Why Canada’s Start-Up Visa Is The Best Permanent Residence Pathway For International Graduates

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Why Canada’s Start-Up Visa Is The Best Permanent Residence Pathway For International Graduates
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International graduates should consider Canada’s Start-Up Visa as the best route to permanent residency after all the places were filled in Ottawa’s one-time pathway to immigration. 

When the pathway to PR for 40,000 international graduates went live last week, the spots were taken in just over 24 hours.

While more spaces may or may not become available under the stream, currently many thousands of international student graduates are looking for faster ways to transition to permanent residency.


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Canada has an established route to permanent residency for international graduates, but it takes time.

First the foreign student studies and graduates from a Designated Learning Institution (DLI).

Then they can obtain a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP), depending on the length and type of study.

Experience gathered while holding a PGWP counts towards an application for permanent residency through the Express Entry system.

But the whole process can take many years, with COVID-19 leaving many international graduates out of work and unable to gather that valuable work experience.

However, that does not mean all hope is lost. There are many other avenues to permanent residency in Canada, and one of the fastest is the Start-Up Visa.


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Unlike almost every other federal and provincial-level entrepreneur program which requires a minimum of one or two years of previous experience either owning a business or in top-level management, the Start-Up Visa program does not require previous management experience.

The support of a government-designated entity is enough. And that support can be either financial or in the form of accepting the candidate into a business incubator program. Candidates for the Start-Up Visa program consistently report that it is quick, both for the initial work permit and permit residence application.

With a viable start-up business project, an immigrant entrepreneur can expect it to take about four to six months to secure a commitment certificate or letter of support from a designated entity. Once that letter of support is received, the application for permanent residence can be submitted.

It will then take approximately 18-months from submitting an application to transitioning to permanent residence visa.  For the candidate to qualify for permanent residence:

  • The intended business must be incorporated and carrying on business in Canada;
  • The candidate must own at least 10 per cent of the voting rights in the corporation, and;
  • No other person can hold 50 per cent or more of the voting rights in the corporation.

Start-Up Visa Growing In Popularity

The Start-Up Visa program is growing in popularity. In 2019, the total number of new permanent resident approved admissions reached 510, more than double the 250 welcomed in 2018. The figures were increasing steadily over the five years prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the Canada Start-Up Visa program, three types of private-sector investors are considered: angel investors, venture capital funds, and business incubators. A designated venture capital fund must confirm that it is investing at least $200,000 into the qualifying business.

Candidates can also qualify with two or more commitments from designated venture capital funds totalling $200,000. A designated angel investor group must invest at least $75,000 into the qualifying business.


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Candidates can also qualify with two or more investments from angel investor groups totalling $75,000. A designated business incubator must accept the applicant into its business incubator program. It is up to the immigrant investor to develop a viable business plan that will meet the due diligence requirements of these government-approved designated entities.

That’s usually done with the help of business consultants in Canada’s start-up ecosystem with oversight from experienced corporate business immigration lawyers who can ensure a start-up’s business concept meets all industry-required terms and conditions.

Candidates applying under the Start-Up Visa program can initially come to Canada on a work permit supported by their designated Canadian investor before their application for permanent residence is finalized.

The basic government-imposed candidate eligibility requirements for the Start-Up Visa program are:

  • a qualifying business;
  • a commitment certificate and letter of support from a designated entity;
  • sufficient unencumbered, available and transferable settlement funds to meet settlement funding, and;
  • proficiency in English or French at the minimum Canadian Language Benchmark level 5.  However, it frequently occurs that higher levels of English are needed to meet due diligence requirements imposed by designated entities.

Ottawa does not give financial support to new Start-Up Visa immigrants. When candidates apply, they need to show evidence they have the finances to support themselves and their dependents in Canada. This money cannot be borrowed.

Additionally, it often occurs that candidates will need to show additional, sufficient funding to meet start-up costs of their business project, as a condition of investment by a designated entity (VC or Angel).

This is an area where experienced legal consulting will prove invaluable. The amount of settlement funding needed depends on the size of the candidate’s family.

Settlement Funds Needed Under Start-Up Visa Program

Number of family members Funds required
1 $12,960
2 $16,135
3 $19,836
4 $24,083
5 $27,315
6 $30,806
7 $34,299
* Each additional family member $3,492

As many as five candidates can have their permanent residence application supported by the same business investment.  But that can come with a risk. Certain candidates may be designated as essential to the business. If any of the essential candidates withdraw their applications or are refused, all other candidates under the same business investment will see their applications terminated.

Surveys suggest Start-Up Visa candidates usually go on to succeed in Canada, in terms of growing their business, attracting further investment, networking or selling their business for a profit.

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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