Canada Startup Visa Program: A Direct PR Pathway for Entrepreneurs

Are you an aspiring entrepreneur who dreams of obtaining permanent residency in Canada but keeps hearing contradicting information? Let’s clear up those misunderstandings and give you the expert advice you need for a successful journey with the Canada Start-Up Visa program.

The Canada Startup Visa Program, often called the SUV Program, is a unique immigration pathway explicitly designed for entrepreneurs who want to start a business in Canada. Successful applicants, including founders, co-founders, and immediate family members, can obtain permanent residency in Canada through the Start-Up Visa (SUV) program.

  • The IRCC will process 17,000 new permanent residency applications under the SUV program by 2026.
  • Successful Applicants and their family members will get PR status within 3 years.
  • While waiting for the PR decision, all members of the Startup Team can apply for a 3-year open work permit.
  • The spouses of the applicants would receive open work permits.
  • Their children can study in Canadian public schools for free.
  • As of April 29, each designated organization can now endorse 10 startup groups (max) annually, translating to about 830 groups or potentially 4,150 individuals per year.

In this guide, we’ll help you understand the entire journey of your Canada Startup Visa application and provide insights into the IRCC’s nuanced approach to eligibility and credibility.

Why is the Canada Startup Visa a Top Preference for Entrepreneurs?

Here are the main reasons why the Startup Visa Program stands out among entrepreneurs:

1. Direct PR Pathway

You can apply for permanent residency outside Canada after obtaining the Letter of Support from the designated organization and meeting all eligibility criteria.

2. Obtain Work Permit (3 Years)

You can apply for permanent residency outside Canada after obtaining the Letter of Support from the designated organization and meeting all eligibility criteria.

3. Multiple Applicants (5 Co-Founders)

The Startup Visa Program is a unique program that allows up to five co-founders to apply under a single business or investment.

4. No Minimum Investment

There is no set lower limit on how much you and your co-founders need to invest in your startup to be eligible for the SUV program.

5. No Location Restrictions

The SUV Program imposes no restrictions on where you can establish your business anywhere except Quebec in Canada.

6. Family Inclusion

Your spouse and dependent children can apply for permanent residency under the Startup Visa Program. Meanwhile, they can study and work in Canada.

Startup Visa Canada Step-By-Step-Journey for Entrepreneurs

The SUV program has some of the most relaxed eligibility criteria among Canadian immigration programs. Basic requirements include a minimum language score of CLB 5, a valid letter of support from a designated organization, and settlement funds.

What Do You Need to Apply for Canada Startup Visa?

The Startup Visa Program’s basic eligibility criteria are pretty straightforward. No specific requirements for education, work experience, or age limit exist, meaning most people can meet them. However, being eligible for the Startup Visa does not guarantee approval as it depends on deeper scrutiny by immigration officers. Here are the basic requirements for the SUV program:

Canada Startup Visa Requirements

1. Have an Existing Startup or a Startup Concept

  • You must hold at least 10% of the voting rights associated with all company shares.
  • Together with the designated organization, you must collectively hold at least 50% of the voting rights attached to all company shares.

2. Minimum language score of CLB 5 (English or French)

  • You must demonstrate language proficiency at Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 5 in English or French, covering speaking, reading, listening, and writing, by taking a test from an approved agency.

3. Valid Letter of Support from a Designated Organization

  • You must pitch your startup idea and convince the designated organization it is worth supporting.
  • The process of pitching your business idea will vary for each organization.
  • If your pitch is successful, you will receive a letter of support from the organization, which you must include in your start-up visa application.
  • We have a team of professionals who can assist you in proving your endorsement by a venture capital fund, angel investor group, or business incubator

4. Minimal Settlement Funds

  • Upon arrival in Canada, you will need sufficient funds to support yourself and your dependents (if any).
  • Therefore, you must show proof of funds in your application that you can sustain in the country for a specific period.

The minimum funds required for different family sizes are shown below.

Number of family members (in Canadian dollars)Funds required
If more than 7 people, for each additional family member$3,958

Undisclosed Eligibility Criteria for Startup Visa

Meeting basic eligibility requirements is not sufficient for the SUV application to be approved. Immigration officers use internal criteria that are not publicly disclosed but play a significant role in the decision-making process which includes:

  • Education: Show relevant education and training related to your startup’s sector. IRCC looks for this to ensure you have the necessary knowledge to run your business.
  • Experience: You must have significant work experience, especially in leadership roles or a relevant industry. IRCC values this as it indicates your ability to manage and grow a business.
  • Financial Capability: Demonstrate sufficient investment funds for your startup. IRCC needs this to ensure you can support yourself in Canada while your business grows.
  • Business Viability and Innovation: Present a well-planned business model with innovative ideas. IRCC looks for this to assess your business’s potential success and contribution to the Canadian economy.
  • Commitment to Canada: Show evidence of plans to establish and grow your business in Canada. IRCC values this as it shows your intention to contribute to the Canadian economy.
  • Character and Integrity: Maintain a clean legal background and uphold ethical business practices. IRCC checks this to ensure you will be a law-abiding resident and trustworthy business owner.

Obtaining a Letter of Support: The Most Crucial Step

Once you’ve thoroughly understood the eligibility criteria, securing a Letter of Support is the next crucial step in obtaining a Startup Visa (SUV). However, merely obtaining or paying for it does not guarantee approval for permanent residency by the Canadian government. It includes a detailed description of your startup and the designated organization’s reasons for endorsing it. Additionally, it outlines the urgent need for the co-founders to come to Canada with a work permit before their permanent residencies are approved.

Eligible Designated Organizations to Obtain Letter of Support for Canada Startup Visa

Designated organizations play a vital role in the Startup Visa program as they issue these letters of support to eligible applicants. These entities are typically categorized into three main groups:

Designated Organizations for Canada Startup Visa
  • Venture Capital Entities: These groups commit to invest at least CAD 200,000 in approved startups.
  • Angel Investors: These groups pledge a higher investment amount of CAD 775,000 to support startups.
  • Business Incubators: These entities don’t need to invest money; instead, they offer support and resources to approved startups. The majority of letters of support (more than 90%) are granted from these business incubators.

How to Obtain a Letter of Support from a Designated Organization?

Obtaining a Letter of Support from a designated organization is a crucial step in the Canada Startup Visa (SUV) program. Here are the steps for this process:

Step 1: Research Designated Organizations
Step 2: Prepare Your Business Plan
Step 3: Submit Your Application to Designated Organization
Step 4: Pitch Your Startup to a Designated Organization
Step 5: Sign an Agreement of Commitment with Designated Organization
Step 6: Pay Fees ranging from $3000 to $100,000
Step 7: Obtain the Letter of Support

How to Apply for Permanent Residency Through Canada Startup Visa?

After securing a Letter of Support from a designated organization, your next step in the entrepreneurial journey is to apply for permanent residency in Canada through the Startup Visa (SUV) program. It involves gathering a set of additional documents, which will serve as the foundation of your application. Here are the steps to apply for permanent residency through the SUV Program.

Step 1: Gather Documents

Start by collecting all the required documents. These include:

List of Documents Required for Startup Visa Program

  • Letter of Support from a Designated Organization
  • Language Test Results: the minimum Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) level 5.
  • Proof of Funds: To show that you have sufficient financial resources to support yourself and any accompanying family members after arriving in Canada. The exact amount required depends on the size of your family and is updated periodically by IRCC.
  • Identification Documents: valid passports for you and your family members, birth certificates, and any other relevant personal identification documents.
  • Educational and Employment Documents: While not always mandatory, providing diplomas, degrees, transcripts, and letters of reference can strengthen your application by showcasing your qualifications and experience.
  • Police Certificates: To prove you have no criminal record, you’ll need police certificates from every country where you’ve lived for six months or more since the age of 18.
  • Medical Exam Results: A medical exam is required to ensure you and your family members meet health standards for immigration to Canada.

Step 2: Complete Forms

Once your documents are in order, complete the required forms. Make sure to fill out each form wholly and accurately. Mistakes or omissions can delay the processing of your application or lead to its rejection. These forms include:

  • Generic Application Form for Canada (IMM 0008)
  • Schedule A – Background/Declaration (IMM 5669)
  • Additional Family Information (IMM 5406)
  • Startup Visa Application – Schedule 13 (IMM 5764)

Step 3: Submit Application

  • Compile your completed forms and supporting documents into a comprehensive application package.
  • Before submission, double-check that everything is included and correctly filled out.
  • Submit your complete application package to IRCC online (recommended) or by mail.
  • Pay the required application fees, which include the processing fee and the Right of Permanent Residence Fee.

Important Note: Once you’ve submitted your application, you’ll get a receipt from IRCC. This will have an application number that you can use to check your application status online. If IRCC asks for more information or documents, make sure to respond quickly.

Canada Startup Visa Work Permit (3 Years)

While waiting for your permanent residency (PR) application to be processed under the Canada Startup Visa (SUV) program, you can apply for a temporary work permit for 3 years. This permit allows you to come to Canada and start working on your startup immediately, providing a head start on establishing your business.

Work Permit Requirements for Startup Visa Applicants

Applying for a work permit involves several key steps. First, you need to gather and prepare the necessary documents:

  • Letter of Support from Designated Organization
  • Proof of Funds: You must demonstrate that you have sufficient personal funds to support yourself and any accompanying family members during your initial stay in Canada. This is separate from any business investments and is intended to ensure that you can cover living expenses without relying on public assistance.
  • Work Permit Application Form: Complete the application form for a temporary work permit, ensuring all information is accurate and comprehensive.
  • Supporting Documents: In addition to the Letter of Support and proof of funds, you may need to provide a valid Passport, Proof of Medical Examination, and Police Certificates.
Benefits of Canada Startup Visa Program

What Happens After You Get a Work Permit Through Startup Visa?

You can move to Canada with your co-founders and families if you receive a work permit. It helps faster integration and operational setup, as you can manage all aspects of your startup directly.

  • Arrive in Canada: Once you receive a work permit, move with your co-founders. Being in Canada facilitates networking and operational setup.
  • Establish Your Startup: Register your business, develop your product, hire staff, and begin operations according to your business plan.
  • Achieve Milestones: Focus on product development, market validation, revenue generation, and job creation. Document progress meticulously to demonstrate viability to investors and immigration authorities. Meeting these milestones boosts confidence and supports your permanent residency application.

Is it mandatory to apply for a work permit while waiting for PR Decision on your SUV Application?

No, applying for a work permit while waiting for the PR decision on your SUV application is not mandatory. However, obtaining a work permit allows you to enter Canada and start working on your startup while processing your PR.

  • Develop Your Business: Actively engage in business operations, meet with potential clients, partners, and investors, and navigate the Canadian market.
  • Meet Regulatory Requirements: Ensure your startup complies with Canadian regulations and can begin operations immediately.
  • Showcase Commitment: Display your dedication to the success of your business venture, which can positively influence the approval of your PR application.

Build Your Startup in Canada While Waiting for Start Visa Application Decision

Building your startup in Canada while waiting for your permanent residency (PR) approval under the Startup Visa (SUV) program involves several strategic steps.

  • Establish Your Business Operations
  • Refine Your Business Plan
  • Build a Network
  • Develop Your Product or Service
  • Secure Funding and Resources
  • Comply with Legal and Regulatory Requirements
  • Scale Your Operations
  • Document Your Progress
  • Engage with the Designated Organization

Final Step: Receive Your Permanent Residency Through Startup Visa Canada

Upon approval of your PR application, you and your co-founders will receive confirmation of your permanent residency status.

  • This milestone marks the culmination of your efforts and grants you the right to live, work, and study in Canada indefinitely.
  • Family members, including spouses and dependent children, also receive permanent residency with you.
  • You, your co-founders and their families can enjoy the permanent residency privileges, including access to healthcare, education, and employment opportunities.

FAQs: Startup Visa Program Canada

Here are some frequently asked questions regarding Canada’s Start-Up visas:

Can I apply for a Startup Visa in Canada without making an investment?

Although no direct investment is needed, startup groups cannot avoid the designated organization fees (Angel investor, business incubator, or venture capital organization). Startup groups must pay their fees to cover the costs of implementing this startup program to obtain a letter of support from any of these organizations.

How much does it cost for a start-up visa in Canada?

Fee Type Recipient Amount (CAD)
Processing Fee Principal Applicant $1,810
Right of Permanent Residence Fee Principal Applicant $575
Processing Fee Spouse/Partner $950
Right of Permanent Residence Fee Spouse/Partner $575
Processing Fee Dependent Child $260
Biometric Fee Per Applicant $85
Biometric Fee for Family 2 or more members $170

Letter of Support Fees (LOS)

  • Approximately 70% operate on a “pay to play” basis.
  • Fees range from $5,000 to $100,000.
  • Exceptions: Some incubators, VCs, or angel investors offer LoS in exchange for equity.

Note: Additional costs may include fees for joining startup groups and fees for services like business consulting or translation.

What happens if my Startup Visa application is denied?

If your Startup Visa application is denied, the course of action depends on the reason for the refusal. Here are some general steps you can take:

  1. Understand the Reason for Denial: The visa officer usually notifies the applicant of the section of law which applies. It’s important to understand the specific reasons for the denial to address them in future applications.
  2. Correct the Issues: If your refusal is due to specific circumstances that need to be changed, it’s suggested that you resolve these issues before reapplying. For example, not following the visa rules strictly can lead to a denial.

Will my family's status be affected if my business fails?

No, if your business fails, it will not affect your or your family’s permanent resident status. Once you have PR, it is not contingent on the success of your startup.

How long does it take to process the Startup Visa application?

The processing time for a Startup Visa application typically ranges from 37 to 42 months. However, you can apply for a temporary work permit to expedite your entry to Canada.

Can I bring my family with me under the Startup Visa program?

Yes, under the Startup Visa program, you can bring your immediate family members with you. They can also benefit from Canada’s healthcare and education systems, and your spouse or common-law partner can apply for an open work permit while waiting for the permanent residency decision.

What should I do if my Startup Visa application is delayed?

If your application is delayed, you can check its status online through the IRCC portal. Maintaining communication with the designated organization supporting your application is also advisable, and consider seeking legal advice to address any complications.

How does the work permit application process work for the Startup Visa?

To apply for a work permit under the Startup Visa program, you must demonstrate that your business will benefit Canada significantly. You need to submit proof of adequate personal funds, a detailed business plan, and evidence of support from a designated organization.

What kind of mentorship and support do incubators provide?

Incubators typically offer a range of support services, including mentorship, office space, access to funding, networking opportunities, and business development resources. They help startups refine their business models and accelerate their growth.

Apply for Canada Start-up Visa (SUV) Program

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