The Start-Up Visa (SUV) program welcomes foreign nationals who are starting up businesses in Canada in greater numbers now than before the COVID-19 pandemic began, reveals the latest data from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

In the first nine months of this year, 465 new permanent residents came to Canada under the SUV, putting the program on track to welcome 620 entrepreneurs to the country by the end of the year based on the current trends.

That would be 235 new permanent residents, or more than 61 per cent, more than the 385 who came to Canada under the SUV in 2021, a record-breaking year for immigration to Canada.

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It would also be 105 new permanent residents, or 20.4 per cent, more than the 515 entrepreneurs who set up businesses in Canada through the SUV in 2019, the last full year before the pandemic. 

With its relatively small number of arrivals, the SUV sees big percentage fluctuations from month to month but has been generally growing in popularity over the past eight years.

In 2015, the SUV welcomed only 55 new permanent residents to Canada. This year, it is expected to allow more than 11 times as many to set up business here.

However, this is expected to dramatically increase over the next three years, as IRCC has allocated substantially more planned admissions for permanent residence to start-up visa applicants.  Whereas this number has only been 1000 per year during the past few years, in 2023, 2024 and 2025, this number will increase dramatically to 3500, 5000 and 6000 respectively.

Not all provinces, though, make as extensive use of this business immigration program. Two provinces – Quebec and Saskatchewan – and all three territories don’t use the SUV at all. 

So far this year, not a single immigrant entrepreneur has set up his or her business in any of the four Atlantic Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, or New Brunswick.

Four Provinces Account for All SUV Immigration to Canada This Year

Only four Canadian provinces have been riding the SUV program gravy train this year, benefiting from the boost to their economies and the jobs created by immigrant entrepreneurs coming to Canada and getting their permanent residence. 

Based on the current trend, the central Canadian province of Ontario is on track to welcome 287 new permanent residents through the SUV this year. That’s 162 new permanent residents, or 129.6 per cent, more than the 125 who set up businesses through the program last year.

In the Prairies, Manitoba is seeing smaller numbers – unsurprising due to its smaller population – but also showing significant growth in its use of the SUV to attract immigrant entrepreneurs. The province is on track to welcome 40 new permanent residents through the program this year. 

That’s up 100 per cent, or 20 new permanent residents, from the 20 who settled in the province through the SUV last year.  

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Next door, Alberta is likely going to end the year with a slight drop in the annual number of new permanent residents through the SUV with only 20, down five new permanent residents, or 20 per cent, from last year’s number.

On the west coast, British Columbia is on track to end the year with almost as many new permanent residents through the SUV as Ontario. 

British Columbia is expected to welcome 274 new permanent residents through the SUV by the end of the year based on the current trend. That would be up 74 new permanent residents, or 37 per cent, compared to the 200 who came to the province through that program last year. 

The SUV program generates much lower overall numbers of new permanent residents than federal worker programs, such as the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) and Federal Skilled Trade (FST), the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP) or the regional economic development programs including the Atlantic Immigration Program (AIP) or Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP).

Candidates Applying Through the SUV Can Come to Canada On Work Permit First

Due to these smaller numbers, the monthly fluctuations in the number of new permanent residents under the SUV can seem exaggerated when examined in percentage terms.

This year, the SUV welcomed only 35 new permanent residents in January. That rose to 40 in February and again to 60 in March.

Then, the monthly number of new arrivals through the SUV plummeted to only 20 in April. The next month, the numbers rebounded, hitting 60 in May and then 70 in June.

In July, the SUV allowed Canada to welcome 45 immigrant entrepreneurs. In August, that monthly number rose to 55 before slumping again to 45 in September. 

Candidates applying under the SUV 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 entire process of applying for permanent residence to Canada through the SUV is currently estimated by the IRCC to take 31 months.

Under the SUV, three types of private-sector investors are considered: angel investorsventure capital funds, and business incubators.

Designated Venture Capital Funds Must Invest $200,000

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. 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.

Investing and the development of the business is 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.

The basic government-imposed candidate eligibility requirements for the SUV are:

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