Canada Launches a New Visa Program for Entrepreneurs

Carla Turchetti by Carla Turchetti on May 6, 2013

Canada is rolling out the red carpet for immigrant entrepreneurs in the hopes of becoming a choice destination for startup ventures.

The new Start-Up Visa Program went into effect April 1. It offers qualified immigrant entrepreneurs immediate permanent residency in Canada and the opportunity to work with mentors and investors while developing a business. Right now, the program has an annual allotment of 2,750 visas for entrepreneurs and their families.

In order to be considered for the program, the startup must already have the financial support of a Canadian angel investor group or venture capitalist fund. Citizenship and Immigration Canada is collaborating with two groups to identify possible investors: Canada’s Venture Capital & Private Equity Association and the National Angel Capital Organization.

“The Start-Up Visa Program is the first of its kind in the world,” says Nancy Caron, a media relations adviser and spokeswoman for the Canadian government. “It provides Canadian private-sector organizations with access to a broad range of entrepreneurs, including the world’s best and brightest, in whose ideas they wish to invest.”

The partnerships with investors and mentors, along with the permanent residence component, are designed to help participants make an easy transition to living and working in Canada, Caron says. “The program provides immigrant entrepreneurs with valuable assistance in navigating the Canadian business environment, which can be a challenge for newcomers. It enables them to build innovative companies that can create Canadian jobs and compete on the global scale.”

Jason Kenney, Canada’s Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism, is planning a trip to Silicon Valley in May to pinpoint talent for Canadian investors. But the program seeks innovators from around the world, not just the United States.

“If a Canadian venture capitalist is going to invest in a startup, we’d rather that business [locate] in Canada than India or Silicon Valley or somewhere else overseas,” Kenney told Bloomberg Businessweek.

The Start-Up Visa program is an aggressive move by Canada to attract and nurture entrepreneurs. The residency policy states that business owners won’t be deported if an enterprise fails; they will be able to remain in Canada to work on their next big ideas.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada says it is not ready to release any numbers regarding program participants so far, because the initiative is still so new, but it hopes to provide an update in a few months.

Carla Turchetti

Carla Turchetti is a veteran broadcast, print and digital journalist who is passionate about small businesses and the stories behind them. Carla is a small-business columnist at the News & Observer, the regional daily newspaper in Raleigh, North Carolina.