebec Bar Foundation a non-profit organization committed to the advancement of the profession, and became a lifetime member in 2018.