New Canadian Immigration Program Rewards Entrepreneurs

Canada wants to attract the world’s best and brightest business start-ups, and Calgary, with its strong entrepreneurial culture, is poised to benefit. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) launched the Startup Visa Program on April 1, 2013, offering immigrants a fast track to permanent residency through their business ingenuity. Innovation and…

Canada wants to attract the world’s best and brightest business start-ups, and Calgary, with its strong entrepreneurial culture, is poised to benefit.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) launched the Startup Visa Program on April 1, 2013, offering immigrants a fast track to permanent residency through their business ingenuity.

Innovation and entrepreneurship are important drivers of the Canadian economy, says Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. Ottawa specifically seeks greater competition in the tech industry, with a trip planned to Silicon Valley by the minister in May. Ottawa seeks to boost employment through the program, as well.

The Startup Visa Program

Foreign nationals with a minimum of one year of university and a measurable degree of proficiency in English or French have the opportunity to apply for private funding from one of a number of eligible Canadian venture capital firms. As a condition of acceptance in the CIC’s program, the applicant must secure funding of $200,000 from one of 25 eligible members of Canada’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA) or $75,000 from a choice of three eligible members of the National Angel Capital Organization (NACO).

Two of the 28 eligible firms have offices in Calgary, BDC Venture Capital and Yaletown Venture Partners Inc.

More umbrella organizations providing eligible venture capital and investment or other resources, such as the Canadian Association of Business Incubation, may be added at a future date.

How venture capital firms were chosen to participate in the program

The current eligible venture capital suppliers were chosen based on set criteria. Private-sector firms that were members in good standing with CVCA and managing more than $40M in capital were automatically eligible. Venture capital firms managing less than $40M had to submit referrals and go through an interview process to become eligible. NACO members in good standing applied for eligibility and were required to show a “level of deal flow in the past year, evidence of a thorough due diligence process, and evidence that all members of the group are accredited investors,” according to the CIC website’s backgrounder.

Hans Knapp, partner and co-founder of Yaletown Venture Partners Inc., says that it’s too early to tell how successful the program will be, though he agrees with the concept of the program and praises the government initiative.

Startup Visa Program first of its kind in the world

The Start-up Visa Program is proposed to run for five years. Successful applicants are expected to obtain fast-track permanent residency in three to six months. Applications are capped at 2,750 per year, but the government expects fewer.

This is the first program of its kind in the world, though it was inspired by an idea that developed in the United States and recently stalled in Congress.

The program replaces the Federal Entrepreneur Program, started in the seventies and suspended in 2011, as it had become irrelevant. Immigrant applications to that program dropped from 580 to 184 between 2007 and 2011.

Success of the program may require additional legislation or regulation, requiring domestic investment of immigrant earnings, suggests a study conducted by Canadian Immigration News Source.

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