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Starting a Business with Canada's Start-Up Visa Program

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young business people discussing a start-upCanada has a thriving entrepreneurial culture and is cited as one of the best countries in which to do business. Many independently-owned businesses flourish in this country and the government encourages entrepreneurial growth by offering a unique immigration opportunity. The Start-Up Visa immigration program is targeted to entrepreneurs who want to operate businesses and invest in Canada by providing jobs here and competing globally.

Once accepted into the program, you could be on your way to receiving Permanent Resident status. If you have an innovative business idea and want to settle in Canada, there are four specific and crucial requirements you need to meet to be eligible for the Start-Up Visa.

The Support of a Designated Organization

Before applying to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), you must have the support of a designated organization. These organizations are angel investor groups, venture capital funds, and business incubators who are approved by the federal government to support or invest in start-up businesses.

You need to prepare a business proposal and present it to one or more designated organization. It’s important to do the research and target those designated organizations that are aligned with your business idea. For example, if you have a great idea for an innovative manufacturing process, a designated organization that focuses on smart phone technology probably isn’t the best choice. Each designated organization has its own process for evaluating business proposals so you’ll need to gather that information, too.

If your proposal is accepted, the designated organization will give you a Letter of Support and will send a commitment certificate to the IRCC. It is possible that you receive support from more than one Designated Organization. This is called syndication and there are some rules that apply. All the Designated Organizations involved must be identified and if there is a mix of angel investors and venture capital funds, the minimum investments targets for each must be met.

Ownership Requirements

It is possible to have partners in your business. The IRCC allows for as many as  5 owners, each of whom must have at least 10% voting rights. Also note, more than 50% of the company’s voting rights must be held by the owners and the designated organization collectively.

Language Requirements

In order to conduct business in Canada, an applicant under the Start-Up Visa Program needs to demonstrate proficiency in at least one of the two official languages: English and French. To prove proficiency, you must take a language test issued by an approved agency. Your skills in reading, writing, speaking, and listening will be tested and the results will be included in your application.

Financial Resources to Settle

The Start-Up Visa Program does not require a minimum investment in your business from you—the designated organization provides that investment. But there still is a financial requirement you have to meet before your application is accepted by IRCC. You must have the financial resources to support yourself and any family members who accompany you. That means having enough money to live in Canada while getting your business established.

How to Apply to the Start-Up Visa Program

After you have secured the support of a designated organization, you can apply online through the Government of Canada’s website. Having the proper documentation is essential to a successful application. An incomplete application or incorrect documents can result in IRCC refusing to grant a visa. For this reason, many applicants seek the assistance of an immigration professional who knows immigration law and how to assemble the most compelling and complete applications.

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