Last Updated on September 14, 2020

Canada’s Start-Up Visa represents an important option for international students who do not qualify for permanent residence through skilled worker immigration streams.

While Ottawa has taken steps to gear up the Express Entry system to favour international students, they are by no means guaranteed to qualify for a coveted Invitation to Apply (ITA).

Despite specific points allocated for candidates with a Canadian education, recent minimum Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) scores for all-program draws have been consistently above 470.


It means even international students who can access the extra points often do not qualify – even with the support of a job offer from a Canadian employer.

These candidates can either decide to sit in the Express Entry pool and hope the minimum CRS falls, or do something proactive to make the transition from temporary to permanent residence.

This is where the Start-Up Visa becomes an option.


An important element of the Start-Up Visa program is that it does not require previous management experience.

Almost every other federal and provincial-level entrepreneur program requires a minimum of one or two years of previous experience either owning a business or in top-level management. This includes the passive Quebec Immigrant Investor Program (QIIP).

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Under the Start-Up Visa, the onus is placed on securing support from a government-designated entity (angel investor group, venture capital fund or business incubator). The support can be financial or in the form of accepting the candidate into a business incubator program.

Provided other requirements are met, the candidate then receives Canadian permanent residence in return.

The program aims to recruit innovative entrepreneurs to Canada and link them with the Canadian private sector businesses, (angel investor groups, venture capital funds or business incubators) and facilitate the establishment of their start-up business in Canada.

How Can Help Potential Start-Up Visa Candidates?

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

The Start-Up Visa is growing in popularity. In 2019, the total number of permanent resident approved admissions reached 510, more than double the 250 welcomed in 2018. The figures have been steadily increasing over the last five years.

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

  1. Obtain a commitment from a designated entity in the form of a Commitment Certificate or Letter of Support;
  2. Have sufficient unencumbered, available and transferable settlement funds;
  3. Have completed at least one year of post-secondary education;
  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 into the qualifying business, or two or more commitments from designated angel investor groups totaling $75,000; OR
  • A designated venture capital fund must confirm that it is investing at least $200,000 into the qualifying business or two or more commitments from designated venture capital funds totaling $200,000; OR
  • A designated business incubator must confirm that it is accepting the applicant into its business incubator Program.

Applicants who have secured a Commitment Certificate from a designated entity, and who wish to begin working in the business during the processing of their permanent residence application, may apply for a short term work permit.

To receive a work permit, an applicant must provide:

  • A letter of support from the designated entity; and
  • Proof they have sufficient funds to meet the low-income cut-off (LICO) for their family size, for one year.

To receive permanent residence, the following criteria must be met:

  • 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.


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