What Is Canada's Start-Up Visa Program?

Application with the Canadian maple leaf.

Imagine a program that not only brings innovative ideas and businesses into a country, but also fast-tracks the immigration process for the entrepreneurs behind them. That's what Canada’s Start-Up Visa Program offers. This groundbreaking program tries to attract immigrant entrepreneurs who can build innovative businesses in the country that create jobs and compete on a global scale.

The program provides a pathway to permanent residency for qualified immigrant entrepreneurs. They're connected with private sector investors, such as angel investors, venture capital funds, or business incubators, who’ll support them in establishing their businesses. Once the businesses are operational entrepreneurs can qualify for permanent residence. 

In this article, we'll walk you through all the nuances of this entrepreneurial program.

What Is the Start-Up Visa Program in Canada?

Canada’s Start-Up Visa Program allows individuals or groups of up to five owners to immigrate to Canada with the purpose of starting a business. Applicants must have a qualifying business idea and secure a letter of support from a designated Canadian organization that invests in startups. Not just anyone can apply though, there are stringent criteria to meet ranging from language requirements to financial buffers for settling.

The process involves obtaining a letter of support, submitting documentation, and possibly going through security checks and interviews. Importantly, applicants must own at least 10% of the business and, together with the supporting organization, should hold more than 50% of the business. The average processing time lasts 12 to 18 months.


  • This program’s direct permanent residency pathway is a major advantage that attracts immigrant entrepreneurs from around the globe.
  • There’s no net worth requirement. Unlike other programs that require applicants to have a certain amount of wealth, this program only requires you to focus on your business's innovative aspect.
  • The same business investment may support the applications of up to five entrepreneurs, which widens the window for potential business partnerships and collaborations.
  • The program offers access to prominent Canadian organizations such as venture capital funds, angel investor groups or business incubators that provide strong platforms to launch and grow businesses.


  • The process can be lengthy — sometimes taking 18 to 24 months from securing an investor commitment to receiving permanent residence. This may deter some entrepreneurs seeking faster options.
  • It also requires significant funds. Applicants must prove they have sufficient funds to support themselves and their families upon arrival, ranging from CAD$13,310 to CAD$35,224 based on the family size.
  • The success rate varies by the type of designated organization supporting the application, and various factors can lead to a denied application including lack of genuine business, control or experience of applicants, and inadequate finances.

Canada’s Start-Up Visa Program Fees

When considering Canada’s Start-Up Visa Program, it's important to understand this process involves a considerable financial commitment. This isn't just about the government filing and legal fees, but more about the capital required to show you can establish and grow a business in the country. 

According to data from applicants familiar with the process, the total costs of this process can range from approximately CAD $150,000 to more than $250,000. This sum includes legal, governmental, and business operational expenses. Moreover, depending on the number of family members you have, you may need to prove possession of settlement funds that range from $13,310 to $35,224 or more. 

Keep in mind that these figures are estimates and actual costs might differ based on your personal circumstances and the nature of your startup.

Eligibility Requirements for the Canada Start-Up Visa Program

To qualify for the Canada Start-Up Visa Program, you must meet these requirements:

  • Come Up With an Innovative Business Idea: All applicants must have an innovative and scalable business that’s either generating revenue or has strong market validation. If you're partnering with a group of entrepreneurs to run a business, the program allows a maximum of five owners.
  • Obtain Support From a Designated Organization: You must secure a letter of support from a designated Canadian organization, such as a venture capital fund, an angel investor group, or a business incubator. This organization will evaluate your business idea and provide a letter of support as well as a commitment certificate.
  • Meet the Language Requirements: The program requires all applicants demonstrate an intermediate level of English or French language ability.
  • Provide Proof of Sufficient Funds: You’ll also need to prove you have sufficient funds to support yourself and your family upon immigrating to Canada because the program doesn't provide any financial support.
  • Maintain an Ownership Stake: Applicants must own at least 10% of the business. Together with the supporting organization, the ownership should exceed 50% of the business.

Canada’s Start-Up Visa Program Application Process

Canada's Start-Up Visa Program is designed to attract immigrant entrepreneurs who have the potential to establish innovative businesses in the country. The application process is straightforward, but has multiple steps to ensure the success and feasibility of the proposed startup. Let’s go through them one by one. 

Step 1

The first step is to come up with a qualifying business idea. The idea should not only be innovative, but also have the ability to contribute significantly to Canada's economic growth. Applicants need to have a business that's both scalable and demonstrates strong market validation.

Step 2

After forming the business idea, entrepreneurs must pitch it to a designated Canadian organization. These organizations could be venture capital funds, angel investor groups, or business incubators. They must identify the potential immigrant entrepreneurs they want to support, and they each have their own processes to assess the proposals.

Step 3

Once a designated Canadian organization approves the business idea, it’ll issue a letter of support. This letter serves as a testament that a reliable entity in Canada supports the applicant's business proposal, which significantly strengthens the application.

Step 4

Once they obtain a letter of support, applicants may apply for the Start-Up Visa Program. Apart from the letter of support, applicants also need to meet Canada’s language requirements and prove they have sufficient funds to support themselves and their family after arrival. The required funds vary based on family size, ranging from $13,310 for an individual to $35,224 for a family of seven.

Step 5

After submitting the application, applicants also need to apply for a temporary work permit while they await their permanent residence approval. This allows applicants to start setting up their business in Canada and provides significant economic benefits to the country.

Step 6

The final step involves waiting for approval of the permanent residence application. The entire process from developing a business plan to securing an investor commitment to receiving permanent residence typically takes around two years.

Step 7

After arriving in Canada, a successful applicant must incorporate their business and operate it primarily within the country. Even if the business fails after applicants receive their permanent residency, they can still maintain their residency status.

How to Get a Letter of Support From a Designated Organization

For any entrepreneurs who want to immigrate to Canada under the Start-Up Visa Program, securing a letter of support from a designated organization is an essential step. 

It's not just a rubber stamp; this endorsement represents a vote of confidence in your innovative business idea from established Canadian investors. It demonstrates their belief that your entrepreneurial venture will contribute significantly to Canada's economic growth. 

So how do you go about getting such an important “nod of approval?” Let's walk through the key steps.

Step 1

First, you'll need to develop a compelling pitch for your business idea. This should include details about your business’s plan, market validation, scalability potential, and revenue generation. Because this program focuses on innovation, ensure your business idea offers something unique and has the potential to succeed on a global scale.

Step 2

Next, scout out the designated organizations. These include venture capital funds, angel investor groups, and business incubators recognized by the program. It's important to find an organization that aligns with your business idea and industry. Do your research on each organization's investment criteria and preferences.

Step 3

Once you identify suitable investors from among the program’s designated organizations, prepare and present your pitch deck. This is your chance to sell your concept so make sure it's well-prepared. Show them why they should support your venture over others by proving it's viable, scalable, and profitable.

Step 4

If a designated organization is impressed with your pitch, it may invite you to an interview. This is the time to make your case and explain, in detail, how your startup would benefit Canada economically. Be prepared to answer in-depth questions about your business and demonstrate your knowledge and passion.

Step 5

Securing a letter of support hinges on the impression you make in your pitch presentation and interview. If the designated organization decides to back your venture, it’ll send you a letter of support and a commitment certificate. Don’t forget that this document is an essential part of your Start-Up Visa Program application.

Step 6

This process might take time and, possibly, several iterations of your business idea. Patience, persistence, and a willingness to adapt your business plan based on investor feedback are key to earning that crucial letter of support. Don't get disheartened if you face rejections initially because every successful entrepreneur faces hurdles on their road to success.

What Is a Start-Up Visa Program’s Optional Work Permit?

The Start-Up Visa Program in Canada is a unique initiative that caters to immigrant entrepreneurs who wish to establish innovative businesses on Canadian soil. The program's primary goal is to not only attract these forward-thinking individuals, but also facilitate their smooth transition into the Canadian business landscape. One significant feature of this program is the optional work permit.

An optional work permit under Canada's Start-Up Visa Program is a provision that allows applicants to work in Canada while awaiting their visa approval. Successful applicants who can show their business's potential for significant economic contributions have an added advantage here. 

Alternatively, applicants who lack immediate economic impact but possess substantial financial resources for setting up base in Canada also can use this provision. Apart from facilitating work on arrival, this optional work permit also can help expedite the realization of their business plans and ideas.

To apply for the optional work permit, applicants need to follow a two-step process. First, they must create and submit an offer of employment for themselves, either by filling out forms in the Employer Portal or emailing the relevant authorities, and pay the associated fees online. Second, they must apply for the work permit itself, which involves gathering the necessary documents, answering questions to obtain a document checklist, applying through their secure online account, and paying the required fees.


What is the success rate of the Start-Up Visa Program in Canada?

The success rate of Canada’s Start-Up Visa Program has fluctuated over the years, averaging around 77.7% for approved applications.

What is the waiting time for Canada’s Start-Up Visa Program?

The average processing time for Canada's Start-Up Visa Program is 12 to 18 months, depending on how promptly applicants meet all prerequisites.

How can I get a Canadian startup visa?

To secure participation in  Canada’s Start-Up Visa Program, applicants must first have a qualifying and scalable business idea. After this, they must obtain a letter of support from a designated Canadian organization that invests in startups. These organizations range from venture capital funds to angel investor groups and business incubators. Language requirements and proof of sufficient funds to settle in Canada are other critical components of the application process. 

Who shouldn’t apply for Canada’s Start-Up Visa Program?

The Start-Up Visa Program might not suit potential entrepreneurs with limited capital because the designated organizations expect well-funded ventures. Anyone unable to meet the minimum language requirements, prove they have sufficient funds, or show a genuine intention to establish and control a successful business in Canada might encounter difficulties in successfully applying for this program.